A Coast Guard helicopter rescued a couple who clung to their capsized sailboat for about three hours Wednesday night in rough seas 65 miles off Atlantic City.
Heidi Snyder and Peter Bailey, who have been sailing around the world for two years, were traveling from South Carolina to New York City when a microburst flipped their boat, the couple told reporters at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, where they were taken for treatment.
“I was pretty confident we would survive, but I was fearing that I would have a cardiac arrest from hypothermia,” Bailey said.
“I literally had him inside my body, like in my jacket and inside,” Snyder said. “What do you do in that situation? You survive. You act on your instinct. You do whatever you can to survive.”
The couple lost all their personal belongings on the boat.
Jennifer Tornetta, director of media relations and public affairs for AtlantiCare, said the couple, who have been together for about 30 years, were treated at the hospital’s Pomona campus.
Tornetta said the hospital bought the couple clothing, pajamas, and a Tracfone, and also provided them with a room to shower and rest in.
“We bought them enough clothing to get them through the next day or so,” Tornetta said. She said the hospital purchased clothing from Kohl’s because the store often donates gifts to pediatric patients.
Shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday, the couple left Pomona in a car provided by AtlantiCare to stay with relatives in New York. Tornetta said the couple was on their way there when their boat, the Bertie, capsized.
On Wednesday night, Petty Officer Andy Kendrick said, the Coast Guard received an Emergency Position Indicating Radiobeacon signal about 9, indicating a vessel was in distress in the Atlantic Ocean off the New Jersey.
Information provided by the signal allowed the Coast Guard to track down an emergency contact for the vessel and learn that it was the 55-foot wooden-hull sailboat with a couple on board, Kendrick said.
The Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter from Atlantic City, a C-130 search plane from Air Station Elizabethtown, N.C., and a cutter already at sea to the coordinates from the beacon, he said. The rescuers arrived at the scene at about the same time, Kendrick said.
“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.
The team aboard the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter lowered a rescue swimmer to the sailboat and lifted them to safety.
“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,” said Lt. Anthony Monteforte, one of the helicopter pilots.
Kendrick credited the couple for making their rescue possible by having a registered emergency beacon with a current land-based contact.
In a separate development, the Coast Guard and other agencies suspended the search for the pilot of a small plane that crashed into the ocean just off Cape May on Wednesday.
The Mooney four-seat single engine plane slammed into the water and sank about 11:20 a.m. off the South Cape May Meadow bird sanctuary.
Staff writers Oona Goodin-Smith and Valerie Russ contributed to this article.
This story was updated to correct that the hospital provided the couple with a hospital room and not a hotel room.