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Wednesday, June 19, 2024


Boater Charged After Grounding Craft on Ocean City Beach

Courtesy TowBoatU.S. Shamrock Marine Towing Facebook page   
A 31-foot Contessa sailboat on the 48th Street beach in Ocean City after its owner ran aground on Wednesday, Oct. 25.

By Christopher South

A boater sailing from Long Island might have been wetting his whistle before he ran aground in a dry town.

According to Doug Bergen, a spokesman for Ocean City, Jordan M. Smith, 51, of Bokeelia, Florida, told Ocean City police he was sailing from Long Island to Cape May when he “fell asleep” and his 31-foot Contessa single-masted sailboat hit the 48th Street beach at around 12:20 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25.

“He apparently was asleep and had it on autopilot and drove it right up on the beach,” said Patti Kearney, with TowBoatU.S., based out of Somers Point, which later removed the craft.

But Bergen said Smith was charged with boating while intoxicated. Penalties include suspension of driving privileges.

Smith, who was uninjured, was able to get out of the boat and wade to shore, Bergen said.

According to Kearney, Smith acquired the older-model sailboat in Boston, and it was his intention to sail it to Florida and live on it. She said it is more common than people realize for someone who has little sailing experience to acquire a boat for little or no money and then try to sail it to Florida.

The sailboat that ran aground Oct. 25 was removed from the beach Friday, Oct. 27, in several pieces. Its keel and mast were removed for transport. Courtesy TowBoatU.S. Shamrock Marine Towing Facebook page

Kearney said if Smith had purchased a membership with a towing service the boat might have been saved. As it was, the boat sat in the surf and was further damaged by the waves.

She said she recalled one man who was traveling south, and he beached his boat at Ocean City and then again at Avalon. Another man beached his boat at Atlantic City, and her company was able to pull it off and send him on his way.

A Florida man purchased a boat in Boston and attempted to sail it to Florida, but he wound up wrecked on the beach in Ocean City and was charged with boating while intoxicated. Courtesy TowBoatU.S. Shamrock Marine Towing Facebook page

A couple of months ago a woman bought a sailboat and hit a bridge, taking off the mast, and she simply motored her way south.

“These are the pitfalls of trying to sail to Florida by yourself,” Kearney said. “It’s a good idea to have a membership in a towing service.”

In Smith’s case, his boat was originally upright when it went onto the beach. There were light seas, and it could have been easily pulled off the beach – although it was uncertain how much damage there was from the original grounding.

As it was, the sailboat was taken off the beach in pieces. The TowBoatU.S. Facebook page said the boat’s keel and mast were removed so it could be trailered. It added that Smith was OK, but the “sailor needs a new place to live.”

“His plan was to live on the boat,” Kearney said.

She said Smith was lucky he hit something soft. There are many rock jetties along the Jersey coastline that he could have struck.

Contact the author, Christopher South, at or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.


Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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