Monday, December 05, 2011

Boating Rescues on the First Weekend in December

It's still boating season in Florida and Texas, and we have stories of Coast Guard rescues from the weekend to prove it...

An HU-25A Falcon jet sits ready for patrol. U.S.C.G. photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas M. Blue
Up here in the northeast, where we had our first winter storm more than a month ago, it is sometimes easy to forget that people are still boating in places like Florida and Texas. Ah, but we can dream. And just because these folks were smart or lucky enough to live where they can boat year-round, doesn't mean they don't run into trouble once in a while. And just like the boating incidents we talk about throughout the spring and summer all around North America, there are often boating safety lessons to be learned when these things happen...

What things, you ask?


Sailboat Capsizes in Miami
Just yesterday, two men were found clinging to a capsized 28 foot sailboat in Biscayne Bay at about 3:30 in the morning. Various news outlets in South Florida reported that the men used a cell phone to call 911 around 2 in the morning when they first went into the water. There were not many more details provided, however, in reporting the story, the Coast Guard did suggest that boaters should file a float plan and have either a VHF radio or ePIRB onboard. This statement, along with the fact that they used a cell phone to call for help, implies that these two men did none of the things recommended by the Coast Guard. Full story available from wtsp.com and the Miami Herald.

Fishermen Catch a Rescue off Texas
Okay, we are trying to stretch it with that headline, and there may not be any good lesson in this article, but this is a pretty cool story that highlights the capabilities of the folks that save our asses when we get into trouble while boating or fishing, whether just for fun or as our jobs. Check this out...

Watchstanders from Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi received a distress signal from an emergency positioning beacon registered to the Jennifer C., a 65-foot fishing vessel shortly before 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Unable to establish radio communications with the vessel, the Coast Guard sent an HU-25 Falcon jet (pictured above) to locate the vessel. The Falcon crew observed crewmembers aboard the Jennifer C. shooting flares and waving orange flags to get their attention. Pay attention, this is the cool part...

Using the Falcon's aerial delivery system from a height of 200 feet above the water, the crew of the Falcon dropped a handheld marine band radio to the fishing vessel crewmembers.

Within an hour of receiving the initial distress signal, the Falcon was able to establish communications with the crew of the Jennifer C. The vessel had suffered an explosion and onboard fire, and was able to extinguish it. However, the vessel was unable to maneuver and had water in its bilge. The four crewmembers were uninjured. The Falcon conducted a second aerial delivery to drop a dewatering pump to the crew of the Jennifer C.

The EPIRB is what saved these fishermen, and it's strange that there was no mention of a radio - perhaps it was shorted out in the fire and there was no back-up onboard.

For more on EPIRBs, see our article about them here: EPIRBs and You

For more on Float Plans, see Float Plans – Nothing but Upside