New year brings wild offshore rescue

The first USCG offshore search and rescue operation of the new year and the new decade was an exciting one, both for Dennis Clements (seen in photo), the owner of the sailboat Gloria A Dios and for the Navy and Coast Guard pros who came to his aid. Clements was saved after his boat sank 250 miles off Cape Hatteras. The signals from an ACR SATELLITE2 EPIRB and the efforts of rescue crews from Coast Guard and Navy aircraft combined in a happy ending for Clements. During the worst of it the distressed sailor found himself swimming in 21-foot seas and 45 knot winds after his boat was dismasted, holed and sank.

Even Lt. Cmdr. Scott Pichette, the pilot of the Navy helo that plucked Clements from the sea, remarked on the challenging conditions of this rescue: “Most of us have been in for almost 18 years and those were some of the biggest waves any of us had ever seen.”

From the Coast Guard press release: The Coast Guard and Navy worked together Sunday morning to return a rescued man to shore after his sailboat sank about 250 nautical miles east of Cape Hatteras, N.C.

Coast Guard Fifth District watchstanders received a satellite distress signal at 5:07 p.m. Saturday from the sailboat Gloria A Dios. They launched an Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., HC-130J Hercules aircraft crew to search for the sailboat, began broadcasting an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast to notify other mariners, used satellite Enhanced Group Calls to target other vessels in the area for help and diverted an AMVER vessel (a ship participating in the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System.)

The Hercules crew made contact with the Gloria A Dios operator, Dennis Clements, at about 6:30 p.m. and found that his sailboat had been taking on water since Wednesday due to storms and needed help. The Coast Guard watchstanders and the Navy’s U.S. Second Fleet Maritime Operations Center coordinated to identify the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its air assets as the quickest and safest way to rescue Clements.

The crew of the Hercules dropped a life raft near the Gloria A Dios after a large wave demasted it causing two holes in the port side cabin at about 9:30 p.m. The sailboat sank and Eisenhower’s rescue helicopter crew picked up the man from the water around 10:30 p.m. and flew more than 100 miles back to the carrier with the Hercules flying overhead.

In the meantime, an Air Station Elizabeth City MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter crew had flown to the Eisenhower to refuel. The rescued man was checked by the Eisenhower’s senior medical officer and the Jayhawk’s crew flew him safely back to Elizabeth City. The rescued man was back to solid ground Sunday at 3:45 a.m.

“When a mariner in distress is hundreds of miles offshore, the best platform to assist might be a commercial vessel transiting between ports or a DoD asset,” said Lt. Scott L. Farr, a watchstander at the Coast Guard Fifth District Command Center. “The motor vessel Ryujin was diverted but could not maintain their course to affect a rescue due to heavy seas. Ultimately, the quick and effective coordination between the Fifth District Command Center, Air Station Elizabeth City and the USS Eisenhower provided assistance to this mariner with the use of multiple aircraft by coordinating and leveraging their unique capabilities when no one else was within 100 nautical miles of the sailboat.”

By Ocean Navigator