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VIDEO: Minutes to spare

Thirteen people aboard a sinking motoryacht escaped injury after the Coast Guard cutter Margaret Norvell rescued them earlier this week about 15 miles off Fort Lauderdale.

Saved were six passengers, six crewmembers and the captain of the 120-foot, Brazilian-flagged Serena III.

Sector Miami watchstanders received a VHF radio report from the Serena III on the evening of Jan. 25 that said the yacht was taking on water. They launched an Air Station Miami MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crew, a Station Fort Lauderdale boat crew and the Margaret Norvell.

The cutter’s small-boat crew brought all 13 people from the yacht aboard, and the Serena III sank about 25 minutes later.

The Margaret Norvell brought the rescuees back to Coast Guard Base Miami Beach. No one was hurt.

Sea Tow Fort Lauderdale also responded, racing to the scene with high-capacity pumps.

“When we got there, seas were 3 to 4 feet with 15 knots out of the southeast,” Sea Tow Capt. Tim Morgan told Soundings. “The vessel was listing 10 to 15 degrees and the stern rail was under. It was pretty clear the vessel was rapidly taking on water, and we were pretty sure she was going down.”

Morgan said the captain of the Serena III had reported losing control of its gyrostabilizer after the yacht left Fort Lauderdale at 4:30 p.m., bound for Freeport in the Bahamas. The mayday call came soon afterward.

Morgan said he and his crew watched the bow slip under the water, which is more than 1,000 feet deep at that spot, and they recovered a personal watercraft, an inflatable tender and a life raft among the flotsam.

Morgan has experience in commercial marine salvage, and he said it would not be “economically feasible” to try to recover the steel yacht from waters that deep.