OCEAN CITY — Dan Smith noticed something a bit out of place as he adjusted the focus on the lens to a damaged web-cam last Friday, and as he focused the picture even further, he realized that the image that was out of place was in fact a boat in some serious trouble.
Smith, whose company atbeach.com manages the streamlined web-cam fixated atop the Kite Loft on the Boardwalk, said that he had to use the zoom feature to really see what was going on as dusk settled in close to 5 p.m. last Friday.
“I didn’t want to be the guy to call in a false alarm, but I could tell that there was a boat with people on it that was getting tossed around in the white water,” said Smith. “So I called emergency services and told them they needed to have someone take a look at what was going on. They called me a little while later and told me that I was right.”
Within 20 minutes, the U.S. Coast Guard arrived to help the boat either to shore or to safety, but according to Petty Officer Chris Karpf, the boat had already entered the surf zone and had been beached by the time help arrived.
“It was low tide, and they got sucked into the shore pretty quickly, so much so that we ended up calling a tow truck to come down on the beach and haul the boat up onto a trailer and towed off the beach,” said Karpf.
Coast Guard officials confirmed that there were five passengers aboard the 20-foot vessel, and they came under duress due to what is being presumed to be an “engine casualty.”
“By the time we got there at approximately 5:20 p.m., it was already dark, but the description from the emergency call was so detailed that we knew exactly where to look for them,” said Karpf. “As it turned out, they were the only boat in the water.”
Smith says that the web-cam, which is streamlined daily on the Kite Loft’s website, is a hugely popular feature that is apparently viewed by people all over the country, hoping for a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean.
“Anytime that web-cam goes down, we get emails from people wanting to know when it’s going to get back online, as people like to watch it from their desks,” said Smith.
Ironically, a cable was damaged during a recent storm, and Smith just so happened to be fixing the problem when the boat came under duress.
Coast Guard officials said no one was injured and out-of-the-ordinary occurrence ended up with no injuries, thanks in part to Smith’s quick action.