Local Boat Rescues Two After Vessel Sinks

OCEAN CITY – A 41-foot boat sank in heavy seas about 22 miles off the coast of the resort early last Saturday, forcing its two occupants from Denmark to abandon ship and board a life raft before being rescued by good Samaritans on a local fishing charter boat.

Early last Saturday morning, a 41-foot vessel bound from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. to Greenland and eventually Denmark went down in stormy seas, forcing its two occupants into a life raft where they remained for over an hour before being rescued. The local fishing charter boat “Muff Diver” heard the distress signal over the radio, realized it was likely the closest vessel and quickly responded to the coordinates given.

“Muff Diver” Captain Mike Hitchens said this week he was taking a charter out to go fishing, but had decided to turn back because of rough seas when he heard the distress signal come over the radio.

“We were running a charter out that morning and around first light we had decided to come back because the sea conditions were terrible,” he said. “Not long after that, we heard the distress signal come over the radio and we realized we weren’t far from them. We were about 15 miles south of them, so we started to head north.”

Hitchens said the “Muff Diver” came up on the sinking boat a short time later and found the two occupants in the lifeboat nearby. The pair had apparently purchased the vessel in Florida and were moving it north along the east coast to Greenland and eventually Denmark where they are from. Hitchens said the victims had stopped in Norfolk the day before and were attempting a run up to Atlantic City when they got in trouble in the seas off the coast of the resort last Saturday.

Hitchens estimated the two victims were in the water for about an hour or an hour and a half before being rescued. He also said the vessel must have gone down quickly in the rough seas.

“It went down fast,” he said. “The last call we heard from the vessel before communication was lost was only about 10 minutes after the initial distress call. Luckily, they were able to get a good set of coordinates out and we were able to find them.”

The Coast Guard responded to the area with a helicopter and briefly considered attempting to pull the victims from the lifeboat. Because of the rough seas, however, it was agreed the victims should be brought aboard the “Muff Diver,” which transported them back to the Coast Guard station in Ocean City.

Hitchens said the boat’s occupants were not injured, although he did question their judgment somewhat.

“Other than being cold and wet, they were just fine,” he said. “The water temperature had to be around 65 degrees. I had to question why they were out there in the first place given the conditions that morning. We went out but quickly decided to come back.”