M/V Champagne Lady Sinks in Cruz Bay; Heavy Rains May Have Contributed

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The sterrn of Champange Lady rested on the bottom of the harbor off the Battery before it was refloated.

The 28-foot Carver cabin cruiser Champagne Lady sank in Cruz Bay harbor in the early morning hours of Monday, October 10, and although the cause is unknown, witnesses don’t suspect foul play.

“I may have been the first one to notice her sinking around 4:30 a.m. or so from my boat anchored near by,” said Paul Ray of S/V Sail Marilee, anchored in Cruz Bay Harbor. “But sadly she was pretty much sunk by then with her stern on the bottom in about 10 feet of water near the Battery and only her bow was floating.”

Sailors from boats in the area came out at first light to inspect the vessel, but not much could be done, Ray continued. “There was not much to do but round up stray gear and cushions that were floating around and call someone with salvage gear to float her and tow her somewhere to haul her out for repairs,” said Ray.

Sea Tow Salvage Effort
Sea Tow in St. Thomas was quickly called in for the job. “We were called in the morning and when we arrived, around 9:30 a.m., the boat was already submerged with the bow standing up only,” said Sea Tow owner Gary Lohr, who salvaged and towed the boat to Independence Boat Yard in St. Thomas.

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Sea Tow salvage used its bags to raise the Champange Lady from Cruz Bay harbor October 10.

The vessel was stabilized around 3 p.m., he added. “That boat was really heavy – it took around 12,000 pounds of commercial grade lift bags to raise her,” said Lohr. “We had to use three inch pumps to remove the water.”

The salvager didn’t find any structural damage and said that he would “hate to even speculate” on what caused the vessel to sink.

“The storm had torn off the stern door which lowered the gunnel by about two and one half feet, which must have contributed to the situation,” Lohr said.

Other boat owners in the area offered their opinions as to the sinking of Champagne Lady.

“She may have sunk because she was taking on a lot of rain and her bilge pumps were not operating – low batteries maybe or a bad float switch or electric connection or whatever,” said Captain Ray. “The through-hulls where the bilge water exits are only a few inches above her normal water line.”

“The pumps are centrifugal types which have no internal valves and that type of system can backflow if the exit holes get under water,” explained Ray.

Coral Bay Sea Tow Service
Sea Tow, currently based out of Frenchtown Marina in St. Thomas, may soon have a base in St. John as well. “Our primary dock is out of Frenchtown Marina, but as things develop and if the marina goes into St. John in Coral Bay, we are considering having a base out there as well,” said Lohr.

The marine salvage and towing company is one of the only insured service providers of its kind in the Virgin Islands and responded to 70 calls last year varying in degree of emergency from dire to simple, according to the owner.

“We kind of run AAA (American Automobile Associa-tion) on the water – we have a membership towing service and we do non-member towing as well,” said Lohr.

Sea Tow is insured to provide salvage and marine service up to 75 miles from St. Thomas which allows them to respond to calls from as far away as Culebra and eastern Vieques, Lohr added.