Aground off Weehawken

We were talking logistics with the Solar Impulseteam at Surf City late Friday night when Bjoern received a Facebook message from friends at Liberty Landing Marina: “Ran aground. Can you tow a sailboat?”

We apologized to Jean and his cameraman and wished them luck with their 24-hour job ahead. (Solar Impulse took off from Washington D.C. at 5 am to complete the final leg of its record-breaking, solar-powered flight across the U.S.. which began in May in San Francisco. They were allowed a 2 am time slot to land at JFK airport – some 21 hours later. You can catch their NYC flyby between 9:30 and 11 pm tonight, and the entire voyage is being webcast live on the Google homepage.)

The sailboat had run aground in a deceptively shallow spot off of Weehawken – an area thatLiberty Landing Dockmaster Michelle Purinton knew well. She’d freed many boats in that area during her tenure as an instructor at Offshore Sailing School. Even though it was 11 pm, Michelle hopped aboard NY Media Boat to lend a hand and technical expertise – as did Pier 25 Dockmaster George Bennett.

Within 20 minutes, our crew arrived on the scene, just as the NYPD and FDNY boats were pulling up.  The ungrounding plan had been formed en route: hook our tow line to the sailboat’s main halyard so we could heel it over, freeing its keel from the Hudson muck and allowing the vessel to push forward.

The boat was stuck in about three feet of water and the outgoing tide was quickly streaming downriver, so the FDNY boat transferred our tow line across the shallows. They also took the sailboat’s bowline to give some extra forward momentum. The NYPD’s intense searchlight lit up the scene, making the whole procedure vastly easier.

Once the tow line was raised to the top of the boat’s 63-foot mast and her passengers were all perched on her port side, Bjoern put NY Media Boat in reverse and pulled the vessel into a steep heel.

You can see the outcome in the quick video below: