Man recalls days on a sailboat before it beached | News

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Man recalls days on a sailboat before it beached

SOUTH PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- As two tug boats closed in on the beached sailboat on South Ponte Vedra Beach, spectators gathered.

A crew member swam a buoy and tether line from tug boats to the sailboat. Once it was attached, the tugging began.

During the process, the sailboat's owner and his friend walked onto the beach.  

They were the ones who were on the boat when it came ashore.

The adventure started when Jerry Willis, 71, agreed to help out his friend, Frank Saunders, 86.  Saunders wanted to take the vessel to the Bahamas from Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Willis noted, "We were without the engine nearly the whole trip."

Anywhere from 5 to 7 days they were unable to call for help because they couldn't charge their marine radio.

They only had a sail, and then they hit bad weather.

"The main sail is torn to pieces," Willis said.

The bad weather got worse.

Willis remembered, "I knocked and rolled and bumped and knocked inside of the boat and hit everything possible. Everything I couldn't hit, it hit me!"

The sailboat hit South Ponte Vedra Beach late Monday night.

"We were just pitched and tumbled and thrown onto the beach," Willis recalled.

Willis doesn't know if God put the boat on the sand, but they didn't do it.  

"I was asleep!  I didn't do it," Willis paused. "Frank fell asleep at the wheel. He didn't do it. It wasn't us. I believe that."

Wednesday, the stuck sailboat moved inch by inch as the tug boats tugged, a crewman and bystanders pushed, and people cheered them on.

But it wasn't enough. The boat was still stuck.

Willis and Saunders did not break any bones, but Willis does have a cut on his hand and his arthritis is worse since the trip.

"All I can say is we done good to get out of it alive. That's about all I can say."

The tug boats with Sea Tow plan to return Wednesday evening at high tide to try to move the boat again.




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