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Cruising Club of America honors training ship crew

The student crew of the Corwith Cramer receives the Rod Stephens Trophy for rescuing 51 Haitian refugees from a leaky, disabled sailboat

The student crew of the Corwith Cramer receives the Rod Stephens Trophy for rescuing 51 Haitian refugees from a leaky, disabled sailboat

The Cruising Club of America has awarded its Rod Stephens Trophy to the Sea Education Association of Woods Hole, Mass., and the captain and crew of the training ship Corwith Cramer for rescuing 51 Haitian refugees from a 25-foot sailboat last year.

“The Rod Stephens award recognizes the efforts of a vessel and crew in performing an act of seamanship which contributes to the rescue and safety of another boat and its crew that are in distress,” says CCA commodore Ned Rowland. The trophy was presented at the club’s annual awards dinner Jan. 17 in New York City ( ).

The CCA awards committee selected SEA and the captain and crew of the Corwith Cramer because they “demonstrated how important it is, when at sea, to be alert to the plight of other seafaring people,” Rowland says. “People go to sea for many reasons and from time to time find themselves in a difficult spot. It is important that other sailors provide assistance if at all possible, realizing that the world’s oceans can be a nasty place and that you may be the only hope for the crew of a disabled vessel.”

On March 9, 2005, a group of 22 college students with SEA was sailing aboard the 134-foot brigantine about 45 miles from Jamaica, according to officials at SEA. The students, who were five weeks into a six-week program, were deploying oceanographic sampling equipment when a student on watch spotted a man on a small boat in the distance waving a red shirt. The student alerted the ship’s captain, Steve Tarrant, who decided to investigate.

As the Corwith Cramer approached, the crew saw a 25-foot wooden sailboat — dismasted and without its rudder — with 51 people on board, according to the association. (SEA’s preliminary count was 49.) Tarrant’s crew launched the ship’s rescue boat with French-speaking student Anita Kasch on board to assess the situation. Kasch learned that the passengers were Haitian refugees trying to make it to Jamaica, and apparently had been drifting, without food and running out of water, for five days.

With permission from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Corwith Cramer crew took the Haitians on board and set off for Jamaica. The following day the refugees were turned over to Jamaican authorities in Port Antonio.

“The survivors were extremely grateful and very cooperative during their rescue,” says Tarrant in a statement. “We were lucky to have been in the area and equipped to undertake this mission.”

In addition to Tarrant and the students, crewmembers included chief scientist Gary Jaroslow, three assistant scientists, three mates, an engineer, a steward and a deckhand.

“We are thankful we could be of help in this situation, and for the efforts of our outstanding captain and crew,” says SEA president John K. Bullard in a statement. “We are also happy that our students had the chance to contribute to a successful humanitarian mission.”

To read more about the rescue from the June 2005 issue of Soundings, click on “Story Archives” at www.sounding, and enter the keyword “Corwith.”