SUBSCRIBE

MAGAZINE | BAY BULLETIN

This U.S. Coast Guard map shows how far off the coast the sailing vessel was stranded.

VIDEO: USCG Rescues Mid-Atlantic Sailor after Boat Fire

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a man 200 miles off the Cape May, New Jersey coastline from his 25-foot sailboat, as it took on water after a fire on board.

Amid heavy seas on Friday evening, the crew of the tanker Hellas Poseidon overheard a distress call on VHF channel 16. The 738-foot-long tanker found the disabled sailboat Serena about two miles away with visible black smoke. Weather conditions were so bad that the tanker’s crew wasn’t able to bring the solo sailor on board, but USCG Mid-Atlantic says the tanker stayed with the sailboat until rescuers could get there.

USCG later learned that the man was sailing from North Carolina to New York and was caught in a storm that caused flooding and an electrical fire, which had damaged communications.

Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City in North Carolina launched a helicopter and an airplane to help. But weather conditions were so bad that the air crew couldn’t safely lower a rescue swimmer directly onto the sailboat. Instead the man on board had to put on a life jacket and go into the water to meet the rescue swimmer.

The Coast Guard released the video below of the harrowing rescue in the dark, heavy seas (note: hit play button on black screen).

U.S. Coast Guard video by Air Station Elizabeth City

The rescue swimmer quickly recovered the sailor and they were safely hoisted onto the helicopter. USCG says there were no injuries, largely thanks to the crew of the tanker Hellas Poseidon.

“They not only quickly reported the distress call, but were able to locate the sailboat and make sure the man was safe until we arrived. The actions of the Hellas Poseidon undoubtedly saved the man’s life. This sailor was lucky that someone heard his distress call since he was so far out in the open ocean. It demonstrates the need for proper safety equipment, amongst which are a registered EPIRB and life raft,” says USCG Chief Warrant Officer Dan Capestany, who was the command duty officer for this rescue.

-Meg Walburn Viviano