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Sailors assist Coast Guard in rescue

A Florida sailor and his crew helped the Coast Guard in the rescue of a 47-foot catamaran dismasted in heavy weather off Cape Hatteras, N.C., earlier this year.

Ken Bardon, and crewmembers Lee Henderson and Ron Stearns of Marco Island, Fla., and Tim Leskowicz of New York were sailing Moonbeam, a 52-foot Island Packet, from Annapolis, Md., to Marco Island Nov. 7 when they heard a distress call around 9 p.m. Winds reportedly were gusting to 44 knots, and seas were running 10 to 12 feet. “It was pretty rough out there,” says Bardon, 62, a longtime sailor.

The catamaran Rhatcat from Connecticut had been dismasted, and one of its engines was disabled. With no masthead antenna, the three-member crew issued a mayday using its hand-held radio. Moonbeam, about three miles from the disabled cat, heard the call and headed toward the scene. Both Bardon and Henderson are pilots with the Marco Island Senior Squadron Civil Air Patrol, and are trained in rescue and emergency procedures.

Moonbeam contacted the Coast Guard and arrived within a half-hour, remaining on-scene and circling Rhatcat until rescuers arrived a few hours later. “We were the Coast Guard for four hours,” says Henderson, 66, a retired Navy pilot.

Bardon says the Rhatcat crewmembers retrieved their sails and readied the yacht for towing. The Coast Guard towed the catamaran to Morehead City, N.C., and Moonbeam continued on its way. No one was injured in the incident.

Moonbeam provided critical communications support between the Coast Guard and Rhatcat. The agency says this type of assistance from good Samaritans is vital to successful search and rescue.

“It’s very important to have someone standing by in case something else happens to the boat,” says Coast Guard spokeswoman Jolie Shifflet. “Also, as far as communication support, it greatly aids us in finding a disabled boat in the big, open ocean.”

Henderson says they heard from the Rhatcat crew a few days after the incident. The boat was out of the water for repairs.

Bardon, who grew up in Sequoit, N.Y., on Long Island, was taking Moonbeam to its winter home in Florida, with a port call for maintenance work in the Chesapeake, before the rescue.

Henderson owns a PDQ catamaran and has more than 50 years of sailing experience. Bardon, Henderson and Stearns are members of the Sailing Association of Marco Island. Leskowicz is a friend of Bardon’s.