OCEAN CITY — The Route 50 Bridge is none the worse for wear this week after being struck by a vessel that broke free from its moorings near the Inlet on Monday night.
Around 10:30 p.m. on Monday, Coast Guard Station Ocean City was notified a 57-foot trawler-style recreational yacht and struck the Harry Kelley Bridge on the south side. According to Coast Guard Petty Officer Kyle Wood, the vessel was not based in the area, but rather was a transient recreational boat passing through the area on Monday on its way north. The vessel dropped anchor in the Inlet area south of the bridge near the channel on Monday night but its anchor did not hold and it drifted toward the bridge.
“The anchor kept dragging and the current was coming through there pretty fast,” said Wood on Monday. “They kept drifting north on the current and attempted to pull up the anchor, but the current kept pushing them north and eventually they struck the bridge.”
The Coast Guard launched its 47-foot rescue boat and responded to the scene as did Tow Boat US. The Coast Guard and Tow Boat US worked together to attempt to free the vessel, which had settled in against the bridge in a parallel position. Wood said the Coast Guard and Tow Boat US worked to free the vessel for about an hour to no avail.
“After about an hour, a decision was made to just cut the anchor chain,” he said. “After that, we brought the vessel alongside our rescue boat for a tow. There were two people on board and nobody was hurt. There was no major damage to the boat. The rub rails were messed up where they continually hit the bridge, but otherwise, there was no major damage.”
The vessel did leave a little souvenir from the incident, however.
“We had to cut the anchor chain to free the boat and we couldn’t recover the anchor or the chain,” said Wood. “They are on the bottom on the south side of the bridge, but they are no threat to navigation because it is in an area away from the channels.”
On Monday, the State Highway Administration (SHA) sent crews from its private engineering firm Covington to make sure there was no structural damage to the span. SHA public information officer Charlie Gischlar said on Tuesday the boat had drifted into the bridge about 100 yards from the bridge tender house, but there was no damage to the bridge other than a few scratches.