Updated at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday

FORKED RIVER, N.J. - A recreational fishing boat that had been missing for a day off the New Jersey coast with six men aboard was being towed back to port today after being found adrift about 120 miles off Atlantic City Monday evening.

The men were unharmed.

The search for the 32-foot Black Magic began Sunday night after it failed to return to the Forked River section of Lacey Township on Sunday morning after an overnight tuna-fishing trip, authorities said.

Passengers on the disabled vessel included Bernie Otremsky of Haddon Township; Ed Silcox of Lower Southampton Township; Jerry Lewis, who acquaintances say lives in Trenton; and Ray Somerville, for whom a hometown was not available.

Also aboard were the boat's owner, James McDade, and his father, Geoffrey, a certified captain. James McDade purchased the Black Magic in April after serving in the Navy in Iraq, his mother, Sharon, said.

A Coast Guard helicopter from Elizabeth City, N.C., found the vessel, Petty Officer Jonathan Lindberg said Monday night. The men had intended to go a fishing area known as Toms Canyon, about 85 miles off Atlantic City. It was not immediately clear what happened to it or why its crew was unable to contact relatives or authorities.

"They're all in pretty good shape," Lindberg said.

A Coast Guard cutter towing the boat to safe harbor is expected to arrive at Atlantic City Tuesday evening, it progress slowed by stormy weather, officials said.

The boat was found around 7:15 p.m., said David Umberger, the Coast Guard's civilian search and rescue controller for the region.

A family member got a call from authorities about 15 minutes later, said Johanna Silcox of Middletown Township, Bucks County, daughter-in-law of Ed Silcox.

"I know my father and my brother, and I just knew they would be OK," Thomas McDade said shortly after receiving word.

"We've been told nothing beyond that they are OK, not even when they'll be back. But it's a relief," said McDade, who sounded stunned by the news.

A Coast Guard radio tower on Martha's Vineyard had picked up a mayday call from the vessel around 1 a.m. Monday. Authorities focused their hunt on a 130-square-mile area of the Atlantic Ocean north of Atlantic City.

"It's fantastic. You know, as the time was going on, I was trying to remain optimistic," Johanna Silcox said. "I didn't have a bad feeling. I felt like it was a boat issue and they were drifting."

Sharon McDade alerted the Coast Guard around 6:40 p.m. Sunday, hours after the Black Magic was due back at the Tide's End Marina.

The Coast Guard had family members of Silcox and Otremsky listen to a recording of the short mayday call, and Otremsky's wife recognized her husband's voice.

That's what gave them hope, relatives said. Before that, Sharon McDade said, "we didn't know what to think."

Geoffrey McDade, 56, is a diesel mechanic, and James McDade, 26, of Groton, Conn., is a Navy machinist, Sharon McDade told the Associated Press.

Also providing hope was knowledge that the boat carried an emergency positioning radio beacon (EPIRB), which is designed to broadcast its position to rescuers automatically when it gets wet.

Otremsky is a longtime hobby fisherman, said Robert Thomas, a family friend.

He works as a commercial sales engineer at Peirce-Phelps, a Philadelphia-based distributor of heating and air-conditioning equipment, parts and supplies, said Bob Subranni, chief financial officer of the company.

He is a friend of Ed Silcox, 77, an engineer at Elliott-Lewis, a Philadelphia-based heating, air-conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration service company.

Silcox knew most of the men on the boat, who also were described as avid fishermen.

Outside Johanna Silcox's home is a lawn statue of a bear holding a big fish. "Gone Fishin' " reads the inscription on it.

Her father-in-law owns a 29-foot vessel that he keeps at Forked River, and he fishes with Lewis just about every weekend, Johanna Silcox said.

Deep-sea-fishing areas off New Jersey's coastline, known as "canyons," hold an allure for those in search of large game species such as tuna and wahoo that swim in water more than 1,000 fathoms deep.

Around 9 a.m. Saturday, the McDades loaded the Black Magic - a Black Fin brand vessel built for canyon fishing - with gear, ice, and other supplies before leaving for the day, said Gisela Koch, longtime owner of Tide's End Marina.

"Both men certainly knew what they were doing; they had a lot of knowledge about the sea," Koch said.

Contact staff writer Darran Simon at 856-779-3829 or dsimon@phillynews.com.
Inquirer staff writer Mike Newall contributed to this article, which also contains information from the Associated Press.