The 48th annual White Marlin Open, the world’s largest billfish tournament, started on Monday morning in Ocean City, Maryland, with 421 boats competing for a record $9 million in prize money.
At 10:30, Knot Stressin’, a 34-foot Pursuit and one of the competitors, sent out a Mayday call saying its engine room was flooding and all six men on board were abandoning ship. It was about 60 miles offshore.
The Coast Guard heard the call and sent out an 87-foot patrol boat and a 47-foot lifeboat. But Bill Chapman, the captain of Fishbone, a 65-foot fishing boat that also was in the tournament, heard the call too.
He checked the coordinates on his chart, and realized that the Knot Stressin’ was only a few miles away and he could get there before the Coast Guard. Chapman nailed the throttles and raced to the rescue at 3100 rpm.
By the time Fishbone reached the scene, the six men from Knot Stressin’ were in a red liferaft and the boat was mostly submerged, with just the bow sticking up in the air.
Chapman backed up to rescue all six, their raft, and even one of their coolers. The crew said they had been fighting a blue marlin when the boat started taking on water.
“They lost the fight on a blue marlin,” Chapman wrote on Fishbone’s Facebook page, “they lost their boat and their personal belongings and fishing gear. But we did save them. And their beer.”
No one was injured in the accident, and Knot Stressin’ sank to the bottom. You can see Fishbone’s video of the entire event here; the actual rescue starts at about 2:35.