The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its search for a New York sailor whose boat was found adrift off Cape May, as his family still hopes for his safe return.

Helicopters and a cutter swept the area amid rough seas Saturday for any sign of Vincent Tangorra, 56, of Bethpage, N.Y. Petty Officer Cynthia Oldham said search and rescue operations were halted shortly after 1 p.m. pending any further developments.

“If there’s an opportunity to continue the search on our own, we’ll do whatever we can to bring my brother Vinnie home,” said Ray Tangorra, hours after the Coast Guard search was called off.

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Ray, 49, also of Bethpage, said Vincent is a former New York City bus driver who spent more than 30 years on the sea. The Polaris, a 37-foot sailboat that was found 9 miles off Cape May with nobody on board, was Vincent’s largest vessel yet, purchased about two years ago.

“He thought sailing was the greatest art form of any hobby, to enjoy the pleasure of feeling the wind pull the boat, sailing along,” his brother said.

Ray Tangorra said Vincent had set out from New York to North Carolina, where he intended to keep his boat over the winter, but turned back when he encountered engine problems. When they spoke Wednesday, Vincent told his brother, “I’m good. I’m going to make the trip slowly but surely.”

The last contact from between the brothers was a text Thursday evening from Vincent saying the Polaris was outside Cape May.

“I wrote him back, ‘Be safe,’” Ray Tangorra said. “I tried calling him and he didn’t answer. But that didn’t mean anything. If he was doing something, he wouldn’t get to the phone right away.”

When a commercial salvage company found Vincent’s personal watercraft adrift Friday morning off Cape May, Ray Tangorra knew something was wrong.

“That was his life raft,” he said. “He wouldn’t just say, ‘OK, it broke away.’”

The Coast Guard later found the Polaris using Tangorra’s cellphone, but no one was on board. Rescuers continued their search in winds of between 17 to 20 knots and seas of 3 to 4 feet, according to Fern Serrano, a search and rescue coordinator with U.S. Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay in Philadelphia.

Ray Tangorra said he has received hundreds of calls from friends and family since his brother’s disappearance. Vincent, he said, was a second father to his two sons.

“He was a great family man around everyone else’s family and everyone he was friends with,” he said.

Vincent’s family will do anything they can to see him return, Ray Tangorra said.

“Hopefully someone can help if he’s in a hospital somewhere or something,” he said. “Whatever’s positive — we hope for that.”

Contact Wallace McKelvey:


@wjmckelvey on Twitter

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