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Mishaps and Rescues May 2012

Four people and a dog were rescued after the commercial fishing boat Chevelle grounded on the north jetty at Yaquin Bay in Newport, Ore.

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Six dead in 24 hours in Pacific Northwest

The waters of the Pacific Northwest were especially dangerous during a 24-hour span in mid-March that proved to be among the deadliest in the region’s recent history.
“It was a rough weekend,” Coast Guard spokesman Shawn Eggert told The Oregonian newspaper. “Even leading into that, we were having tows and disabled vessels. I don’t know if this is the most dangerous weekend we’ve had. I would say it certainly stands as a testament to the dangers of working in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.”
The first accident was reported at 5 p.m. March 9, when witnesses saw a 21-foot Boston Whaler capsize at the mouth of the Rogue River in Gold Beach, Ore. The boat apparently was negotiating a bar at the mouth of the river when it went sideways to the waves and flipped. Two fishermen died. Rescuers say a line had fouled the propeller.
About 10 hours later, four men died when their fishing boat went down off Willapa Bay, Wash. An EPIRB signal was received, but the crew that responded found only debris and an empty life raft. One of the victims was an observer for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.
About 24 hours after the first mayday call, a third was received — this one from the fishing boat Chevelle, stranded on the north jetty of Yaquina Bay with a crew of four and a dog. The boat was returning after picking up about 360 crab pots when it took a wave to the stern and then listed to starboard. “The vessel became unmaneuverable and struck the rocks on the north jetty with the bow,” Oregon State Trooper Carla Urbigkeit told The Oregonian.
Seas proved too rough for the Coast Guard’s 47-foot Motor Lifeboat, so a helicopter rescued the group. The Chevelle remained on the rocks for another day before it broke up and sank.


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The Cape May, N.J.-based cutter Dependable returned March 2 from a 59-day patrol in support of maritime safety, security and stewardship missions. Petty Officer 3rd Class Trystan Kasheta and her daughter, Dylyn, wait for Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric Kasheta to disembark. Chief Petty Officer Byron Belmas hugs his son, Hunter.

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Tow captain saves woman
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
A Sea Tow Fort Lauderdale captain saved an injured woman who had fallen overboard March 11 in South Florida’s Hillsboro Inlet and washed onto a coral reef. Capt. Gregory Mallek was finishing his patrol at about 6 p.m. when he saw a 23-foot fishing boat with a man and woman on board having difficulty in rough water.
“The boat was inbound in the inlet in 4- to 6-foot seas,” says Mallek in a statement, adding that a small craft advisory had been posted. “Hillsboro Inlet is notorious for nasty seas.”
Mallek was at the helm of a 33-foot center console and saw the smaller boat get caught in front of a large wave that spun it sideways, nearly capsized it and filled it with water. “The woman got ejected,” Mallek says. “The man tried to stop the boat, but another wave pushed the boat over onto the reef at the south side of the inlet.”
Carefully navigating along the reef, Mallek was able to get close to the woman and throw her a line. He pulled her up the Sea Tow boat’s ladder and got her safely aboard. She was not wearing a life jacket, was apparently in shock and had suffered a blow to the head, cuts to one ear and cuts and scrapes on her legs from the reef. He brought her to the Hillsboro Inlet Marina, where emergency personnel were waiting. By that time her husband had thrown out the anchor and prevented the boat from washing up on the beach.

Crew saved, boat sinks
Kennebunkport, Maine
The 81-foot fishing boat Plan B sank Feb. 21 about 8 miles east of Kennebunkport after taking on water. The two fishermen aboard were unable to control the flooding and the crew of a passing boat rescued them. Plan B sank about three-and-a-half hours after it began taking on water; a ruptured pipe might have caused the flooding. Because the Plan B was listing to port, Coast Guard crews determined it was not safe to board and pump out the water. Station South Portland recovered the boat’s emergency beacon, life raft and several large pieces of debris. The sinking resulted in a 200-foot-by-200-foot diesel sheen.

Safety violations ground boat
Sandy Hook, N.J.
A Coast Guard boarding team ordered a 19-foot boat off the water March 13 near Sandy Hook, N.J. While doing a routine safety check in Sandy Hook Bay, a team from the cutter Penobscot Bay found three violations: The commercial fishing boat had no life jackets, no sound-producing device and no registration. The Coast Guard escorted the boat to the nearby Atlantic Highlands Marina and planned to follow up with the owner to ensure that the violations were corrected.

$43 million cocaine seizure
Caribbean Sea
The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Northland interdicted 3,532 pounds of cocaine from a 35-foot go-fast boat March 3 in the Caribbean. The 54 bales of narcotics had a wholesale value of $43.2 million, the Coast Guard says. The Northland’s helicopter crew saw the go-fast while on patrol. Crewmembers boarded the boat, detained the four suspected smugglers who were on board and seized the contents, which tested positive for cocaine.

Man adrift for three days
Puerto Rico
Coast Guard crews on March 5 rescued a man who had been adrift for three days aboard a capsized catamaran 5 nautical miles off Loiza, Puerto Rico. The man reportedly had left Culebra Island and was headed to Fajardo when the cat capsized. Watchstanders at the Sector San Juan Command Center were notified at 12:30 a.m. by the cruise ship Carnival Victory that a passenger had reported seeing a man atop a capsized boat screaming for help. An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and a 45-foot response boat were dispatched. The helicopter crew found the boater and gave the response boat his position. The boat crew rescued the man, who was taken to a medical facility in Santurce, Puerto Rico, for treatment of possible dehydration and exposure.

Woman, two dogs rescued
San Diego
A boat crew from Station San Diego rescued a woman and two dogs March 18 from a sailboat that was taking on water and in danger of running aground in rain and rough seas. The crew of the 41-foot utility boat took the woman and dogs off the sailboat and towed it to Shelter Island in San Diego Bay at 1:20 p.m. The woman had reported that the boat was flooding east of the Zuniga Jetty. She said she was drifting toward shore and that she was unable to control it.

Officers guilty in grounding
New Zealand
The master and second officer of the cargo vessel Rena pleaded guilty Feb. 29 to 10 of 11 charges filed against them by Maritime New Zealand after the ship grounded Oct. 5 on the Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga. It broke in two Jan. 7 in heavy seas, and the incident is being called New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster. MNZ charged the men with “operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk.” The charge carries a maximum fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for as long as 12 months. Additional charges were filed against each man under the Resource Management Act relating to the discharge of harmful substances. These charges carry a maximum of $300,000 in fines or two years’ imprisonment, and $10,000 for every day the offenses continue. Both were also charged with “willfully attempting to pervert the course of justice” by altering the ship’s documents after the grounding. Search the archives at for a slideshow of the vessel (keyword: Rena).

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.