Coast Guard members use dewatering pumps to refloat the distressed fishing boat. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

4 Rescued from Fishing Boat off Ocean City

When a fishing boat started taking on water offshore of Ocean City, Md. on Monday morning, every moment mattered. The Coast Guard was able to rescue the people aboard and save the boat, all thanks to a useful feature on the boat’s VHF radio.

The Coast Guard says four people were aboard the fishing vessel Hot Pursuit on Monday morning. The captain sent a distress alert out using the Digital Selective Calling feature on the boat’s radio. After making contact, the captain told USCG that the boat was taking on water and might not make it back to port before it sank.

Digital Selective Calling (on VHF channel 70) is a channel used “exclusively for distress, safety and calling purposes using digital selective calling (DSC) techniques.” Its use is detailed by the Coast Guard here.

If a boater takes the time to program their VHF radio ahead of time with GPS information and the boat’s Mobile Marine Service Identity (MMSI) number, they can hold down a red button on the radio. It will send an audible alarm to the Coast Guard and other boat traffic, identifying the boat’s ID and its latitude and longitude.

“The distress alert feature on marine radios and GPS’s can be a game changer if it’s properly set up,” said Chief Michael Weelmaa, command duty officer for Coast Guard Sector Maryland-NCR. “In situations like this, every second matters. Follow the instructions for your device before you head out on the water to ensure we’re locked in on your location and can get to you quickly.”

In this case, a Coast Guard Station Ocean City boat crew responded and brought two of the four people from Hot Pursuit onto the 47-foot Motor Life Boat. The crew was able to stabilize the fishing boat with dewatering pumps in order to get it safely back to shore. None of the boat’s passengers was injured.

Hot Pursuit was escorted to Sunset Marina in Ocean City, where it will undergo repairs.

-Meg Walburn Viviano