Late Friday night, Feb. 9, the Coast Guard called off the search for two fishermen missing off Barnegat, N.J. They had been fishing on the Queen Ann’s Revenge, a 46-foot wooden dragger that had been glassed over.
“We would like to extend our condolences to the families and the fishing community affected by this tragic incident,” said Coast Guard Capt. Scott Anderson. “Suspending a case is never an easy decision to make as first responders.”
Coast Guard teams searched 4,441 square-miles with a helicopter from Atlantic City, a boat crew from Manasquan Inlet and an air crew from Elizabeth City, N.C., along with the cutter Lawrence Lawson. Their search for the missing crew of the Queen Ann’s Revenge began shortly after 1:20 a.m. Thursday morning when the Hampton Roads sector in Portsmouth, Va., received the boat’s EPIRB alert.
Conditions were rough at the time of the distress beacon, with 10-foot seas, 25-mile-per-hour winds and a water temperature of 46 degrees.
Just after 1 a.m. on Thursday, Paul Matos and Dennis Smalling managed to get out a distress call from the 46-foot dragger Queen Ann’s Revenge. It reached some members of the fleet and was relayed to the Coast Guard.
A Coast Guard station in Portsmouth, Va., also received an EPIRB alert shortly before the distress call.
That was the last sign of the two New Jersey fishermen, whose fate is yet unknown. Good Samaritan vessels have picked up some debris believed to be from the boat, which was last known to be about 40 miles off Barnegat Light, N.J., likely fishing for squid.
The Point Pleasant dragger had left on Monday evening. Winds had picked up Wednesday evening on the back side of a winter storm. A weather buoy in the area detected 7- to 10-foot seas.
Matos’ partner Amy Romano had been worried about the weather before the trip. She told NJ Advance Media the two had been in touch via email and Matos’ last message to her had been just after 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, letting her know they were making their last haul and heading home.
Matos reportedly purchased the Queen Ann’s Revenge in October. She was launched in 1957 as the Virginia Sue. Matos’ sister Milene Oliveira said family and friends were gathering at her mother’s home in Brick, N.J., while they waited for updates.
The Coast Guard requests anyone who finds items relating to the lost vessel to report them to Sector Delaware Bay at (215) 271-4940.