Last week, the Association for Rescue at Sea (AFRAS) held its annual award ceremony and awarded the Gold AFRAS medal to Aviation Survival Technician First Class Pepe Carire.
This week the Compass brings you the story of the AFRAS Silver Medal winners, presented to the coxswain and crew of the Auxiliary vessel Amy Julie: Robert Joseph, Leo Lake, Paul Sadeck and Rodney Thomas.
The volunteer crew of the Amy Julie set out on the morning of August 26, 2009, for a routine safety patrol on Buzzard’s Bay, Mass. As noon approached, the once calm summer breeze quickly stiffened and began gusting to 25 knots.
The crew of the Amy Julie decided that it was best to start checking on popular fishing and recreational boating areas. The crew’s plan to check the popular areas paid off, when the Amy Julie approached a fishing area and spotted a 17-foot center console boat submerged to the gunnels.
The boat had been swamped in the rolling seas with the two people on board in waist deep water. Thomas was able to translate for the distressed boaters, and the crew found that shockingly, there was a third man missing in the water.
The Auxiliary crew immediately contacted Coast Guard Station Menemsha, who launched a response boat, but due to the sea conditions and winds, the station crew still had 45 minutes before they could arrive on scene.
The station watchstanders directed the Amy Julie to remove the two men from the boat without delay and to start searching for the third boater who was now missing in the water.
“The captain told us that a third man had fallen off the boat near a red buoy and that they had been swamped about an hour ago,” said Sadeck. “Both men were frantic about their friend who had fallen into the water. They kept telling us that he fell near a red buoy.”
The crew had extensive knowledge of the local area and knew that the nearest red buoy was nearly one and a quarter miles southwest of them – directly into the oncoming waves.
The Amy Julie head straight into the waves, and as they closed in on the red buoy, they spotted the missing boater as he struggled in the water. He was nearing exhaustion, with his left arm around a child’s orange life jacket and a cushion tucked under his right arm.
“He looked exhausted and as we approached him he lost the cushion,” said Sadeck. “We threw him the life ring and it landed right over his arm. We pulled him to the boat and lifted him aboard.”
With all three boaters now safe, the crew directed their attention to getting the conscious but lethargic man to shore. The three survivors were transported to an awaiting ambulance where they were provided medical aid.
The coxswain and crew of Amy Julie may have used their gut instinct to make one last trip to the popular fishing area, but their training and ability to adapt as the situation progressed proved that the Coast Guard’s volunteer force, is a vital force.
This article was sponsored by Police Books.