An overnight offshore trip came to an abrupt halt for four anglers heading out of Venice Saturday morning when their 25-foot Grady-White hit a sandbar in South Pass and ripped the transom and two Yamaha outboards completely off the boat.

“I got the initial phone call at 2 a.m. Saturday,” said Capt. Rob Buck, with Sea Tow Westbank, who assisted with the recovery. “We deployed and got down there on the water about 5 a.m. We launched with some equipment and one other captain, then we sent for more captains and more pumps and equipment.”

Buck said although the vessel took on some water, it didn’t sink and was towed back upriver to Cypress Cove Marina. 

The GPS coordinates of the sandbar where the accident occurred are 29° 1.233' north and 89° 10.369' west, he said.

“His transom broke off. He had a gill bracket which holds the motors, and the bracket is mounted to the transom,” Buck said. “What that does is separate the boat a little and pushes it back and gives you a better ride. It makes that boat actually 27 feet long.

“We travel with pumps, but we’re not used to the transom being ripped off. So I called for another boat and more captains and they came down. We put more pumps so we could overwhelm the water coming in and block off the holes that were breached.”

Buck said a common kids’ toy is effective at plugging emergency leaks.

“We take Nerf footballs and cut them up and rip them and pinch them, and stuff holes with them,” he said. “That’s a trick that we learned at Sea Tow. It just slows the water down, it doesn’t stop it. But if you can stop 90 percent of it, then our pumps can overwhelm the water coming in.”

The boat and four anglers were towed 23 miles back upriver to Cypress Cove, but the two Yamaha 250 outboards — valued at about $23,000 each before the accident — stayed behind. Buck said he is waiting on a claim number from the owner’s insurance to get a vessel with a crane to remove the motors — or at least what’s left of them — from South Pass.

“According to posts on Facebook, somebody said they’re not right-side up anymore, and the propellors have already been stolen,” Buck said. “But they’re bolted together. You’ve got to be a badass person to be able to crank those up — that’s a little over a thousand pounds of dead weight.”

Buck said South Pass in particular can be a challenge to navigate with moving sandbars, especially for anglers not familiar with the area.

“It’s a result of the high river all winter that formed more sandbars,” he said. “I cover this territory, and I get calls every weekend, and it’s usually somebody hitting a sandbar in South Pass.

“It’s just a matter of which one — South Pass is forever changing. One place that’s 12 feet deep might be 3 feet deep six months later.”

Sea Tow is a marine assistance provider, with members paying $179 annually for the service. Non-members are also assisted once all members are taken care of, he said. For more information on becoming a member, click here or call Buck with Sea Tow Westbank at 504-433-4TOW.