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High seas cause double overboard

Jan 1, 2003

High seas cause double overboard situation. A Boston couple was rescued by the Coast Guard in Delaware Bay in mid-October after being washed overboard, one after the other, in heavy seas caused by Hurricane Josephine.

Tom and Carol Moreau alerted the Coast Guard at 1600 on October 7 and reported that they were unable to make way against 20-foot seas and 50-knot winds and were requesting assistance. A 47-foot Coast Guard cutter was launched from Station Cape May as well as a pilot boat from the Delaware Pilots' Association. As the two rescue craft were trying to lead the stricken sloop into calmer waters, an electronic control system in the transmission failed aboard the Coast Guard vessel, causing it to turn back.

An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter was immediately launched from Group Air Station Cape May just as Tom Moreau was swept from the cockpit of the 40-foot Fuji-design Sun Tanner and into the seas. He was soon located by the helicopter crew. However, shortly after a rescue swimmer assisted Moreau into an airlift basket, it was discovered that Carol Moreau had been washed into the sea as well. She, too, was recovered without incident. Both crewmembers were wearing personal flotation devices, according to Coast Guard reports.

"They were very experienced sailors," said Coast Guard Chief Thomas Peck. "I don't really know how they were both swept away."

The yacht was left motoring in circles, and the couple was flown to a waiting ambulance in Cape May when they arrived at 1800, their troubles apparently over.

Sun Tanner was discovered the following morning by a passing fishing vessel about 25 miles east of Cape Henlopen, Del., according to Chief Peck. "The crew of the fishing boat boarded the sailboat, secured the engine, then towed it to Rhode Island for salvage rights," he said. "The only problem is, the Moreaus didn't abandon their boat; they were washed overboard," said Chief Peck. "There's a difference. If it had been abandoned, the crew of the fishing boat could claim 75% of the cost, but since it wasn't officially abandoned they could only ask for their expenses as payment."

As of press time, a settlement had not been reached, pending negotiations with the insurance company.