New York

Husband and Wife Saved After Clinging to Boat 65 Miles Off New Jersey for 3 Hours

A sudden squall caused the boat to capsize, plunging the couple into the chilly ocean water.

What to Know

  • The Coast Guard received a satellite distress signal from the 55-foot vessel Bertie on Wednesday after it encountered stormy weather.
  • Coast Guard Petty Officer Andy Kendrick says a rescue swimmer found Heidi Snyder and Peter Bailey hanging onto the capsized boat.
  • Snyder and Bailey were taken to the hospital. They're both doing okay.

A husband and wife are safe after they spent three hours clinging to their capsized sailboat in the Atlantic Ocean during Wednesday's storms.

Heidi Snyder and Peter Bailey were sailing in their 55-foot vessel Bertie Wednesday night. The sailboat, which Bailey built himself, was headed to New York from the Bahamas when it encountered stormy conditions about 65 miles east of Barnegat Light. A sudden squall caused the boat to capsize, plunging the couple into the chilly ocean water. 

"Within ten seconds there was 60 knot gusts and the boat was almost on its side," Snyder said. "The moment it was happening, I was like, 'Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.' Just couldn't believe it. Just the rushing water. I was like, 'Oh my God, this is it.'"

The couple held onto parts of the boat, a paddleboard and each other for three hours. After being unable to get to the electronic radio beacon, a shift in the boat allowed them to grab it.

"And it was her last gift to us," Snyder said. "Her last valiant effort to give us life."

The emergency distress signal notified the U.S. Coast Guard that something was wrong and provided the boat's location through GPS.

"Without that EPIRB (Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon), no one would even know that the vessel had capsized," Lt. Anthony Monteforte, a U.S. Coast Guard pilot, said.

The Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Atlantic City and a plane from North Carolina. A Coast Guard cutter also was dispatched to the scene.

"When our helicopter arrived on-scene, the crew followed a blinking strobe light and discovered a man and a woman clinging to the hull of their capsized sailboat," said Lt. Tyler Bittner, the operations duty officer in Atlantic City.

Rescue swimmer Robert Ochoa was part of the four-member helicopter crew. He endured six-foot waves to get the couple hoisted aboard the helicopter. It was his first true rescue after rigorous training.

"This was real," Ochoa said. "This was actual people out there. It's dark. Couldn't see anything. It was foggy out."

Snyder and Bailey were taken to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center to be checked for hypothermia. They're both doing okay. The hospital helped them get new clothes since almost everything they owned was on the boat.

Snyder and Bailey, who have been sailing in the Pacific and Atlantic for the past three years, were thankful for the hospital staff as well as the Coast Guard members who saved their lives.

"They're amazing," Snyder said. "Brave. Courageous. We are forever grateful to them."

Lt. Monteforte also praised the rescue crew.

"This was an extremely challenging hoist due to on-scene conditions, but the entire crew came together to work as a team to get the job done," he said. "I am extremely proud of my crew and all of the other assets that aided in this rescue and thankful that the survivors on board used a currently registered EPIRB so that we could quickly locate them."

A GoFundMe campaign was created to help the couple rebuild after losing their boat.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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