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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rescuing the Rescuers

I was reviewing pictures we've collected over the years.  You know, those boxes of photos you've taken over the years and "someday" are going to organize into albums.  Then as the years pass, you slowly forget about them until one day you have a reason to look for something.

I came across a series of pictures today I had forgotten about.  They were taken back around July 4th, 1988 when I was stationed on the Coast Guard Cutter Point Francis, home ported at Sandy Hook, NJ.

(Click on the pictures to make them larger.  I apologize for the poor quality.)

We had just finished enforcing a safety zone off of Coney Island Beach, Brooklyn, NY.  An air show of the Canadian Air Force's flight demonstration team, called the "Snow Birds" (like the Blue Angels) had taken place and we kept an area of water under where they performed free of spectator boats.

It was a beautiful warm sunny day and as we were heading home, we received a "Mayday" call over the radio that a boat was sinking in Graves End Bay, just south of the Verrazano Bridge.  We headed in that direction and a Coast Guard 41 foot Utility Boat from nearby Coast Guard Station Rockaway NY also headed to the scene.  Here you can see the 41 coming up on our stern.

We arrived on scene to find an old 25 foot cabin cruiser taking on water.  The 41 maneuvered along first and started taking off the people.

After the people were rescued,  my fellow crewmember Dan (in the light blue shirt) and I (in the dark blue shirt) hopped on board with a portable rescue pump.  We were going to pump the water out and when the level dropped low enough, we'd look for the source of the flooding and plug it.

We got the rescue pump going and started removing the water from the sinking boat.

However, the boat was beyond saving and we lost the battle.  The boat sank out from under us.

Fortunately, the other crewmembers on the Point Francis were on the ball, tossed us life rings and made preparations to haul us out of the water.  It was difficult for the Skipper to maneuver the 82 foot long Point Francis  to pull us out of the water without running us over.

Dan got pulled up first and here I am hauling myself out of the water up the Jacob's ladder.

The boat was lost, the pump was lost but Dan and I were rescued.  It was just a fluke that we had a passenger on board that day for the air show with a camera and shot these pictures.

As I debate turning in my retirement letter and calling it a career in the Coast Guard, memories like this help me realize that this is a young man's job and I'm not one any more.  I'm thinking my place should be behind the wheel of the Journey with Marti by my side exploring America.

Thanks for visiting and please feel free to leave a comment.


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  5. Guess I missed that post back then. I enjoyed the read. 1988 was a long time ago. :)

  6. I see all the other comments have been removed. I'm guessing there is a blogger problem.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing that story. That was a job well done, even though you couldn't save the cabin cruiser. I bet that water was chilly!

    We've been rescued once by the Coast Guard and had a diver on our boat rescued by helicopter once. We love the Coast Guard!!

  7. What an adventure- glad they were able to get you back.
    Bummer about the boat but you gave it a good try.

  8. butterbean carpenterMay 7, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    Howdy Chief,
    Were you below deck when it sank, since you were the last up?? That's bad to lose a boat, but good to NOT lose anyone!!! I like old stories, ever once in a while, like on the BY CHANCE blog, when Dan tells of his CHP experiences... Hope Marti let's you play 'plumber' often!!!!
    Hope y'all have a HAPPY DAY!!!!

  9. Great story! Enjoyed the read. and yes, some things are best left to the younger folks so we can hit the road and play!