A 35-foot sailboat ran aground on a sandbar off Queen’s Royal Park on Wednesday evening.
The water near where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario near Queen’s Royal is shallow and a prominent sandbar runs hundreds of feet parallel to the shore.
The sailboat got stuck on the sandbar, and Thursday mornign was still listing to the starboard side with its keel wedged firmly into the bar, keeping it tipped over to the side. The water is only a few feet deep where it sits.
The keel is a large fin that juts into the water underneath a boat from the centre of its hull and helps keep the craft stable.
The boat was flying an Aquatic Park Sailing Club flag, a yacht club out of Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto.
The boat also has a commodore flag, an ensign flown by current and former yacht club presidents across North America, NOTL sailing club member Barry Solomon said.
"That's pretty embarassing," he said.
The sailboat anchored around 7:30 p.m. in the Niagara River, not too far from the sandbank, said Delater Street resident Terry Boulton.
Boulton watched the entire event unfold and said there was a man and woman aboard the boat.
“I thought, ‘What is this guy doing?’” Boulton said in an interview.
“We watched for maybe an hour from my living room and I thought, ‘Uh-oh, he’s dragging.’ And I knew he was in a very bad place.”
Dragging anchor is a sailing term for when a boat gets pushed by wind and waves even though its anchor is down. It is considered extremely dangerous since the pressure exerted on the anchor’s cable from the force of the moving boat makes it impossible to raise the anchor and regain control of the vessel, Boulton said.
He has lived in NOTL his whole life and started sailing with his father when he was a child.
Boulton said Canadian Coast Guard boats came and shone spotlights on the sailboat.
“But there was nothing they can do. They can’t come in here, it’s way to shallow.”
The boat was being broadsided by the wind and waves for a while. At one point the craft was keeled over so far the railing on one side was completely submerged, he said.
“Eventually the firemen came and they didn’t know what to do either. They were thinking of getting a boat but you can’t take a boat out there,” Boulton said.
“I kept telling them, ‘Look, I live here, walk out. It’s only three or four feet deep.’”
The firefighters waded out to the boat in the shallow water and brought the unlucky sailors ashore in a dingy that was attached to the back of the sailboat.
Now the problem lies in getting the sailboat off the sandbar and out of the shallow water, a difficult situation, Boulton said.
Since the boat is being supported by its keel, every time a wave rocks the vessel the keel gets hammered into the hull.
“If (the keel) is punched through (the hull) and they try to drag it off, what happens? Does it sink?” Boulton mused.
The boat's owner has contacted C-Tow Marine Assistance Ltd., an aquatic towing service, to have the boat removed, said a representative of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Sailing Club.
C-Tow representative Paul Gales said he wasn't sure how to remove the boat until his staff have inspected the scene, but he offered some ideas.
The company may have to use inflatable lift bags to elevate the boat so that it can be floated over the sandbar, Gales said.
But from what Gales has heard the situation could be difficult because the boat has a winged-keel, which has fins protruding from its sides and can cause it to dig into the sand in the same manner that an anchor would.
In that case, the towing company will use a high-powered water hose to clear the sand away from the keel in the water.
He said they may be able to lean the boat over onto its side and float it out.
The Lake Report reached out to the Aquatic Park Sailing Club but no one was available for comment.
No one was injured.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report