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'Horrifying' Spring Break At Sea

The Coast Guard is working to free a 90-foot sailboat that ran aground off Oxnard, Calif., Monday,

The "Nicholas Johnson" got stuck on a sandbar near a rock jetty, and was

, forcing dramatic rescues in churning waters.

All 20 people on board, many of them college students on a weeklong educational trip, made it ashore.

Some had to be plucked from the water after the surf swept them off the ship, and others had to leap into the water so rescuers could reach them.



She told The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen Wednesday that, when she got swept overboard, "I was underwater for about 5 to 10 seconds, and before I came up, I didn't know if I was going to hit the ship when I was coming up, or if I would be behind the ship or in front of the ship.

"And I was saying to myself – I was trying to think of what I would do when I came up, where I was going to be, and I honestly thought I was going to die, and so did most of the other people who were thrown overboard initially."

Jenna Brown was stranded on the ship for two hours and was one of those who had to jump into the swirling seas so she could be rescued. She tells Chen she felt she was "in great danger."

But the crew was very helpful and rescue efforts were well organized, she adds.

When she was still on board, Mackey says, "It was extremely horrifying. …I remember looking at Jenna at one point, and just the look on her face really brought home the fact that we really thought we were either going to get seriously injured or we could die."

All aboard were accounted for, said U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Prentice Danner.

At first, reports Carter Evans of KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, the Coast Guard tried to pull the boat back out to sea, but it wasn't working.

Petty Officer Kenny Akana told Evans, "The seas were picking up, and we started to lose our tow, and that's when we decided to recover people from the water."

The ship was tossing, perilously close to a jetty it needed to get around. It didn't.

"I've been in and out of this harbor before, and I'm kind of surprised. I have no idea how this happened," says John Little, a volunteer from the group that organized the trip, the Los Angeles Maritime Institute.

The owners of the $4.5 million ship say the harbor master had recently checked the depth, which was supposedly about 20 feet, Evans reports. But somehow, sand filled in part of the harbor entrance, and the ship ran aground.

Three of the passengers were taken to area hospitals for treatment of hypothermia. The rest received food and clothing from the Red Cross.

The Irving Johnson is a brigantine completed in 2003 for the maritime institute's TopSail Youth Program.

The boat was being used for a seven-day volunteer spring break team-building trip through the Channel Islands by students from the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, said Laura Trulson, the institute's education director. Ten students and 10 crew members were aboard the boat, she said. She did not know how the vessel got into trouble.

Authorities were working with the institute to pull the boat out to sea Tuesday.

"There was a salvage company out here with a tug boat," Evans says. "They tried to put a line on this ship to pull it back out to sea, but they say the ocean is simply too rough to pull this boat out right now."

The vessel has 4,450 square feet of sail, a rigging height of nearly 88 feet and a diesel engine. The sails were furled during the rescue northwest of Los Angeles.