Good Samaritan rescues 5 from life raft near Barnegat Light, N.J.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – A Good Samaritan rescued five people from a life raft Wednesday after the boater’s 42-foot boat sank 80 nautical miles east of Barnegat Light, N.J.

The Coast Guard received a radio transmission between the crew of the Fat Cat and five people who were aboard the Made to Sea before it sank.

The Made to Sea was taking on water when the bilge pump stopped working. The crew boarded their life raft and were picked up approximately 30 minutes later by the crew of the Fat Cat. The survivors were unable to board the life raft with their Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon, an electronic device used to signal distress, but were able to grab a hand-held radio.

“The EPIRB was stuck aboard the boat and was manually deployable,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Henry, a crew member of Coast Guard Station Shark River, N.J. “They couldn’t get to it in time.”

The EPIRB aboard the boat was brand new, functional and registered, but required the user to manually activate it in order to signal distress to rescue crews.

“All five survivors were wearing life jackets and had a hand-held radio,” said Henry. “If it wasn’t for their preparation, this rescue wouldn’t have gone as well as it did.”

The crew of the Made to Sea left Irwin’s Marina in Red Bank, N.J., Tuesday and were fishing on the western edge of the Hudson Canyon, Wednesday.

The Coast Guard stresses the importance of having a registered and serviceable EPIRB aboard, and also suggest the following safety tips:

  • Wear your life jacket! 85 percent of boaters who drown were not wearing life jackets. In an emergency there may not be enough time to put one on, so wearing one at all times may save your life.
  • Make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan. A float plan states where you are going and how many people are aboard your boat, as well as destination and arrival plans. For more information on float plans, click here.
  • Make certain to check the local weather prior to departing the dock.
  • Have nautical charts for the area you’re boating in, a global positioning device and a reliable means of communication aboard your vessel. A VHF-radio is the best method of communicating while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area.
  • Mariners may obtain a free vessel safety check, which can be conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, before heading out to the water. Vessel safety checks are courtesy, penalty-free examinations, which verify the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations.

The Coast Guard wants all mariners to know that beginning Feb. 1, 2009, only distress alerts from 406 MHz beacons will continue to be detected and processed by search and rescue satellites worldwide. Older model Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons or Emergency Locater Transmitters that transmit a distress alert on 121.5 MHz or 243 MHz will not be instantly sent to search and rescue personnel. The only way these signals might be heard is by a passive radio listener tuned in to the 121.5/243 MHz frequencies.

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