Coast Guard and local agencies rescue 2 near Norfolk during Hurricane Irene

5th Coast Guard District News

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Norfolk Fire-Rescue swimmers rescued two people and a cat Saturday when their 30-foot sailing vessel ran aground off Ocean View Beach in Norfolk, Va., during the onset of Hurricane Irene.

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads command center received the initial report from a good Samaritan at approximately 8 a.m. that a sailboat was dragging its anchor 400 feet from the beach. Personnel from Norfolk Fire-Rescue, Virginia Marine Resources Commission Police and the Norfolk Police Department responded to the scene.

The sailboat was homeported in Portsmouth, Va., but left Friday for Annapolis, Md., to escape the oncoming storm. When severe weather overtook them, they attempted to deploy their anchor.

Heavy seas and winds prevented rescue personnel from reaching the sailboat. It was ultimately pushed closer to shore and over a jetty, whereupon its keel embedded in the sand.

Norfolk Fire-Rescue then deployed two rescue swimmers to the vessel, who after securing two lines to it, assisted the people and the cat through waist- to chest-deep water onto shore.

“Our rescue swimmers helped the people off the sailboat,” said Norfolk Fire-Rescue Capt. Mike Marsala, “but it was an excellent joint effort with Norfolk Police, Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Coast Guard.  This operation shows how well our agencies cooperate in emergencies.”

The two sailors were treated for mild hypothermia and taken to a nearby shelter.

The sailing vessel remains aground off Ocean View Beach and does not pose a threat to the Ocean View Fishing Pier or the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

The Coast Guard reminds mariners that emergency response capabilities may be impacted during the storm and urges boaters to stay off the water, if at all possible, as Hurricane Irene travels up the East Coast.

For information on the storm, visit the National Hurricane Center website at

Mariners can view the latest port updates for Hampton Roads on the Coast Guard’s Homeport site.

Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website at to stay informed and for tips on how to prepare and plan for severe weather.

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