Cherrie Wiles was in a panic Sunday as she watched the tide rise on the sandbar in the Beaufort River and overflow the Opal May, the 32-foot trawler she and husband Sparky Jones call home.
But then help -- or a miracle, as she calls it -- arrived in the form of four young men.
"They just looked at me and said, 'Cha Cha, don't panic. We're going to get her out,'" she recalled.
Wiles said she and her husband have owned the 1972 Grand Banks trawler for three and a half years and made it their home full-time starting in February.
She feared the vessel would be too badly damaged to be livable, were it not for the quick actions of Donnie Daughtry, Josh Taylor, Ethan James and Aaron Rodgers.
Taylor said their action was natural and immediate: Their friend was in trouble and they rushed to her aid.
"We knew it was going to take a pretty good group of us, but we figured we could try anything once," he said. "... That's the true Beaufort spirit, being willing to help anyone at no cost at all."
The men rallied dozens of people on the sandbar, a popular hangout near a bend in the river and within sight of downtown Beaufort. Along with S.C. Department of Natural Resources officers, the revelers stopped the party long enough to right the boat and pump it out as the tide threatened to fill it and cause it to keel over.
Not knowing how much the sands had shifted this year -- this was their first trip to the sandbar this year -- Wiles and Jones dropped anchor in about 4 feet of water at about 2:45 p.m. Sunday. They expected the tide to turn in less than an hour without incident.
But low tide left the boat high, dry and tipped on its side.
Still, Wiles did not worry. The boat had been dry on a sandbar before and righted itself without problems on incoming tides.
However, the advancing tide rushed in from the side of the boat, instead of the rear, and began spilling over the gunwale. As the boat filled, it leaned farther and farther.
"That's when all the guys kicked in," she said. "There were four guys who rounded people up and said we can get this. They literally, with manpower and grit, lifted that boat out of the water. It was unbelievable."
She estimated that at least 30 people assembled on the tipped side to push, as another 15 pulled from the opposite side.
"They would lift her, let her rest and drain, and then do it again," Wiles said.
The boat itself weighs about 16,000 pounds and had between 15,000 and 20,000 gallons of water in it, her husband estimated.
"It was just a miracle," Wiles said. "Someone must have been looking out for us."
Amy Lane of Beaufort said she and her husband saw the situation developing and called for help.
"I thought it was phenomenal," Lane said. "Once they got the boat pushed up, you could hear everyone on the sandbar cheering."
DNR Lance Cpl. Andrew Godowns heard the call over the Coast Guard radio, responded and found rescue efforts underway. He rigged up a pump to assist and said it took about three hours to get the boat dry.
The Beaufort Water Search & Rescue Squad towed Opal May back to the Lady's Island Marina -- saving a $300 tow bill. There, Jones and friend Ralph de Treville spent two days pumping out the hull and cranking the engine back to life, Wiles said.
Wiles and Jones have been staying with friends and family and -- fingers crossed -- could be back in their home next week. They're salvaging what they can, but many of their belongings were damaged or destroyed by water and fuel.
Wiles said it could have been much worse, though.
Still in disbelief Thursday, Wiles said the rescue was a reflection of the community she loves.
"I'm a Beaufortonian born and raised, and no matter how big we get, we'll always be small. We'll always have each other's back, no matter what. It's amazing how Beaufort comes together when they have to."
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.