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Oct 1, 2019 7:13 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

The Vanna White Goes Down, Leaving A Young Sailboat Owner Disappointed, And Homeless

The sailboat Vanna White was pulled off the beach in Montauk on Thursday afternoon.             MICHAEL WRIGHT
Oct 1, 2019 2:38 PM

A 21-year-old from Arizona who was alone aboard a 26-foot sailboat when it beached near Shadmoor in Montauk last Thursday, September 26, had purchased the boat on eBay for $700 only a day earlier.

He was on his first trip on the boat when the engine died.

The sailboat, the Vanna White, was pulled off the beach by a SeaTow crew, with the help of some beachgoers, at about 4 p.m. on Thursday and towed to Montauk Harbor. But the hull, which had been battered by waves, gradually took on water during the slow journey back toward the Montauk docks.

As it passed between the jetties to the harbor, the last of the hull sank below the surface of the waves, and by the time the towboat reached the West Lake Drive boat ramp, it was pulling the Vanna White along the harbor floor.

As the young owner, Matthew Hunt, watched his new purchase pulled through the surf a couple of hours earlier, he had said he was praying the boat would still be seaworthy — as he’d planned for it to be his new home.

“I flew out here on a one-way ticket with $1,000 in my pocket — $700 for the boat — so it’s my only place to live,” he said on the beach Thursday while waiting for SeaTow to arrive, his suitcase sitting in the sand next to him. “I’ve got a sort of messed-up home life, and I needed a new place to live, and this boat was it. I’m praying it’s okay.”

His plan was to find a place to anchor the boat and start looking for a job in the area. Someone, he said, mentioned to him that Hither Hills State Park has showers and bathrooms he could use.

With no knowledge of the area or the temperament of the Atlantic, he set off Thursday morning, intending to moor the boat in the ocean off the parkland and use a raft to traverse back and forth to shore.

Mr. Hunt said he has sailed before and had gotten around Montauk Point well enough, heading west for Hither Hills. A stiff headwind came up, slowing his progress, and then the engine — which he had fired up even though the person who had sold him the boat had warned him it had problems — died.

“I tried to put the sail up to keep myself off the beach, but the waves and the wind kept pushing me in,” Mr. Hunt said. “It was really terrifying.”

The boat blew ashore right under the Shadmoor bluffs. Mr. Hunt grabbed his carry-on-sized suitcase, which contains “everything I own,” he said, and leapt ashore. Beachgoers, relieved to see that he was okay and aghast at his story, brought him food.

“They have been so nice to me — they brought me lunch, and everyone has been looking out and trying to help,” he said on the sand, resting on his suitcase while SeaTow employees assessed how to get the boat off the beach. “I feel like I’m in good hands.”

SeaTow owner John Kanavy brought one of the company’s towboats up to the beach from Montauk Harbor. A beachgoer, Bau Southerland, paddled out to the boat on a paddleboard borrowed from an East Hampton Town Marine Patrol officer and brought a towrope ashore to connect to the boat.

With the first tug from the tow boat, the Vanna White swung her bow into the waves, and, a few tense moments later, broke free from the sand and started to plow through the surf to deeper water.

Mr. Hunt hugged Mr. Southerland and SeaTow employee Doug Banfield as the boat headed east.

In the end, the boat was a loss and was scrapped, Mr. Hunt said. But his resolve has not been.

Having never heard of the Hamptons before arriving to claim his new purchase, Mr. Hunt said he plans to stay. One person he met on the beach last week has given him temporary lodging, and he landed a job at Ed’s Lobster Bar in Sag Harbor through a recommendation from another.

“This has been so surreal,” Mr. Hunt said while sitting in an East Hampton Town Marine Patrol vehicle as the sunken hull of the Vanna White was pulled toward the town launching ramp. “I won’t do this again.”

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Is there a reason he couldn't raise a sail?
By PatrickKing (15), Sah Harbor on Sep 26, 19 3:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
The photo shows that the rigging is not set up. Even if it were, that vessel was already in the surf zone, and he was probably having quite a time just hanging on. Vanna White will see another day.
By Harbor Master (114), Sag Harbor on Sep 26, 19 6:15 PM
Where is the guy now? Would like to offer some assistance....
By pvalk6 (32), Southampton on Sep 26, 19 7:21 PM
Is this Matthew from Arizona or maybe Jessie Pinkman from New Mexico?

In all seriousness, I'd also like to help Matthew as this is both a heartwarming and heartbreaking story.
By Killerfrog (38), Southampton on Sep 26, 19 7:47 PM
Poor guy, wish him all the best!
By CampHero (10), East Quogue on Sep 26, 19 8:09 PM
Sorry . . . this has to be said . . .

He is lucky to be alive after so many bad decisions IMO. Planning on anchoring in the ocean and taking a shower at Hither Hills SP . . . is this for real?

Fortunate that no one got hurt rescuing him.

This could have turned out much worse.

Had to be said . . .

By Nero (300), Sag Harbor on Sep 26, 19 8:13 PM
Can we set up a go fund me page for him?
By johnnyhampton (82), Southampton on Sep 26, 19 9:17 PM
Sounds like he need a job, and housing more than a GoFund. Let him make his way; and for goodness sake can someone teach him to sail and something about nautical ways if he's still willing to try his luck on the sea.
By InnerBay (72), Southampton on Sep 26, 19 11:27 PM
Sounds to me like he needs all three.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8075), HAMPTON BAYS on Sep 27, 19 2:38 AM
Life lessons the hard way...at that age I just wanted to pay off student loans, do the grind painting houses, bar back, scrimp, look for a "real" job. Big dreams for this kid, maybe he should start with the basics and go from there.
By lirider (288), Hampton Bays on Sep 27, 19 6:09 AM
This kid needs to join the military. Homeless and wreck less does not lead to good outcomes. If you ever wonder how people end up on the streets... This is the kind of person who is too headstrong to get help and come up with far fetched immature ideas that just put them further behind the 8 ball.
The Military provides structure, discipline, housing, food, a paycheck, and you are helping your Country instead of being a burden on society and resources are spent rescuing and helping you. Some ...more
By deelove (152), Bridgehampton on Sep 27, 19 8:15 AM
2 members liked this comment
If he was "wreck less" there would be no story here.

But I'm sure he appreciates your career advice.
By VOS (1232), WHB on Sep 30, 19 12:26 AM
I spent 4 years in the military and it helped me see what life was about and provided structure and security while I became more responsible and mature. The military is not for everyone, but it is great for wayward souls who need a way. This kid is a perfect candidate. What good is a go fund me going to do unless he raises enough money to provide for the rest of his life. With his immature mindset he will take the money and set off on some other lame brained adventure.
By deelove (152), Bridgehampton on Sep 27, 19 8:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
Where is your sense of adventure? In your mind a lame brained idea not his.
By auntof9 (157), Southampton on Sep 27, 19 9:45 AM
I think we can all agree it was a poorly-planned adventure but I'm glad the kid's ok.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8075), HAMPTON BAYS on Sep 27, 19 9:50 AM
It takes a small man to kick someone while he's down. Just to get him to conform to what you think he should be doing? Wow.
By VOS (1232), WHB on Sep 30, 19 2:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
Bust out another thousand...
Glad he's OK. CG could be looking for a body. Boats can be replaced.
By watermill_mike (35), Sag Harbor on Sep 27, 19 1:11 PM
I'm glad he is safe and dry now.
His sense of adventure is spent. A little work and a ticket back to Arizona is his best bet. Ain't old Lake Havasu young man. Go west young man...
By knitter (1908), Southampton on Sep 27, 19 9:50 PM
The condescending know it alls of 27 East have spoken. And as usual. they are snarky and negative.
By even flow (996), East Hampton on Sep 28, 19 6:37 AM
Wait a minute, I'm a condescending know-it-all -- I haven't given my opinion on what Matthew Hunt should do and I know best.
By Aeshtron (415), Southampton on Sep 28, 19 10:55 AM
I think the kid had a great sense of adventure. He definitely learned his lesson the hard way. I applaud him, maybe a little experience would have helped. Bravo none the less.” Better To Try And Fail Than Never To Try At All”William F O’Brien
By Fred s (3207), Southampton on Sep 28, 19 11:18 AM
3 members liked this comment
Am I the only one who thinks this is a scam and a way for somebody to set up a go fund me page?
By Mfpupo (1), Amagansett on Sep 28, 19 8:14 PM
2 members liked this comment
He is not a "KID". A 21 year old dingbat as Archie would say. A scam artist. Hope he takes a one way Greyhound bus back to Arizona and doesn't stay here. What a pathetic loser.
By P. Revere (150), hampton Bays on Sep 30, 19 12:05 PM
It appears he had good intentions, trying to escape a bad situation in his home life. The end result wasn't terrific, but he has a sense of adventure that more of us could use. This will be a story he will be able to laugh at someday.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Oct 9, 19 2:49 PM
Thanks P.Revere, at my age he’s a kid.are you positive of all those accusations, or just guessing? I don’t agree with anything you’ve said, but that’s ok
By Fred s (3207), Southampton on Sep 30, 19 12:12 PM
Didn't take you long Fred. I can always depend on you and Foreign to quickly respond with your bleeding heart nonsense. I think you and Foreign should take him in for the winter. Yes I am sure he is a DINGBAT, sail from Montauk to Arizona during hurricane season? That's a moron dingbat. If you don't agree with me I consider that a compliment.
By P. Revere (150), hampton Bays on Sep 30, 19 12:23 PM
I'm not donating to his GoFundMe but I'm not pretending he's a full-fledged adult either.

I also don't see the point of excoriating him for his lackluster planning and harrowing experience, but do whatever makes you feel good about yourself P. Revere.

I hope the kid learned a thing or two!
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8075), HAMPTON BAYS on Sep 30, 19 12:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
P. Revere, sailing from montauk to Arizona? Hmmmm. You have your opinion I have mine. A sense of adventure is a good thing, staying home and doing nothing, not so adventurous.
By Fred s (3207), Southampton on Sep 30, 19 4:53 PM
Yes, it was a bit of an adventure that luckily he can now tell stories about.
By Seajay (9), East Quogue on Oct 4, 19 5:15 PM
This is a story Dan would write about 30 years ago! This kid amongst the techy bearded millionaires on the beach in Montauk
By LovinLife (61), East Quogue on Oct 7, 19 9:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
Best story I've read on 27east in a long time
By wrk (20), East Hampton on Oct 9, 19 8:54 AM