Last June, Capt. Clay Hughes and his colleague Capt. Kendrick Schwartz were launching a boat from a nearby ramp when Hughes, the owner of Sea Tow Ocean Isle in North Carolina, got a call from his dispatcher. She’d heard a mayday call over VHF Channel 16 from a boat in distress near the notoriously treacherous Shallotte Inlet. Acting quickly, Hughes jumped into the boat while Schwartz jumped into a second Sea Tow vessel on hand, and the two raced toward the boat in trouble. As they approached the scene, Hughes observed a powerless 24-foot cruiser adrift near a sandbar, the waves pushing it closer and closer to danger. A couple with their two young daughters, ages 4 and 5, remained on board as the boat took on water. Hughes and Kendrick had to act fast before the situation spiraled out of control.