Two men and a woman set sail this morning from Newport in their 20 foot skiff, hoping to get a shot at some of the big salmon that are being hauled in just off the Oregon Coast.
But upon trying to get back into safe harbor, the fog enveloped them, causing them to not know their exact location. They spotted a jetty and figured they were already inside the jaws. It wasn’t long before they were not only more lost in the fog, they were running aground on the sand – off the north jetty.
Reports say one of the three got on their cell phone and called 9-1-1. The Coast Guard was dispatched along with Newport Fire and Rescue. But the fog was still pretty thick so it took a while to figure out where they were. By that time the skiff was good-and-grounded. The small boat was being tossed violently side to side. After not being able to free it, the occupants got out and slogged to shore.
They were discovered on the beach right alongside the north jetty. Newport Fire Rescue launched their beach rigs and soon had the three blanketed-up and headed back to the Nye Beach turnaround where two ambulances were waiting to transport them to PCH for a warm-up if they needed it.
So…how to prevent something like this from happening…
The Coast Guard says the fog was laying off shore most of the night but started coming and going early this morning. So the first question is, how safe do you feel with a changeable fog situation? The Coast Guard says small pleasure craft can certainly have a GPS system aboard to guide you through the murkiness, along with a depth finder to see how deep the water is under you. BUT! GPS accuracy can vary. But if you’re also using a depth finder, and the bottom is coming up fast and you know the water depth between the jetties is well over 20 feet, it could mean that you’re coming ashore and not up the Jaws. And, especially, if you hear breaking waves through the fog, that’s another serious indicator that you’re in the wrong place.
The Coast Guard says if you’re not sure where you are, you can always call them on the radio and let them get a fix on your signal and give you a reasonably accurate location of where you are. But if you’re still not sure where you are or if the fog is not lifting and you can’t wait any longer to get safely into port, the Coast Guard can come out, track you drown and guide you in.
But again, stay up to the minute on sea, bar, fog and wind conditions by listening to Coast Guard radio. You can also call the Coast Guard directly for the very latest information on the bar and areas well outside of it.
In the meantime, the owner of the skiff that ran aground this morning off the north Newport jetty is no doubt arranging to have his boat retrieved.
The beach north of the jetty has been the scene of a number of groundings over the years, big ships and small. In late July of 2012, two men aboard the F/V Two Mikes misread the tip of the north jetty, thinking they were inside the bar, when they weren’t. They ran aground against the north jetty rocks – their boat broke up and sank. Then in late July of last year, the owner of a 52 foot sailing ketch also misjudged the bar entrance. Both the skipper and his grandson managed to climb off their boat and onto the jetty rocks where they were met by fire-rescue personnel. Damage to their boat was so severe that it was a total loss. The craft was dismantled and hauled off the beach, a good part of it winding up in a landfill.