ST. MARYS, GA. | U.S. Coast Guard contractors have lifted the last of the boats that Tropical Storm Irma sank on the city’s waterfront— removing the main obstacles to repairing docks and the resumption of ferry service to Cumberland Island, officials said.

 

At high tide Tuesday, the 65-foot Split Rock was lifted from where it sank on the western side of Lang Seafood’s marina and barged to the east end of St. Marys Street on the waterfront where it was left sitting on the bottom. U.S. Coast Guard Marine Science Technician Chris Ahern said the boat would be taken out Wednesday as the tide came in.

The Split Rock had been a commercial long line fishing boat that had been converted to a family fishing boat, Ahern said.

“We still have two more vessels in the marsh,” both sailboats that would be taken out at high tide Wednesday, he said.

With the Split Rock, 27 sunken or grounded boats had been retrieved and the Coast Guard was near the end of its recovery mission, Ahern said.

That was good news to St. Marys Mayor John Morrissey who called the removal of the Split Rock, “the biggest challenge that was left.”

Of the sailboats, Morrissey said, “There’s a little more concern about damage to the marsh.”

All the boats were hauled to the former St. Mary’s airport off Douglas Road and placed in a long row with each identified by bright orange paint on the bow.

As the boats were being removed, government agencies, the city and the Lang family came up with a plan to restore the ferry service to Cumberland Island National Seashore that Lang Seafood has provided for decades.

“We have worked out a solution that uses the Gateway docks,” Morrissey said of the late Howard Gilman’s boathouse that the city now owns.

The Langs, St. Marys, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard have agreed the boathouse docks can be rehabilitated to accommodate the ferry, Morrissey said.

“It’s great news. We’re very excited all the parties found a solution that will work,” he said.

No firm date has been set, but Morrissey said he expects the ferry to run again early next month.

The National Park Service, however, still has some work to do on the island to make it safe.

“We have to ensure the island is ready when we’re ready,” he said.

The Park Service has canceled all camping reservations for Cumberland through Nov. 1 and island remains closed.

Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405