USCG says “stop right there!” to voyaging crew

ketch Wahu
The ketch Wahu assisted by a small boat from the USCG cutter Heriberto Hernandez.

In a chain of events that may have left its crew a little shell-shocked, the sailors aboard the ketch Wahu, bound from Florida to Barbados, decided the sailboat was disabled and called for help. Help arrived in the form of the US Coast Guard. Things took an unexpected turn when, after providing assistance, the USCG terminated Wahu’s voyage. The ketch would need to stay in port until further repairs were completed.

Here is the story via the USCG: “The sailing vessel Wahu was transiting from Florida to Barbados with two men aboard, a U.S. and an Austrian citizen, when it reportedly became disabled.”

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a communication from Tow Boat U.S. reporting the sailing vessel Wahu with two people aboard was disabled and anchored, approximately nine nautical miles west of Cabo Rojo. The report also stated the sailing vessel became disabled due to bad fuel, no propulsion and having ripped sails. Watchstanders were able to establish communication with the operator of Wahu, who also informed that the vessel had a dinghy onboard with a hole in it and that they were working to repair it and use it to get to shore.

Watchstanders diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez to the scene to render assistance. Once on scene, the cutter’s over the horizon IV boat came alongside, and the crew provided the Wahu with 15 gallons of diesel fuel and ensured the sailing vessel’s propulsion was working properly. The cutter Heriberto Hernandez escorted the Wahu to the Puerto Real Marina in Cabo Rojo, where the cutter’s boat crew completed a post search and rescue boarding of the vessel Wahu, which revealed multiple safety violations. The cited violations included the vessel Wahu not having any firefighting equipment, not having a Type 4 life ring buoy throwable personal flotation device, not having a pollution placard, and not having a copy of the navigation rules onboard.

“Our goal is not to terminate the voyages of the boating public,” said Lt. Andrew Russo, Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez commanding officer. “However, safety of life at sea is our number one priority, and these men set out on a dangerous trip across the Atlantic and Caribbean without proper firefighting or safety equipment to respond to an at-sea emergency. Fortunately, in this instance we were able to assist.”

By Ocean Navigator