A US Coast Guard helicopter crew successfully rescued three people from the perilous waters of the Great Bay after their 18-foot (about 5.5 meters) boat capsized on October 7, 2023.
Upon encountering mechanical difficulties and adverse weather conditions, the boat’s operator transmitted a distress signal via a VHF-FM radio to the Coast Guard’s Delaware Bay sector.
The initial report indicated that the vessel was anchored less than a mile from the Great Bay Marina in Little Egg Harbor Township. However, the situation rapidly deteriorated as the boat began to capsize due to the escalating weather conditions.
With an average depth of 1.5 meters, Great Bay in New Jersey is a complex marine habitat. Its extensive seagrass beds, particularly eelgrass, combined with shifting sandflats and mudflats from the Mullica River and Little Egg Inlet, can pose navigational challenges, making its waters potentially treacherous for boaters.
Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the Philadelphia-based Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay promptly dispatched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from the Atlantic City air station, which was already airborne for a routine training mission.
The MH-65 Dolphin has been in the Coast Guard’s inventory since 1984. It is a variant of the French-built Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin with an advanced flight management system for automatic control, even allowing for stable hovering in challenging conditions. A notable feature is its fenestron ducted-fan anti-torque device, enhancing maneuverability. The MH-65A was the first to be equipped with a four-axis autopilot for hands-off operations.
Upon arrival, the Coast Guard helicopter deployed a rescue swimmer, who, in collaboration with the airborne crew, executed a successful hoist operation, bringing the stranded individuals to safety. They were subsequently transported to the Coast Guard Air Station in Atlantic City and handed over to emergency medical services. No injuries were reported.