20 rescued after vessel runs aground

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Posted by on March 22, 2005 at 07:54:34:

In Reply to: Re: 90' brig "Irving Johnson" about to hit breakwall in Oxnard posted by on March 22, 2005 at 07:50:35:

Hand-built brigantine berthed in San Pedro hit a shoal near Oxnard, with those aboard jumping into the sea as waves push the ship toward the rocks. They were picked up by rescuers on personal watercraft.

The two-masted sailing ship the Irving Johnson, built from scratch on San Pedro's waterfront, ran aground near a rock jetty near Oxnard on Monday, forcing dramatic rescues in heaving seas.

The wooden vessel apparently hit an unexpected shoal, or shallow spot, in the harbor entrance, said Jim Gladson, president of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute and TopSail Youth Program in San Pedro.

"Even the harbor master was astounded by it," he said.

About 20 crew members and college students, on a weeklong voyage to see the Channel Islands aboard the Irving Johnson, were picked up in the 58-degree water by rescuers on personal watercraft. No serious injuries were reported, although three were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of hypothermia.

U.S. Coast Guard seamen and Ventura County firefighters pulled the people from the water near the vessel as it tossed in the waves just south of the jetties near the harbor, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Tim List said. The boat lost propulsion and shipwrecked at 3:30 p.m.

Individuals in life jackets jumped off one by one as waves rolled the ship severely, pushing it toward the rocks. They were picked up by rescuers on personal watercraft who darted into the white surge and pulled sailors to safety. The scene was broadcast live by Los Angeles TV stations.

All aboard were accounted for, the Ventura County Fire Department said on its Web site. The 17 who weren't taken to the hospital were taken to the Coast Guard station.

The boat, which left San Pedro on Saturday and was due home Friday, was being used for a seven-day team-building trip through the Channel Islands by students from the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, said Laura Trulson, the institute's education director.

Ten students and 10 crew members were aboard the boat, she said.

It was unknown how much damage was done to the 90-foot brigantine, one of two built for the sailing program.

"My boat, my boat," lamented a tearful Alice Robinson, a longtime volunteer with the TopSail program based in San Pedro, where the brigantines are used as training vessels for at-risk youths.

Interviewed on her cell phone, Robinson was driving to Oxnard at about 6 p.m. to survey the damage. Gladson, president of the TopSail program, also planned to drive up Monday night.

"So far there's no indication of any major structural damage," Gladson said shortly after the afternoon shipwreck. "All of the crew and passengers are ashore and there are no serious injuries that we know of."

More details would be available after the vessel was off the beach, he said.

"Then we'll have to make a survey to determine what the damage is," he said. "Right now I don't think it's a total loss, but I don't know. We only have a little bit of information. ... It could be the end of the boat, you never know."

He said the program's staff Monday was busy "fielding telephone calls from people in various stages of hysteria."

The Irving Johnson is one of two brigantine ships built by professional shipbuilders and scores of volunteers on San Pedro's waterfront. They were completed in 2003.

The building of the vintage vessels provided a living history demonstration during those years as ancient shipbuilding skills such as cabinet-making, rigging and carpentry were passed on to a new generation.

The $8 million project culminated with the ships' commissioning on March 28, 2003. Much of the funding was provided by the Crail-Johnson Foundation and other private donors.

The Irving Johnson is outfitted with 4,450 square feet of sail, a rigging height of nearly 88 feet and a diesel engine. The sails were furled during Monday's rescue.

At one point a rescue boat tugged on the vessel with a tow line, straining to pull it bow-first into the waves, but the vessel turned sideways to the waves, which crashed over its decks. The surf eventually turned the abandoned ship bow first toward land, pushing it in and out of the shallows along the rocks.

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