Rescue of two mariners proves proficiency pays off

 

A mariner aboard the 37-foot pleasure craft Mystery Lady hauls in a line tossed to him by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Long Island during a rescue near Seward, Alaska, Oct. 24, 2013. Coast Guard units responded to the Mystery Lady after it lost power and began drifting dangerously close to a rocky mountainside. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Long Island.

A mariner aboard the 37-foot pleasure craft Mystery Lady hauls in a line tossed to him by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Long Island during a rescue near Seward, Alaska, Oct. 24, 2013. Coast Guard units responded to the Mystery Lady after it lost power and began drifting dangerously close to a rocky mountainside. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Long Island.

Towing disabled and adrift vessels is a routine procedure for Coast Guard boat crews, but even this seemingly simple task can prove to be as perilous as it is common in the Coast Guard’s ongoing mission to rescue lives at sea. 

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Long Island was returning from a patrol and close to their homeport of Valdez, Oct. 24, when word came from the Sector Anchorage command center that the 37-foot pleasure craft Mystery Lady was disabled one mile off shore from Seward with two men aboard. The vessel had lost propulsion and heavy winds were pushing it dangerously close to a nearby rocky mountainside. With no time to lose, the Long Island’s crew sounded to search and rescue alarm and raced to the scene. 

“We had just completed a towing exercise with the Valdez Small Boat Station a few days prior,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Kuzik, who oversees the deck department aboard the Long Island.  “We conducted a few evolutions until the crew felt comfortable and, boy, if heck-fire did it pay off.” 

 

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew hovers near the 37-foot pleasure craft Mystery Lady during a rescue mission near Seward, Alaska, Oct. 24, 2013. The helicopter crew marked the location of the vessel for the crew of the Coast Guard Long Island, which towed the vessel to safety. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Long Island.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew hovers near the 37-foot pleasure craft Mystery Lady during a rescue mission near Seward, Alaska, Oct. 24, 2013. The helicopter crew marked the location of the vessel for the crew of the Coast Guard Long Island, which towed the vessel to safety. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Long Island.

Through the fog and rain, the crew of the Long Island could see the Mystery Lady below the spinning blades of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Kodiak that marked the vessel’s location.  Battling 10-12 foot seas and 30mph winds, the crew of the Long Island expertly maneuvered the cutter toward the Mystery Lady and prepared to pull the vessel to safety.

“We had one chance to get a line over,” said Kuzik. “If we’d hesitated, the Mystery Lady would have smashed on the mountain face. Everything was executed perfectly; from the bridge to engineering to the most junior man on deck.”

 The Mystery Lady was approximately 115 yards from the rocks and steadily closing when the crew of the Long Island drew near enough to throw a line over to the vessel’s crew.  Pulled away from the hull-shattering rocks in the nick of time, the Mystery Lady was taken back to Seward where the Long Island transferred the tow to the Seward Fire Department.

 

The disabled 37-foot pleasure craft Mystery Lady drifts close to a rocky mountainside with two men aboard near Seward, Alaska, Oct. 24, 2013. The Coast Guard Cutter Long Island responded to the scene and safely towed the vessel back to Seward. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Long Island.

The disabled 37-foot pleasure craft Mystery Lady drifts close to a rocky mountainside with two men aboard near Seward, Alaska, Oct. 24, 2013. The Coast Guard Cutter Long Island responded to the scene and safely towed the vessel back to Seward. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Long Island.

“We were very fortunate to have arrived on scene when we did and that we were able to save the vessel before any damage occurred,” said Lt. Kalen Kenny, commanding officer, Coast Guard Cutter Long Island.  “If we had been twenty minutes later they would have likely smashed up against the rocks and the situation would have been much more severe. Training counts and it certainly shows in this case.”

 The Coast Guard Cutter Long Island is one of seven 110-foot, Island Class patrol boats operating within the coastal waters of Central and Southeast Alaska.  Know as “The Northernmost Cutter” due to its homeport of Valdez, the cutter’s crew conducts law enforcement, search and rescue, national defense and living marine resource protection missions.

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