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Dismasted sailboat as seen through a Coast Guard helicopter hatch with M.V. Winona on right. USCG photo.
The Coast Guard and a good Samaritan crew saved three people from a sailing vessel approximately 920 miles east of Cape Cod on Saturday at approximately 7:57 a.m.
The good Samaritan crew, aboard the motor vessel Winona, rescued two people aboard the dismasted sailing vessel Sytiburon-36 and one from the water, safely and with no reported injuries.
Watchstanders from the 1st Coast Guard District command center were notified at approximately 5:30 p.m. Friday from the GEOS command center that an SOS transmission was received from the Sytiburon-36. A GEOS representative spoke with the emergency contact on the beacon's registration, the spouse of the master of the Sytiburon-36 from Poland, but stated there was a language barrier.
By approximately 6:00 p.m., the 1st Coast Guard District command center had found a Polish translator and arranged a conference call with the contact to gather information that would help identify the vessel and assess the safety equipment available to the men aboard.
The command center then contacted the Coast Guard Atlantic Area command center in Norfolk, Va., and requested air support from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C.
An airborne Coast Guard C-130J from Elizabeth City was sent to the position provided by Sytiburon-36’s working GEOS radio beacon. A watchstander from the 1st Coast Guard District in charge of the search and rescue identified several vessels in the area utilizing the Amber system, a voluntary search and rescue system that merchant vessels participate in to assist other mariners in distress. Several vessels responded to the assistance request and the Winona was identified as the closest vessel in the vicinity of the Sytiburon-36 through the aircraft's long-range identification and tracking (LRIT) system.
The crew of the Winona responded to the request for assistance and with the help of the C-130J crew and constant communication with the 1st Coast Guard District command center, they were able to locate and recover the three people in aggressive seas using side ladders, liferings and rescue lines.
“Finding ways to communicate was instrumental in determining who could help that far out at sea," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Leavitt, the operational unit chair in charge of the search and rescue at the 1st Coast Guard District. "It was so important that their GEO spot worked so we could send the right Coast Guard assets and ask nearby good Samaritans to respond as soon as possible to pull the three men to safety. When embarking on a long voyage it is important to have the proper safety and communication equipment on board so others can efficiently locate and communicate with distressed mariners."
The case was Leavitt's first after completing his qualifications for search and rescue management.
Weather at the time of the incident was reported as 28-34 mph winds and 15 to 20-foot seas.
All three crewmembers are in stable medical condition and will remain aboard the Winona en route to Finnsnes, Norway.
The 1st Coast Guard District covers from New Jersey to Canada with search and rescue duties extending approximately 1,600 nautical miles from shore. Units across the Northeast conduct more than 2,500 search and rescue cases in a year, and rescue more than 300 people.
► See previous USCG stories here.
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