CG RESPONSE

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Rescue in gale-force winds

Group St. Petersburg, Fla.

Coast Guard crewmembers were coordinating a critical rescue despite a rough sea state. At approximately 8:45 p.m., Coast Guard Group St. Petersburg received a distress call from the first mate of a 44-foot sailboat. The boat was approximately 85 nautical miles northwest of Tampa and had engine trouble when gale force winds kicked up. The 46-year-old captain was injured while working on the sails when the boat’s boom struck him in the chest, pinning him against the rigging. There were two crewmembers on board as well. A Coast Guard helicopter responded to the scene shortly after 11 p.m. with a rescue swimmer, and another arrived around 3 a.m. Winds were at 20-30 knots, making for dangerous conditions. Transfer of a rescue swimmer was complicated due to the half-mast condition of the boat’s sails, choppy seas and gale-force winds, but eventually one was able to board the sailboat and stabilize the victim. It was believed the victim had possible back and chest injuries. A physician assistant from Air Station Clearwater had arrived on scene via boat, but attempting his transfer to the sailboat was too dangerous due to the sea state. A Coast Guard rescue boat from Station Sand Key was going to attempt to tow the sailboat from Clearwater pass to Clearwater Municipal Boat Dock once conditions were deemed safe, where EMS personnel will transfer the victim to a medical facility. It was unknown at the time when the sailboat was scheduled to arrive at the municipal docks. Estimates were between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. (March 25)

VHF detects mayday signal

Fort Pierce, Fla.

Coast Guard crews from Air Station Miami and 87-foot cutter Cormorant, from Fort Pierce, Fla., worked through the night to rescue two men, ages 33 and 43, who were adrift and disabled at sea on their 25-foot pleasure boat for more than 29 hours after departing Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Watchstanders heard several faint distress VHF radio transmissions originating from different radio towers along the east coast of Florida. The call was too faint to be pinpointed by radar equipment in Sector Miami’s Command Center. A local Coast Guard Auxiliarist, known as Jupiter 1, located in Jupiter, Fla., was able to use his high-powered VHF direction finding equipment to obtain a line of bearing from which the call was coming from. He passed the information to Sector Miami who launched an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Miami to search for the boat. Nearly two hours later, the helicopter located the vessel 19 miles west of West End, Bahamas, approximately 53 miles from where it departed in Fort Lauderdale. After assessing the situation and ensuring that the men were not in any immediate distress, they safely lowered a high-powered handheld radio, spare batteries and a data marker buoy to the vessel to electronically track its position via satellite. Cormorant was launched from Fort Pierce to the scene with a nine-hour estimated time of arrival to the pleasure boat. During their transit, Sector Miami maintained a communications schedule and steadily tracked the boat’s position. Cormorant arrived on scene and safely took the men and their boat in tow to West End. (March 28)

Father, son located

Air Station Clearwater, Fla.

A Coast Guard helicopter crew from Air Station Clearwater located three distressed men and their 22-foot boat about 13 miles east of Ponce de Leon Inlet, Fla., after their 911 call was received by the Coast Guard. One of the crewmembers, ages 25, 29 and 50, was only able to communicate to the Coast Guard that they were four miles from the inlet before the call went dead. Coast Guard units from Station Ponce Inlet immediately launched one of their rescue boats to search the best known location given. The helicopter crew from Clearwater also launched as well as a Volusia County helicopter crew early in the search efforts. The HH-60 Jayhawk crew from Clearwater had night vision capabilities that were used in locating the three mariners. Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Ponce Inlet were en route to assist the father, son and friend as well as tow their boat safely back to shore. Engine failure is believed to be the cause of the incident. (March 28)