Amity alum Nathan Arndt, his brother Grayson and a friend, Theo, were sailing down the coast of the United States in June, heading toward the Bahamas, when another boat broadsided them and brought the whole adventure to a crashing end. The occupants of the other boat — three recreational fishermen — had been drinking that night and were cruising in the dark waters without lights.
Just like getting behind the steering wheel of a car, impaired navigating on the water can have disastrous consequences. Luckily for the three young men, ranging in age from 23 to 19, they all survived the crash. The boat they were traveling with, however, quickly took on water and sank within a minute, Arndt said.
That was when they were about 13 days into what was planned as a two-month tour to the Bahamas and back. The three young men, all of them experienced sailors, had set off from Chestertown, Maryland, and were headed south. It was about 10:30 p.m. and they had just passed Georgetown, South Carolina. Nathan and his friend Theo were up on deck, while Grayson was sleeping in the cabin.
Since the other boat had no running lights, they did not notice it until it was too late. “We heard them,” Arndt said of the oncoming boat. But when he saw the other boat, it was too close already. They had just enough time to scream at Grayson to get out of the cabin when the crash happened. The impact split open the side of their vessel, a Cal 27, and the cabin top collapsed. They managed to pull the cabin top off to allow Grayson to get out and jump onto the other boat.
Nathan said he checked the cabin with a flashlight – it had taken on two feet of water. They grabbed the life raft, but there was not enough time to blow it up. The boat was sinking under their feet. Nathan and Theo jumped into the water. He saw his backpack floating in the water, and grabbed it. The guys on the other boat “were freaking out,” thinking they may have hurt or killed someone. They got Nathan and Theo out of the water and onto their boat, then radioed the Coast Guard.
The fishermen turned back toward the coast and were met by a Coast Guard boat in the channel near Georgetown. The captain of the other boat was arrested and charged.
As for the boys – with no change of clothes and without shoes, they were picked up by Theo’s father, who had driven to Charleston to meet up with them. It was lucky that he was close by.
As for Nathan, the accident did not turn him away from the sea. “I would do the same trip again,” he said. “I would try and go all the way.”
He returned to his summer job teaching sailing at the Sagamore Yacht Club on Long Island. Come September, he will return to Colorado to work on his Master’s in mechanical engineering at the University of Denver.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent