VINCENT TANGORRA: Sailor Towing Jet-Ski Missing Off New Jersey

9 Dec

Vincent Tangorra aboard Polaris

Here’s a puzzle. It seems Vinnie Tangorra, age 56, an ex-NYC bus driver from Bethpage, Long Island, was en route last week from New York to North Carolina aboard Polaris, a 37-foot sailboat, and was towing a jet-ski, which, according to his brother Ray, was serving as his liferaft. Ray spoke with Vinnie on the phone Wednesday and received a text message Thursday evening, in which Vinnie stated he was off Cape May. Ray tried calling back, but couldn’t get through. Friday morning the jet-ski was found adrift off Cape May; later the Coast Guard found Polaris, nine miles from shore, with no one aboard. Coast Guard helicopters and a cutter searched the area Saturday, but found no trace of Vinnie.

Need I state the obvious? First, a jet-ski makes a very poor liferaft. Second, towing jet-skis (or dinghies, for that matter) when sailing offshore is generally a bad idea.

Checking out the weather during the time-frame in question, it seems nothing too exciting was happening. Winds at Cape May Point during Thursday night and early Friday morning were reported as southerly at 9 knots. The surface chart for 0100 hrs (0600 UTC) Friday shows things in the area as being slack, but with a front approaching from the west:

Dec 6 2013 surface chart

According to Ray, Vinnie had owned Polaris for two years and was taking her down to North Carolina to dock her there over the winter. He encountered engine problems, however, and was heading back north at the time of his disappearance.

Vincent Tangorra

The only theory I can come up with is that the jet-ski broke loose and Vinnie fell overboard trying to recover it. (See obvious statement the second up above.)

My condolences to the family.


  1. James O'Donnell

    I new Vinny from childhood @ St Marys Nativity school, I had seen him recently in Flushing and he told me of his dream to travel the seas on his new sail boat, very sad to hear of his misfortune. I have been praying for him and his family. God Bless them all.
    James O’Donnell Northport, NY

  2. Ronbo

    Likely he did fall overboard. Remnants of the towing line on the sailboat or jet ski would confirm it. That’s likely why the CG called off the search early. Towing under sail would be nearly impossible on such a small boat. Engine problems don’t help. Poorly conceived idea at anytime of year.

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