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Cornelius News

Shamrockin freed from shoal, on dry land in Mooresville

March 19
By Dave Yochum. The owner of the 50-foot Shamrockin’ said he stopped the yacht three times to get his bearings on Lake Norman before running hard aground—and almost completely out of the lake—a week ago on what looked like open water.

In a very brief interview Saturday at Four Seasons Marina in Mooresville owner Ted Corriher would only say he was “not at idle speed” when the boat hit the shoal in the dark. The triple-screw “pod” drive beneath the million-dollar Marquis was augered deep into Lake Norman’s notoriously sticky red clay.

The boat has a single helm in a luxurious enclosed cabin, not a flying-bridge with a second set of controls, which likely would have made visual navigation easier at night.

Corriher said he has owned more than dozen boats, and has been boating since he was a child. Of course, accidents happen on the water, but this one was unusual in terms of the size of the boat and the scope of the rescue operation. Duke Energy, which has banned large inflatable rafts from the lake. Duke apparently didn’t specify placing environmental booms around the vessel while the pod was buried in clay.

It took crews from Cornelius-based Tow Boat US and Mooresville-based Row Boat Dock and Dredge at least four days to extract the 50,000 lb. vessel. A second crane brought onto the scene on a Row Boat barge Friday finally did the trick Saturday morning. (It, too, was briefly stuck on the muddy sandbar Saturday.)

Derek DeBord, owner of the Cornelius-based Tow Boat US, franchise, led the operation which included Tow Boat’s Beaufort, NC, franchise and a boat from the coast.

The Shamrockin became a nautical tourist attraction as well as a national news on fishing and boating discussion sites.

Corriher, is a wealthy Newton business owner who was once profiled in Entrepreneur magazine for his early success selling tractors online. He also, according to political consultants, considered running for US Senate, but “never set up a campaign committee with the FEC.”

A commercial operator in the marine industry said this kind of salvage operation, with 24-7 staffing, multiple boats, at least one barge and two cranes, ran well into the six figures. Neither DeBord nor Beaufort Tow Boat franchise owner Lee Sykes, who flew in to help lead the operation, would discuss the cost of the salvage.

DeBord said no fuel leaked from the Shamrockin’ nor was there any debris scene around the shoal. The Iredell County Sheriff’s Department did not have an incident report. The NC Wildlife Resources Commission records department did not return phone calls.

Cornelius Police and Iredell County sheriffs officers were on the scene earlier in the week. Cornelius helped maintain a no-wake perimeter around the salvage scene Friday. There was a danger that the straps or chains used to try to lift the boat could fail, hurtling debris at spectators.

Duke Energy said they were not aware of environmental concerns at the salvage site. “We know they are trying to move it,” a spokeswoman said. She was not aware of any Duke regulations around how long a stranded vessel may remain on an island. Over the past two years, Duke Energy, which controls the lake, has worked mightily to enforce rules and regulations around inflatables

The Shamrockin’ was freed around 10 am Saturday and towed slowly from Governor’s Island to Four Seasons Marina which is at Exit 31 on I-77. A Cornelius Police  Dept. boat followed. Tow Boat employee Tom Crawford stayed on the boat for several nights to keep it secure.

About 350 yards from All Seasons, DeBord tied his boat to the starboard side of Shamrockin, and, like an oddly mis-matched catamaran, he powered the disabled vessel to a giant marine travel-lift, a hoist and straps mounted on a steel frame on wheels.

There were at least a dozen men working on the haul-out, twice as many spectators.

The hull appeared to be undamaged, but several of the propellors—there are six in total—were damaged. Work immediately began on power-washing the bottom of the boat which still had chunks of mud in some areas despite being towed for a couple of miles.

DeBord said Tow Boat Lake Norman towed some 800 boats last year, but this is apparently the biggest salvage operation in the lake’s 50-year history.

The Marquis brand comes out of the old Carver Boat Corp. in Wisconsin. In 2004 it began building the Marquis line with a 59-footer.

But in 2009 the company, as part of the Genmar family of boat builders, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to Wikipedia. They eventually came out of bankruptcy as Marquis Yachts.

There are used 50-foot Marquis yachts for sale around the country priced in the $500,000 to $900,000 range.

Interestingly, maritime laws do not necessarily apply on the Inland Sea, which is not considered a navigable waterway because there is no access to the ocean, explained Huntersville attorney Mike Elliott. The lake is capped north and south with dams. Corriher retained ownership at all times.

North Carolina’s storage lien laws apply in a case like this, not unlike a storage business. To protect themselves in a costly operation, salvage operators “have to have contracted with the owner to do it and have possession of it,” Elliott said.