SIU members sailing aboard the Military Sealift Command (MSC) vessel USNS Yuma put their skills to the test during a recent rescue at sea of some adrift pleasure boaters off the coast of Florida. Those stranded aboard the smaller boat had been without power for six hours, and were at the mercy of the sea, by the time their distress call was heard at 10 p.m. on October 29.
The Yuma is an expeditionary fast transport vessel that is crewed by members of the SIU Government Services Division.
“Yuma was transiting from Gulfport, Mississippi, to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story when we received a request from the U.S. Coast Guard to assist the 50-foot pleasure boat Good Ole Girl II, which had lost power and was adrift in the heavy seas approximately 15 miles south of Key West, Florida,” said Capt. David Gommo, USNS Yuma’s master. “The boat was approximately 45 miles south of Yuma when the distress call was received.”
There were no other Coast Guard or Navy vessels in the area when the distress call was picked up by the Yuma, so the ship, the Navy’s newest in its class, changed course to search for the adrift vessel. The seas were between 7-9 feet at the time of the search.
“My biggest initial concern was that if we were going to perform a rescue at sea, I wanted to do it during daylight hours as I didn’t want the added complexity of performing a rescue at sea in the dark,” said Gommo. They eventually arrived on scene and performed a “skin-to-skin” maneuver with the Good Ole Girl II.
Initially, attempts were made to tow the disabled vessel back to Florida, but the rough seas proved too much of a challenge, and the seven passengers of the pleasure vessel boarded the Yuma and left the smaller craft to drift. The Good Ole Girl II has since washed up on the shores of Cuba, and the owner is in the process of retrieving the vessel.
“The rescue of the passengers aboard Good Ole Girl II was an all-hands evolution. From maintaining the proper propulsion and navigational direction to line-handling, all of Yuma’s mariners were key to the rescue’s success,” said Gommo.
The rescued boaters wrote a letter to Rear Adm. Dee Mewbourne, commander of MSC, to convey their thanks to the crew of the Yuma.
As stated in the letter, “We want to express our deepest gratitude, honor, praise and respect to these heroes. We are forever indebted to them. Everyone demonstrated the highest quality of care and generosity while aboard Yuma…. Yuma is an incredible vessel, but it is the captain and crew which make her extraordinary to us.”
Mewbourne likewise expressed his thanks to the crew of the Yuma, in a letter which congratulated them on a job well done.