Rescue at Beavertail
On the tail end of a trip from Atlantic City to Newport Harbor Saturday, the crew of Dream Catcher suddenly found themselves trapped in the middle of a nightmare. With waves climbing as high as 12 feet – and winds blowing upwards to 35 mph – the 32-foot Blackfin fishing boat and its crew were engaged in a battle with Mother Nature.
The elements proved to be too much even for the U.S. Coast Guard, who found the rescue too perilous for its own crew. The six-member team decided to abandon the mission after they circled the Dream Catcher a few times, only to watch it drift dangerously close to the jagged rocks at Beavertail Point.
The Coast Guard said that had it continued its rescue, it would have been endangering its own crew. But with help from a Jamestown resident – along with an unknown bystander – both men aboard Dream Catcher survived.
Just shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon, the Coast Guard crew responded to the distress call for an out-of-control boat caught in rough seas just 500 yards east off Beavertail. Brooke Longval caught most of the episode on camera.
“I had driven down to Clark Boat Yard to check on my sailboat because of the high winds, and then decided to go to Beavertail to check out the waves,” Longval said. “I was just planning on driving through when I saw the boat and the Coast Guard boat just offshore.”
Longval snapped a few photos from the lighthouse – “Fortunately I always have my camera in the car” – but when the Dream Catcher started drifting dangerously close to shore, she relocated to parking lot No. 4 to get a better look. By the time she arrived, both men were off the boat and safe on shore.
“They had attempted to anchor, which definitely slowed them down but didn’t prevent the boat coming ashore,” Longval said. “But I think it definitely helped the two men get off the boat unhurt. The anchor kept the boat’s bow into the waves and most likely prevented it from getting rolled in the surf, which could have been catastrophic for the men onboard.”
The two men – Gary Wallace, 50, and Tyler Corbitt, 53, both of Florida – were transported by Jamestown EMS to Newport Hospital. They were treated and released.
How each man got to shore are different stories. When the Coast Guard arrived at the scene, neither man was wearing a lifejacket – the Coast Guard instructed them to put them on. With the Dream Catcher insecurely anchored, the Coast Guard boat circled it, struggling to pull the men from their rampant craft.
Islander Bruce McIntyre, who was out walking his dog, was also taking photos of the Coast Guard’s rescue attempt. He said he watched in awe as a “12-foot wave” came crashing over the Coast Guard boat – “it disappeared for a second,” he said. Then he noticed an “orange life jacket bobbing in the waves.” One of the men fell in the water in an attempt to board the Coast Guard’s vessel.
When he saw the man in the water, he jumped in his car, drove to the next parking lot, and ran down to the rocks. There he saw the man, trapped between crashing waves and the serrated rocks. The other man was still on Dream Catcher, as it inched closer to shore.
“I was surprised the man in the water was alive,” said McIntyre.
McIntyre and the unknown bystander offered their hands, and pulled the man to safety. Soon after – with Dream Catcher about 15 feet from shore – the second man abandoned ship. McIntyre said he was able to climb out of the water himself.
At that point, McIntyre said he knew the boat was done for. “It broke into a million pieces,” he said.
With both men ashore, Longval arrived at the scene. “There was some sort of official-looking vehicle with flashing lights there, maybe from the [Coast Guard], then of course the Jamestown Police and an ambulance. [There] ended up being maybe 30 or 40 people on shore watching the poor boat bash into the rocks.”
Wallace and Corbitt were hired by Kevin Fish, 44, of Braintree, Mass., to navigate the boat from New Jersey to Rhode Island. There were conflicting statements as to what happened. First it was thought that the boat had run out of gas, but then one of the men told the state Department of Environmental Management that they had misjudged the Beavertail Lighthouse.
“It was a very, very dangerous situation,” said McIntyre. “They are lucky to have both survived.”