VIDEO: Virginia Beach boaters rescued in harrowing conditions

A group of boaters managed to escape unharmed after running aground in inclement weather thanks to the Virginia Beach Fire Department (VBFD). Now, the fire and rescue agency is urging boaters, both new and experienced, to take a few key steps in case something goes wrong.

On June 28, the fire department received a call about a boat that ran aground with four people on board near Chic’s Beach. It was windy, around 10 to 15 knots sustained wind with higher gusts. The boat was a 26-foot aft cabin powerboat with two outboard motors.

Aerial video from the fire department shows waves crashing over the boat as it lists to one side and comes to rest on the bottom.

The department responded first with a jet ski because it is the quickest way to respond. Fortunately, no one was injured and the four stranded boaters simply had to be transported back to shore. The VBFD fireboat arrived and, after helping the victims off the boat as waves crashed against it, brought them safely to Lynnhaven Marina.

VBFD Captain Shay Dortch tells us Chesapeake Bay Magazine These boaters most likely ended up in a bad situation because of their lack of experience or familiarity with the waterway. The channel is narrow and the current can be strong, says Captain Dortch.

The channel is wide, but the deeper water channel ends very abruptly. Markers indicate where the depth goes from 11 feet to 2-3 feet very quickly. Sandbar formation in the area has significantly changed the depth in some spots, thanks to storms and beach reclamation projects.

“You think you can cut the canal and you can’t,” Dortch said. Photos show how shallow the area where the ship ran aground is.

Water is calf-deep where fire department rescue crews responded to rescue stranded boaters. Photo courtesy of VBFD

To stay safe in these waters or any bay waterway, pay close attention to tide changes and the weather report, Dortch says. And don’t look at tide charts for just a general area, such as “Virginia Beach” or “Chesapeake Bay.” Look for information specific to your launch location.

Think about what you would do if you were in trouble. Do you have friends in the area you can call? Do you have a tugboat membership? How about a policy that covers boat recovery in a case like this, where the boat would need to be salvaged or recovered? Typically, the boat owner is responsible for those costs.

VBFD tells boaters to make sure their safety equipment is up to date and not expired: life jackets, flares and other gear.

Dortch urges boaters to take a free safety course from the Coast Guard Auxiliary or the BoatUS Foundation to brush up on their knowledge.

The most important thing, he says, is to know the area and understand the water. Unlike driving a car on the road, you can’t just stop and wait for it to pass when the weather conditions get bad.