In the midst of Ida’s powerful impact on the Mid-Atlantic, three sailors found themselves stranded off Wallops Island.
The Coast Guard says a sailboat ran aground during Wednesday afternoon’s severe weather—just before 2:30 p.m., just as strong storms and tornadoes were actively elsewhere on the Bay. It happened in Chincoteague Inlet, between Wallops and Assateague islands.
USCG video shows the grounded vessel heeling hard and being pounded by waves in shallow water. The Coast Guard launched two boat crews from Station Chincoteague and a helicopter from Air Station Elizabeth City, but the weather conditions were so rough neither of the two boat crews could get within 100 yards of the sailboat. A rescue swimmer actually approached the listing boat from water level.
Then it was up to the helicopter crew to hoist all three sailors to safety. Watch the harrowing moments in the Coast Guard video below:
All three were rescued safely, as seen in the video, and brought to land on Wallops Island. None was seriously injured.
Coast Guard watchstanders point out that the severe weather was not a surprise—it was accurately forecasted.
“It’s important for people to check the local marine forecast before going out on the water to ensure they are making risk-based decisions to stay safe and to make sure they have the proper safety equipment on board should circumstances on the water worsen,” says Ensign Wyatt Nelson, a watchstander at Sector Virginia’s Command Center who helped coordinate the rescue.
In such challenging conditions, the sailors made one important decision—to put on their life jackets.
“While we were fortunate that the boat stayed together long enough to effect the rescue, the distressed mariners were prepared with life jackets, which most certainly helped the rescue swimmer to get them from the boat to the helicopter safely,” says Chief Petty Officer Ross Comstock, Officer in Charge of Station Chincoteague.
–Meg Walburn Viviano