Two boaters were thrown out of a pleasure craft off Timber Island in Biddeford after turning hard to avoid a buoy while fishing Saturday morning, leaving the vessel unoccupied and running in circles for hours.

The pair were trying to reel in a large haddock about 8 a.m. when they realized that the craft was about to ram into a buoy, according to Coast Guard spokesman Kevin Hampton. They made a hard turn to avoid the buoy, which caused them to be ejected from the boat, he said.

A fisherman who witnessed the incident rescued the two boaters and took them to Cape Porpoise, where they were then transferred by ambulance to Southern Maine Health Care, Hampton said. Neither was seriously injured.

Meanwhile, the empty boat continued to circle the water for hours, witnesses said.

“Their rudder was hard over, and they must have hit the throttle because it was running at nearly full speed in very tight circles,” said Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer Jim Katz, who was called to the scene about 10:30 a.m. to help recover the unpiloted vessel. “We stood by and watched it circle for nearly 45 minutes.”

Initially, members of the Maine Marine Patrol tried to board the vessel while it was still under power but were unable to do so, Hampton said.

A Coast Guard helicopter and members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary continued to monitor the circling boat until it stopped around 11:30 a.m., at which point the auxiliary members towed it to Camp Ellis Pier, Hampton and Katz said.

The pleasure craft was 20 feet long with a powerful motor, Katz said, adding that the incident could have ended in tragedy.

“It was lucky for them to be thrown from the vessel,” he said. “They could have been run over by the boat easily.”

Katz said he captured the swiftly circling boat on video while waiting for it to run out of gas.

“It looks like an amusement ride at Funtown, is what it looks like,” he said.

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