The series of events took place about 200 miles southeast of Cape May, according to a prepared statement on Saturday from the Coast Guard. Watch officers on duty at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay’s command center were notified via satellite phone by the Malta-registered gas tanker Hellas Poseidon at 5:15 p.m. that its crew had overheard a distress call on VHF-FM radio channel 16, the statement read.

The location of the Coast Guard’s rescue about 200 miles southeast of New Jersey on Friday, April 10, 2020. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard District 5 North)

After observing black smoke about two miles from the tanker’s location, the crew located a disabled 25-foot sailboat called Serena.The Hellas Poseidon reported that there was one person aboard the Serena and that the sailing vessel was taking on water and had damaged communications following an electrical fire in the rough seas Friday night, all according to the statement.

The tanker crew could not assist the man aboard the Serena due to poor weather conditions, but agreed to stay in close proximity to the sailboat until the Coast Guard could arrive.

Aircrews aboard a HC-130 Hercules airplane and a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City in North Carolina were dispatched to the scene, the statement said.

Once on scene, the aircrew determined that the weather conditions made it too dangerous to lower a rescue swimmer aboard the sailboat. Instead, the man was instructed to abandon ship in a lifejacket and meet the rescue swimmer in the water. Shortly thereafter, the rescue swimmer recovered the sailor and both were safely hoisted aboard the helicopter. The man was not injured, all according to the statement.

The sailor told the Coast Guard that he was en route to New York from North Carolina when he became caught in the storm at sea Friday night that caused his vessel to flood and resulted in an electrical fire, the statement said. The Coast Guard did not identify the sailor, as is its custom when rescuing civilians.

“We would like to applaud the crew of the Hellas Poseidon,” said Chief Warrant Officer Dan Capestany, the command duty officer during the watch. “They not only quickly reported the distress call, but were able to locate the sailboat and make sure the man was safe until we arrived. The actions of the Hellas Poseidon undoubtedly saved the man’s life.

This sailor was lucky that someone heard his distress call since he was so far out in the open ocean. It demonstrates the need for proper safety equipment, amongst which are a registered EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radio beacon) and life raft.”

Erik Larsen: 732-682-9359 or

Another story of the rescue and a video