When a fishing boat began taking on water off Ocean City, Maryland on Monday morning, every moment counted. The Coast Guard was able to rescue those on board and save the boat, all thanks to a helpful feature on the boat’s VHF radio.
The Coast Guard says four people were on board the fishing boat hot pursuit Monday morning. The captain sent a distress alert using the digital selective calling feature on the boat’s radio. After making contact, the captain told the USCG that the boat was taking on water and might not return to port before it sank.
Digital Selective Calling (on VHF channel 70) is a channel used “exclusively for distress, safety and calling purposes using digital selective calling (DSC) techniques”. Its use is detailed by the Coast Guard here.
If a boater takes the time to program their VHF radio in advance with GPS information and the boat’s Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number, they can hold down a red button on the radio. It will send an audible alarm to Coast Guard and other boats, identifying the boat ID and its latitude and longitude.
“The distress alert feature on marine radios and GPS can be a game-changer if configured correctly,” said Chief Michael Weelmaa, command duty officer for Coast Guard Sector Maryland-NCR. “In situations like this, every second counts. Follow your device’s instructions before you hit the water to make sure we’re locked to your location and can reach you quickly.
In this case, a boat crew from Coast Guard Station Ocean City responded and brought two of the four people from hot pursuit on the 47-foot motor lifeboat. The crew was able to stabilize the fishing vessel with bilge pumps to bring it safely ashore. None of the passengers on the boat were injured.
hot pursuit was escorted to Sunset Marina in Ocean City, where it will undergo repairs.
-Meg Walburn Viviano