---- — NEWBURYPORT -- Six boaters were rescued after hitting the South Jetty, thanks to quick action by the Newburyport Harbormaster department.
The rescue happened around 10 p.m. Thursday, after a fireworks display on Salisbury Beach. The 23-foot Chaparral boat, holding four adults and two children, rammed into the end of the jetty at a speed great enough to lodge the boat hard on the jetty's rocks. An emergency call went out, and a harbormaster vessel happened to be patrolling in the vicinity, said Newburyport Harbormaster Paul Hogg.
The rescue boat arrived shortly after the accident, Hogg said, and found that no one had been injured -- which in itself was a stroke of good fortune, Hogg noted, as it is common for boaters to be injured or ejected from a boat when it strikes rocks and abruptly stops.
"I can't believe that no one got discharged out of the boat," said Hogg. "I don't think the boat was going full bore when it hit the jetty."
Hogg said the boat's passengers were transported to Salisbury beach State Reservation, located a few hundred yards from where the accident occurred. There they were checked out by awaiting Salisbury rescue personnel. According to the Salisbury Fire Department, no one was injured. The names of the boaters was not released, nor was their hometown address available.
"They seemed to be in a little bit of shock from the accident, but not hurt," said Hogg.
For a brief time on Friday morning, the boat became a spectacle for the many people out on the water and on the beach. It sat high and dry on the jetty, and was retrieved from the rocks yesterday at high tide by Tow Boat U.S.
Tow Boat U.S. said the boat was a total loss, with significant hull damage. The boat was launched out of the Hampton Harbor boat ramp.
Possible reasons for the accident were the skipper's lack of knowledge of local waters, and the fact that it was night time and high tide. Some sections of the outermost end of the jetty are submerged at high tide, Hogg noted.
The South Jetty is the massive stone wall that extends about a quarter mile into the sea, off the northernmost tip of Plum Island. A complementary stone jetty, known as the North Jetty, juts out from the Salisbury Beach. The role of these jetties is to hold the mouth of the Merrimack River and its channel in place, but on occasions they have been struck by boaters.
The most notable accident occurred in 2009, when a cabin cruiser with four men aboard hit the North Jetty at a high rate of speed during a foggy night. One of the boaters, Seth Coellner, 36, Kensington, N.H., was killed in the accident. The others were rescued.
Hogg said it's been a busy week for the Harbormaster's office. Earlier in the week, lifeguards at the Newburyport end of Plum Island swam out and rescued a pair of boaters in a small inflatable boat that had capsized. The Harbormasters office also rescued a pair of kayakers who became stuck under a dock.
Hogg said the addition of another patrol boat this year has helped increase his department's presence on the local waters, and given him the ability to better patrol Newburyport's extensive shoreline.