CAPE MAY – A 33-foot Hunter sailboat, its Canadian owners acquired two days before, ended up wrecked, then sunk in the Cape May Inlet, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.
Lt. Dan Nelson, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Boat Station Cape May, said the Coast Guard received a phone call May 21, at around 9:30 or 9:45 p.m., reporting a vessel had struck the jetty in Cape May Inlet and was possibly capsized.
The report said there was possibly one person on board. The Coast Guard launched a 45-foot response boat into the inlet, where they located the vessel still upright but taking on water.
“There were two people on board, and we got them off,” Nelson said.
The Coast Guard had to do customs certification on the individuals because they were Canadian citizens.
Nelson said there was a slight sheen from fuel on the water, and seawater was rapidly rising in the boat. Coast Guard personnel attempted to pump water out of the vessel but did not attempt to rescue the vessel.
He said the Coast Guard will attempt a general salvage, such as pump water, but otherwise does not attempt to rescue the vessel. He said they would not put crew members in jeopardy attempting to rescue a vessel. Nelson said the Coast Guard has a good working relationship with Sea Tow Cape May and TowBoatUS, who will help secure the distressed vessel.
The Coast Guard is concerned about environmental conditions. Nelson said the sailboat had about 30 gallons of motor fuel aboard, plus oil. He said the Coast Guard had not seen any identifiable pollution as of Wednesday afternoon (May 24) but was continuing to monitor the situation.
Nelson said the two passengers were transferred to a boat belonging to the Town Bank Fire Company, which took them to the Coast Guard pier, where they were evaluated by emergency medical services (EMS). They were able to get into Cape May to find a place to stay.
As of May 24, the sailboat was submerged in about 20 feet of water on the Cape May beach side of the jetty.
Jack Moran, of Sea Tow Cape May, said they were notified of a 911 call regarding the sailboat and arrived on the scene shortly after the Coast Guard arrived. Moran said the boat had been wrecked against the rock jetty and continued to take a beating as the waves pushed it against the jetty.
He said the boat had about 3 feet of water in it by that time and there was no chance of recovery. He said the boat went to the bottom with the mast sticking out of the water. The owners, he said, were afraid their Canadian insurance company would not cover a wreck in U.S. waters.
“It would be quite an extensive recovery and they think their insurance will deny the claim, so it sits there and gets more beat up,” Moran said. “I don’t know how much there will be to recover, but we are standing by.”
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