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Boat runs aground off Newport Beach

March 24, 2007|Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writer

Like an obstinate child, the Emerald Sea sank into the sand and refused to budge.

The 62-foot commercial fishing boat, trawling for sardines off Newport Beach, ran aground early Friday -- an incident so rare that the motionless green-and-white boat held beachgoers rapt for hours.

The boat, which cast off from San Pedro on Thursday night, apparently hit a sandbar near 36th Street about 1 a.m., jolting the five-member crew. There were no injuries and no apparent damage to the steel-hulled boat, which was stuck about a half-mile north of Newport Pier.

Officials said a tugboat would attempt to pull the trawler off the sandbar at high tide early this morning.

It's unclear why the Emerald Sea ran aground, though authorities said preliminary reports pointed to operator error.

Stan Schones, the boat's owner, said in a phone interview from Oregon that he had run commercial fishing boats since the 1950s and not one had run aground.

"It's such a freak occurrence," said Chris Smith, 28, of San Pedro, who had worked on the boat for several weeks.

Smith was resting when he heard a creaking sound as 6-foot waves pushed the boat deep into sand and almost to shore. Soon after, the Crystal Sea, another commercial fishing trawler owned by Schones, unsuccessfully tried to pull the Emerald Sea free, Smith said.

After the tide dropped, the crew members waded to shore.

By sunrise, several agencies, including the Harbor Patrol, Coast Guard and Newport Beach Police Department, had arrived.

The commotion roused Peggy Vombaur about 6:30 a.m. "It's something you don't see wash ashore every day," she said. "It gives you an appreciation for how strong the ocean is."

ashley.powers@latimes.com

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