A couple attempting to outrun Hurricane Irene were rescued Saturday in the Chesapeake Bay as their sailboat was battered by 6- to 8-foot seas and winds gusting to 45 mph, rescue officials said.
Unable to launch rescue craft, two rescue crew members swam to the sailboat, pulled the sailors off and hauled them back to shore in the Willoughby section of Norfolk near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.
The couple, who did not want to be identified, were treated by medical personnel and taken to a shelter. Their cat also survived the ordeal.
The sailboat had served as their home, Capt. Mike Marsala of Norfolk Fire and Rescue said.
"They were scared, but they were thankful once they got on dry land,'' Marsala said.
Ronnie Boone, owner of the Ocean View Fishing Pier in Norfolk, said in a telephone interview that his employees told him the sailboat nearly hit the pier.
"Two knuckleheads on a sailboat with a cat. They definitely shouldn't have been out there,'' Boone said.
Boone, who also workers for the Portsmouth Fire Department and was driving back from Florida, said the pier was OK as far as he knew Saturday afternoon.
After the rescue, waves and wind pushed their sailboat to shore, where it was rocked violently by the surf. The sail appeared to have been shorn off, and only tattered remnants remained.
The two had left their mooring in Portsmouth on Friday in hopes of sailing away from the storm's path. They were destined for Annapolis, Md., Marsala said, which is about a two-day sail.
They had sailed about 15 miles until they dropped anchor, but then weather conditions worsened.
Heavy winds pushed the sailboat onto a jetty, and it began to list as gusts up to 45 mph buffeted their boat, Marsala said.
Fire department swimmers swam to the boat with a line, secured life jackets on the couple and helped them ashore. A rescue worker carried the drenched cat inside her jacket, according to The
Virginian-Pilot, which witnessed the rescue.
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