A fellow mariner helps men whose sailboat washed ashore | News

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A fellow mariner helps men whose sailboat washed ashore
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SOUTH PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- When Tom Heineken of South Ponte Vedra Beach heard there was a 32-foot sailboat that washed ashore Monday night, he came to check it out Tuesday morning.

"I'm a retired army officer but I've been around boats all my life," he said. "The surf was beating it up pretty good. The sails were still up. So we're just trying to strike some sails and take care of some lines."

Heineken, out of the goodness of his heart, tried to secure the boat as best as he could.

A St. Johns County Sheriff's Office report says that just before midnight, the sailboat -- bound to St. Thomas out of Port St. Lucie, Florida -- wound up ashore on South Ponte Vedra Beach.

On board were boat owner Francis Saunders, 86, of Port St. Lucie and Jerry Willis, 71, of Cocoa Beach, and little Alphie the dog.

According to the Coast Guard, the men and dog had been on the boat for 7 days, lost power around the Bahamas, got caught up in the bad weather and washed up on the beach.

Emergency crews rescued the men and took them to the hospital out of precaution.

Bob Wason is staying at one of the beach houses near where the boat came aground.

"The owner is real nice. I met him last night when he washed up," Wason said. "He was tired, wet and cold. I think he was looking forward to getting on land."    

Chris Hampton with Sea Tow will tow the boat into a marina Wednesday.

"If the boat had capsized off shore, it would've been much worse," he said.

Coast Guard personnel checked and determined the 70 gallons of fuel on board had not leaked out.

Saunders and Willis were discharged from the hospital later in the morning.

"You can tell by the way things were rigged," Heineken said, "the captain had quite a challenge there. He did pretty good though!"

Heineken made sure all was ship shape for men he doesn't even know.

"No, never met them," he shook his head. "It's just what any mariner would do for another."

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