Disaster was narrowly averted Sunday when a shrimp boat capsized in Apalachicola, forcing her crew to swim to safety.

At about 5:30 a.m., Dale Davis and Kevin Martina set out for a day’s work on the bay in the Irish Town II, a shrimp boat owned by Martina’s brother Kenneth.

The watermen paused in the channel directly in front of Caroline’s Dining on the River restaurant and began to lower the outrigger arms of the trawler, walking them gradually down when a gust of wind caught the doors and capsized the boat. 

NOAA forecaster Claudia McDermott said the wind was at 19 knots with gusts of 24 knots at the time the 43-foot Irish Town II was overturned. Davis and Kevin Martina clung to the boat briefly but, driven by the cold, they swam to shore, climbing out of the river at Leavin’s Seafood.

They called for help and received a ride back to their vehicles at Scipio Creek.

The Irish Town II rapidly took on water and sank in the channel, creating an impediment to navigation.

Kenneth Martina arrived on the scene around 7 a.m. in his second shrimp boat, the Irish Town III. He was joined on the scene by Capt. Arthur Hollenbeck in his shrimp boat Classy Lady.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Steven Cook, who was on the scene observing the attempt to retrieve the boat, said he did not see or smell any spilled fuel during the attempted salvage operation.

The two boats and their crews labored most of the day Sunday to move the trawler onto shallower bottom and out of the channel. Diver Marty Davis braved the frigid water to attach lines to the distressed vessel.

For much of the day  Sunday, a crowd of onlookers both on the docks and in Caroline’s watched in fascination as Kenneth Martina, Hollenbeck and their crews used their skill and knowledge to shift the boat’s position.  At times, the salvagers appeared to be walking on the water as they stepped onto the side of the sunken vessel.

At about 2 p.m., pulling in tandem, the Classy Lady and Irish Town III attempted to drag the sunken boat out of the channel and seemed to be making good progress when the ropes snapped.

After heavier line was obtained, a second attempt was successful. The side of the Irish Town II was just visible above the choppy surface of the river on Monday morning.

Montez Davis, wife of Dale Davis said her husband and the Martinas were on the water working to salvage the Irish Town II at around 10 a.m. Monday morning.