When a 50-foot powerboat began taking on water, it didn’t take long for the eight people aboard to find themselves in the dangerously cold, early-April water themselves.
Because they were equipped with the right gear, a volunteer sea rescue crew was able to bring all eight to safety on Saturday afternoon.
The Coast Guard says the 50-foot Carver Yacht called Nauti Dream was starting to sink and the crew called 911. They also hailed the Coast Guard for help on VHF Channel 16, but didn’t respond to Coast Guard callouts on the radio.
Local first responders located the cell phone that called 911 near Buoy 62 in the Chesapeake Bay, off Northumberland County in Virginia’s Northern Neck.
Smith Point Sea Rescue (SPSR), an all-volunteer sea rescue unit serving the mid-Chesapeake Bay, responded with Rescue 1, their 42-foot workboat-style emergency boat. Coming from Cockrell’s Creek, SPSR got word that the boat had completely sunk and the eight people were now in the water.
SPSR says their crew of four arrived in the area of Buoy 62 and searched for a half hour, but couldn’t find anything. The wind was moderate, the water temperature was a chilly 49 degrees, and seas were and choppy.
Coast Guard Station Milford Haven launched a 29-foot response boat and managed to make contact with the people in the water by VHF radio. The survivors lit off flares for emergency crews to find them.
SPSR changed search vectors and this time, one of the survivors in the water made a radio call reporting he could hear a boat. The SPSR crew was able to find all eight survivors huddled together and floating in their life jackets in the water 1.5 miles northeast of Buoy 62.
SPSR says the three women and five men they rescued were “in states of mild to moderate hypothermia from exposure over an hour in the 49 degree water.” The Coast Guard says the boaters were taken to Ingram Bay Marina where Northumberland County Rescue Squad EMS crews were waiting. Two of the survivor were treated for hypothermia, and all were released in stable condition.
SPSR later learned that the crew of Nauti Dream was from Jackson, New Jersey. They’d just acquired the boat and were moving it from Virginia Beach back to New Jersey. SPSR reports it began taking on water just 30 minutes before it sank.
Both SPSR and the Coast Guard agree: having required gear aboard the boat likely contributed to the eight people being alive and safely back home.
“The maritime environment is inherently dangerous, which is compounded with severe weather and cold water temperatures,” says Lt. Joe Bannon, search and rescue mission coordinator. “This case highlights the importance of having necessary gear and training to survive until help arrives.”
Life jackets, flares and a handheld VHF radio were all key to their survival, along with staying together in the water, SPSR notes.
-Meg Walburn Viviano