Outer Banks—legendary for their shifting shoals, navigational hazards,
and capricious weather—have played host to thousands upon thousands of
shipwrecks and maritime accidents throughout their history. And this
week, the Remley family of Bear Creek, N.C., became the latest
testament to that enduring legacy.
Late Sunday night, July 8, John Remley, 43, his wife Diane, 42, and
their two daughters, Autum and Savannah, 8 and 6, found themselves
fighting a losing battle against strong winds, rough waters, and a
compromised vessel in the Pamlico Sound.
Just a few days earlier, on July 5, the Remleys had set sail from Point
Lookout Marina in Ridge, Md., bound for their home in Bear Creek, N.C.,
which is near Emerald Isle.
It was a happy occasion, as they were finally taking home the 1971
Trojan Sea Voyager that they had purchased through an online auction
the previous December—a boat that John had really wanted, and one into
which he had invested a considerable amount of time and money.
Diane said that John had been actively searching for a boat, scouring
listings nearly every night for about three years when he learned,
sometime around Christmas last year, that his $9,000-bid had won him
the wooden, 42-foot cruiser.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly been a dream come true.
On John’s first attempt to bring the boat home from the Rock Hall, Md.,
dock where he purchased it, the starboard engine blew, somewhere around
the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse.
That’s when John found out that the boat—which he had been told had
only been in its slip for a few months—had actually been sitting in the
water for about two-and-a-half years. As a result, the bottom was
heavily barnacled, and the impellers had dry-rotted.
He did some work on the boat, though he didn’t replace the engine, and
then John headed home once again. This time, just as he got to the
mouth of the Potomac River, the steering broke and he ran out of fuel.
He was towed into Point Lookout Marina by the U.S. Coast Guard, and the
boat stayed there, in Maryland, with John driving back and forth from
North Carolina to work on getting the boat seaworthy again.
Six months and about $10,000 later, the boat was finally ready to make
the journey from Maryland to North Carolina, and this time, with
everything in order, it was going to be a family trip, with Diane and
the girls coming along for the ride.
After hitting a little stumbling block in Deltaville, Va., where there
was some trouble getting the reserve tanks hooked up properly, it was
pretty much smooth sailing for the Remleys.
Until they got to the Outer Banks.
In retrospect, “it all started around 2 p.m., when we missed the turn at Alligator River,” John said.
The missed turn put them way behind schedule, and it meant that they
were coming into the channel well after dark—something they hadn’t
wanted to do.
The other problem, of course, was the conditions.
John, a licensed captain and experienced boater, said that initially,
the conditions weren’t that bad. “It wasn’t pretty,” he said, “but it
But sometime after getting into Rollinson Channel, he noticed that the wind had picked up and the water was getting rougher.
“We weren’t making any headway,” he said. “We had slowed from 9 knots
to 6, and the wind was blowing perpendicular to the channel.”
That kind of wind wasn’t very advantageous for the Remleys, whose
cruiser, under those circumstances, was basically functioning like “a
big sailboat.” Only, in their situation, there were no sails to adjust,
and the boat was still running on a single engine.
Diane said that the conditions had become so rough that their furniture
was sliding around the salon. “The whole futon had gone flying across
the room,” she said. Autum noted that she had been seasick.
Sometime around midnight, John said the boat rubbed the bottom. Though
they were able to push the vessel off, their success was tempered by
what John described simply as “a horrible vibration.”
He ran below deck to check the reserve tanks, and the bilge, and said
that, at least at that time, everything seemed alright. “[The reserve
tanks] were OK, and there was a little water in the bilge, but it was
nothing to be worried about.”
But he said that, even though the boat seemed all right, he realized he
wasn’t going to go anywhere—not in that boat in those conditions.
So, he tossed out the anchor and called dispatch. He woke his
daughters, told them to put on their lifejackets, and then they waited
for help to arrive.
The U.S. Coast Guard responded to the call, and the family rode to
Oden’s Dock Marina in the Coast Guard boat, while Paul Rosell, with
Towboat U.S.A., towed their cruiser into the harbor.
According to John, the boat had been stable until the moment he pulled
the anchor up, but at that point, he said, she started to list and
began taking on water.
When they finally reached the marina, sometime around 3 a.m., the boat
was pumped out and tied down to the harbor side of the breakwater. The
goal was to get the boat on as much land as possible, to help alleviate
some of the flooding and avoid further internal damage.
But it didn’t work.
The boat had sustained damage to the propeller shaft and was continuing
to leak. It flooded again, and by the next day, water had taken over
the engine room, effectively ruining any chances of salvaging the boat.
“Oh yeah,” John said. “It’s done.”
Between the purchasing cost, the restoration expenses, and the money to
have it removed—not to mention travel expenditures—John said that the
boat, on which they had liability coverage only—had just about
For their part, the Remleys were kind and very pleasant—as cheerful as
could be expected of anyone in their situation—especially the girls,
who seemed to have taken everything in stride and come out totally
“They have really been troopers,” Diane said. “They haven’t cried at all.”
Autum, who will be in the third grade this year and whose favorite
subject is reading, had recently been reading “A Smart Girl’s Guide to
Sticky Situations,” which she said probably helped her handle
everything as well as she did.
And, of course, they got a little help from what Diane described as a very welcoming and helpful Hatteras community.
The Remleys lost a lot of their belongings, particularly clothes and
electronics, but Asa Ballance, of Hatteras, was able to shimmy down
into the partially submerged boat and recover some of the girls’
things, including their baby blankets (with which they had traveled)
Savannah’s pink teddy bear, and most of their favorite toys.
“Asa has been great,” Diane said. “He was like Spider Man, getting in and out of that boat.”
And it wasn’t just Asa. Diane said they had had a positive experience
with everyone they had met or dealt with during their stay.
She especially thanked Paul and Maria Rosell, who not only towed their
boat in, but also made sure they had somewhere to stay that night, as
well as Dan and April Oden, who came out at 3 a.m. to get them a room
at the Breakwater Inn.
“Everyone has been really great,” she said. “They have been so nice and helpful.”
But despite their warm welcome, the Remleys were definitely ready to go
home. They contacted their friends Bob and Karen Foss from Kinston, and
the Fosses drove out to Hatteras on Wednesday, July 11, with their son
R.J., to pick the Remleys up and drive them home.
Their relief when they saw Karen and R.J. walking toward them Wednesday
morning was palpable. Hugs were exchanged, and spirits seemed to lift
In the end, the boat that John had so desperately wanted, and into
which the Remleys had sunk about $19,000 and untold hours of their
lives, was pumped out, hauled off, and chopped up.
Darrin Burrus, of Cape Dredging, completed the removal yesterday, and then the Remleys were, once again, bound for Bear Creek.