On Thursday, Captain Bobby Earl from the National Geographic television show “Wicked Tuna” was rescued by the Coast Guard when his 53-foot boat Reel E’ Bugging went up in flames due to an engine room fire.
Earl and one other crewman were 34 miles east of Barnegat Light, New Jersey when they abandoned ship. The pair signaled a mayday call on VHF radio channel 16 saying the boat caught fire before deploying a life raft.
The Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay watchstanders heard the distress call and sent in rescuers. They launched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Atlantic City’s nearby Coast Guard air station. In addition, officials sent out two 47-foot motor lifeboat crews from stations at Barnegat Light and Manasquan Inlet.
The helicopter crew found Earl and the unnamed crewman in their life raft. They rescued the two men, and fortunately, neither of them sustained any injuries. The helicopter crew flew the pair to Monmouth Executive Airport in Wall Township, N.J. where their family members came to meet them.
Wicked Tuna Twitter Clip Foreshadows Boat Rescue
The Coast Guard did not report the names of the two rescued men. However, reporter Jim Walsh of the New Jersey Courier Post newspaper did some research and identified Captain Earl. Walsh saw a photo of the two rescued men in the helicopter. The picture showed Earl wearing the same sweatshirt he wore in a recent post on Twitter, which helped Walsh identify the TV star.
In a foreshadowing of the future rescue, Wicked Tuna’s official Twitter account shared a video of the boat’s recent issues. On Sept. 30, the account shared a video that highlighted the crew dealing with engine troubles.
“Reel E’ Bugging has been plagued by engine troubles, and a smoking engine room is the latest obstacle in their path. #WickedTuna,” the post read.
The clip shows Earl working with another crewman below deck as they tried to fix the boat’s engine issues.
“That’s the worst thing that can happen out here, a fire,” Earl says not realizing his words would later come to pass.
In a statement, Coast Guard officials said that Earl’s preparedness helped lead to a successful rescue.
“Today’s case was a perfect example of a unified effort between prepared boaters, the sector, small boats and the air station,” said Lt. j.g. Matt Devlin, a helicopter pilot at the Atlantic City air station. “We are happy that the mariners realized they were in distress and we were able to be there quickly. Ultimately their preparedness led to our success.”
[H/T National Fisherman]