Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hurricane Arthur Damages Skipjack Wilma Lee!

News from Ocracoke Alive

 Join our fundraising campaign by August 1st to get her back in the water! Great rewards for sponsors!

Wilma Lee damaged in Hurricane Arthur
This 4th of July was most unusual, bringing with it not the expected tourists, parade, sand castle contest, and Community Square party, but instead a Category 2 Hurricane Arthur barreling up the coast.  On the night of July 3rd and early in the morning of July 4th, Ocracoke Island took a direct hit from Hurricane Arthur. The storm brought winds upwards of 100 mph for several hours and also packed tornado-type winds as well. The eye of the storm passed over the village of Ocracoke at around 1:00 AM on July 4th. The island suffered damage in the form of downed trees, broken windows, roofing, siding and trim torn from houses and buildings, road overwash, and over 40 utility poles snapped or dislodged.

The most dramatic damage for Ocracoke Alive was to the Skipjack Wilma Lee tied up at NPS docks.  No one was there to watch [see comments for clarification], so we can only look at the results and speculate as to exactly what happened. The damage report is as follows:

Broken 40 ft wood boom
Damage to the port and starboard rails
Damage to the starboard railing
Damage to the mainsail
Structural separation at the stem

The Wilma Lee will be taken to a boatyard and hauled out for inspections and repairs.  We are currently assessing and estimating the costs, but it is clear that because of a high deductible and a provision that excludes sail damage during a named storm, that we will need close to $20,000 that we currently do not have.

We hope to repair the vessel so that it is able to take passengers for motoring trips and minimal sailing with use of the jib sail so that we can make the most of the remainder of the 2014 season while we wait for the creation of a new mainsail.  In the meantime, we will continue our summertime educational Dockside talks once the Wilma Lee returns to her berth at the Community Square Docks.  Mid-August we have another meeting with Andy Mink of NC Learn to look at the educational programming that we are developing for the Wilma Lee.

Here are some ways you can help!

1. Join our Indiegogo Campaign! In June, we began a fundraising campaign to raise money for replacement of the sails.  That platform is still in place and we are off to a good start at $1505 with 20 days left (as of this post date) and a goal for the sails of $10,000.  We hope you will be able to pitch in and join our quest.  Any monies raised over our goal will go towards the additional costs of repairing damage to the Wilma Lee. There are a lot of great perks, including T-shirts, cruises, a week’s stay on Ocracoke, and even your own private charter. Please note that many of the rewards offered involve cruises aboard the Wilma Lee – those may require modification, depending on the outcome of our inspections and assessments.  Contributions are tax-deductible and the campaign ends August 1st.

2. Send a tax-deductible contribution directly. You can do so with a credit card through Paypal by clicking on the donation button here.

or by mailing a check to “Ocracoke Alive, PO Box 604, Ocracoke, NC 27960”  with a memo to “Skipjack Wilma Lee Fund”

3. Join our “Boom and Sail Party.” If you can come to Ocracoke Island and are interested in joining us for a fundraising party, let us know and we will keep you posted on how to get a ticket to a fun-filled celebration to raise money for the Skipjack Wilma Lee. Email us at or call at 252-921-0260.


  1. Anonymous8:39 AM

    This post seems to suggest many on Ocracoke island were caught off guard by Arthur. "Instead of a Category 2 hurricane barreling off the coast..._ Several Hurricane advisory statements were released , including #5 which mentioned 100 mile an hour winds. ---- "... no one was there to watch...." what are earth is the writer suggesting, had there been some one there to watch...., better yet, did no one attempt to engage in any preparations to protect the boat or did the owners think the Arthur would barrel up the coast. Is this to say a Hurricane advisory falls on deaf ears or is only read by OIJ readers????

    1. I am not sure what you are suggesting. "No one was there to watch" means that no one was foolish enough to be outside, wandering around in 100+ mph winds at 2 o'clock in the morning.

      Before the storm hit, the Wilma Lee had been moved to a more protected area at the NPS docks, and was properly tied up with numerous lines cleated to docks on both port & starboard sides.

      Since no one was there to see what happened, we can only speculate. Most likely, a small tornado or mini-burst hit the Wilma Lee, as happened in several other places where trees were twisted & broken, and roofs torn off buildings.

      The owners and captain of the Wilma Lee made proper and appropriate preparations, but the vessel was at the mercy of powerful hurricane force winds.

    2. Well said!

  2. Anonymous10:26 AM

    Yes, it is sad much damage occurred, however it is good to know precautionary steps were made. Thank you for clarifying what " No one was there to watch.." implied. Had someone been there to watch, onlookers would have been pummeled with the debris flying about by unsecured items, or who is to speculate the 40 foot beam crashing down on the boat caused much of the damage to the vessel!!!!

  3. Anonymous12:28 PM

    I heard on a forehead radio station that it was very foolish and irresponsible to leave the sails still on the Wilma lee booms with such a storm coming...even with 50mph winds it was plain dumb...any one disagree...I thought you want help......come on. Who is in charge now?

  4. Anonymous6:17 PM

    correct. if this boat had been in a experienced sailing community those sails would have been completely removed and stowed away. You are correct, it was dumb to leave the sail on no matter how much it might have been lashed to the boom. What hit the boom itself is pure speculation. It's over, it's done. It's now time to correct the situation and put this boat back together. I know lessons were learned because of this. Donate. Ocracoke is a good place for this ship to be docked. Good luck in your collection.

  5. Anonymous10:02 PM

    What's done is done..
    Sorry for the damage...those that can and want to help will....those who don't want to help, won't. She'll sail again.