A mother, son and their dog were rescued from a sinking boat northeast of Wrightsville Beach Tuesday afternoon. But without a marine radio, it took a U.S. Coast Guard crew more than three hours to locate the vessel.
Coast Guard watch standers with Sector N.C. Command Center in Wilmington received a cellphone call from the mother and son aboard a 19-foot Carolina Skiff at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to a notice from the U.S. Coast Guard. The mariners reported taking on water about two miles east of New Topsail Inlet.
A Coast Guard 45-foot response boat was launched from Wrightsville Beach at 12:35 p.m., but the crew had difficulty locating the distressed mariners due to a lack of VHF-marine radio contact and no specific position.
“With no radio to call for help and no GPS on board, these mariners were depending solely on a cell phone,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Hafner, a Coast Guard crewman involved in the rescue. “When a call goes out over VHF-marine radio on Channel 16, we are able to determine a vessel’s location, but not with cell phone.”
The skiff was eventually located approximately six miles east of New Topsail Inlet just before 4 p.m. Tuesday. The mother, her son and their pet dog were taken aboard the rescue boat to the Coast Guard Station in Wrightsville Beach at 7:08 p.m. and were listed in good condition. A SeaTow crew arrived on scene and towed the skiff to Wilmington.
“The Coast Guard can’t stress enough the importance of having proper communication, navigation and life saving equipment on board. Even if you don’t plan on going far from shore, if your engine quits or something unexpected happens, you can find yourself in trouble very suddenly,” Hafner said.