U.S. Coast Guard Comes to Rescue of “Salty Dogs” Off Virginia Coast

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November 8, 2013

The rescues involved two Hercules aircraft, a Jayhawk helicopter, a cutter, a life boat, command center personel and the USS Vella Gulf. File photo of a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 “Hercules” aircraft. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

The U.S. Coast Guard this week, with the assistance of the U.S. Navy, came to the rescue of a total of five distressed sailboats and four sailors who were all participating in the so-called “Salty Dawg Rally” and got caught in a storm off the Atlantic Coast.

The Salty Dawg Rally is a self-proclaimed “grassroots, non-profit organization, comprised of blue water sailors who have completed at least one blue water passage.” This year’s rally has a total of 116 boats, according to an update posted to the group’s facebook page, which departed from Hampton, Va., Beaufort, NC and other ports beginning November 2 through today.

With a strong front forecast to pass over the mouth of the Chesapeake on the 4th and 5th, many in the fleet decided to depart on Wednesday the 6th, with others waiting until Thursday and Friday. The front slowed, however, and grew more intense as it passed over the bulk of the SDR fleet on Wednesday night and Thursday, causing several incidents and emergencies in which five boats had rudder and rig failures, seasickness and one broken arm, the SDR said in a statement.

The Salty Dawg Rally says that while information about weather, Gulf Stream analysis, location of eddies, and daily weather forecasts is provided to each participant, it is the responsibility of each skipper to be properly prepared and decide whether or not to set out for the passage.

Total Coast Guard assets involved in the rescues included two HC-130 Hercules airplanes, a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, the 110-foot USCGC Block Island, a 47-foot Motor Life Boat, and the command center personnel of the 5th Coast Guard District and Sector North Carolina, as well as the U.S. Navy’s USS Vella Gulf.

Here’s a breakdown of each incident provided by the U.S. Coast Guard:

Rescue #1:

Crewmembers aboard the 41-foot sailboat, Ahimsa, sent out a distress signal via a satellite tracking device, stating that they were taking on water approximately 230 miles east of Virginia Beach and were in need of assistance.

5th District watchstanders launched crews aboard a Hercules airplane to search and a Jayhawk helicopter to perform the rescue. Watchstanders also contacted the Navy, who diverted the USS Vella Gulf to assist.

At approximately 11 p.m., the Jayhawk crew arrived at the Vella Gulf’s location and refuled aboard the ship. Proceeding from the Vella Gulf, the Jayhawk hoisted four people from the Ahimsa at approximately 1:30 a.m., and took the boaters back to Air Station Elizabeth City, where they declined medical treatment.

Rescue #2:

In a second case, crewmembers aboard the 38-foot sailboat Nyapa, sent out a distress signal via a satellite tracking device stating that they had lost their mast and were taking on water approximately 275 miles east of Virginia Beach and were in need of assistance.

5th District Watchstanders diverted the first Hercules crew from the Ahimsa case to search for the Nyapa, but were unable to locate the boat. A HC-130 crew from the air station launched at approximately 10 p.m., and utilizing new information recieved from the coordinator of the Salty Dawg Rally, located the Nyapa and established communications.

A crewmember aboard the Nyapa stated they had 4 people aboard and confirmed they lost their mast, but no one was injured and they were continuing south via motors and no longer needed assistance.

Rescue #3:

In a third case, 5th District watchstanders received an alert from an emergency position indicating radio beacon registered the sailboat Aurora. The alert positioned the Aurora 230 miles east of Elizabeth City, N.C.

Both Hercules crews searched the area but were unable to locate the boat. The crew of a nearby sailboat, the Dreamreach, responded to the Coast Guard’s radio broadcasts inquiring the after Aurora, stating that they had been in contact with the vessel and that the Aurora was not in distress and were heading to Bermuda.

Rescue #4:

In a fourth case, crewmembers aboard the sailboat Brave Heart, located approximately 50 miles southeast of Ocracoke Inlet, N.C., contacted Sector North Carolina watchstanders, reporting a 67-year-old man aboard had a arm injury.

Watchstanders launched a Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet crew aboard a 47-foot Motor Life Boat to attempt a medevac. Once on scene, the MLB was unable to conduct the medevac due to adverse weather conditions.

The Coast Guard Cutter Block Island was dispatched to escort the Brave Heart into Beaufort, N.C., but was diverted to assist with another case with a disabled sailboat. Watchstanders established a communication schedule with the Brave Heart and planned to send a crew from Coast Guard Station Fort Macon to escort the Brave Heart in, but crewmembers aboard the Brave Heart stated they no longer needed Coast Guard assistance.

Rescue #5:

In a fifth case, crewmembers aboard the 54-foot sailboat, Zulu, located approximately 100 miles east of Oregon Inlet, N.C., contacted Sector North Carolina watchstanders via satellite phone, reporting that they were disabled and adrift. The Cutter Block Island crew arrived on scene and is preparing to set up a tow to bring the Zulu back to shore.

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