Adrift on a dead sailboat in the North Pacific, engine out, rigging tangled, alone with two dogs, the hand-injured Hawaiian beekeeper received an emergency call just after dawn on May 9.
And the US Coast Guard responded. The watchmen in Honolulu flashed a MARB – Broadcast request for marine assistance – to all nearby commercial and pleasure vessels to rescue the 32ft Wind Rushbelieved to be floating approximately 5 nautical miles northwest of Oahu Ka’ena Point and its jagged lava rocks and coral reefs.
They also scrambled the fast-response cutter William Hart, which just came out of six weeks of maintenance. The commanding officer of the 154-foot vessel, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cynthia TraversTold Coffee or Die Magazine the dispatch was a big “jump in the routine”.
The cutter was due to begin its patrol at 10 a.m., so the crew did not set sail until an hour earlier. The vessel easily rode through 4ft waves and the breeze, which was constant at just 10 knots because the sailboat was adrift southwest of the island. leeward coastsheltering it from the trade winds.
The US Coast Guard loves Sentinel-class cutters because they boast of a flank speed over 28 knots; possess some of the most advanced command, control, communications and computing technologies in the world; and launch 26-foot lifeboats from their sterns that can race across the horizon to make contact with ships in distress.
And that’s what the Travers crew did. When they made contact with the beekeeper, they decided to put a member of the rescue team on his sailboat. Due to his bad hand, they weren’t sure he would be able to disconnect a trailer in an emergency.
“These types of missions are really part of the main reason we’re here: search and rescue,” Travers said. “That’s what these assets were really designed for.”
The team tied the sailboat to the cutter and headed for Wai‘port of anaea leeward anchorage north of Oahu Kaneilio Point. The weather conditions were deteriorating along the North Shore, where the beekeeper lived.
“The sea was starting to build up a bit, so we decided to head south along the west coast of the island,” Travers said.
The beekeeper told his rescuers he was gone Vigorous‘Port of iwa on May 6 and thought he would only be out for a day, but found himself adrift for 12 hours without food or water. He might have been able to fix his sailboat, but once he lost his hand dexterity, he knew he was in trouble and radioed for a rescue.
“It’s perfect. It’s really what we hope everyone on the water will do,” Travers said.
“It was not a life-threatening situation, but we wanted to contact him as soon as possible,” Travers added. “We weren’t sure how serious his injury was.”
That was not the case with another sailor rescued last summer, shortly after Travers arrived on Oahu from a shore mission in Washington, DC.
On September 10, 2021, his crew rescued Philip Grenz, a 68-year-old sailor aboard the sailboat Epic. He was eight days late for a trip supposed to depart from Kauai Nawiliwili Port in Halle‘iwa on Oahu Waialua Bay.
Observers could not establish radio contact with him, and no one knew exactly where Epic had drifted. The anti-submarine warfare crew of a long-range United States Navy P-8A Poseidon the maritime patrol aircraft spotted the sailboat 310 nautical miles southwest of Oahu, and Travers’ cutter made quick work of it.
On September 9, 2021, the crew of a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130J long-range search and rescue aircraft from Barbers Point Air Force Station on Oahu dropped an emergency kit on Grenz including a radio, water and food.
“He had had a few tough days,” Travers recalled. “He didn’t think anyone knew he was missing. So he was dealing with “Nobody knows I’m here”. No one will ever find me. I think he had really gone through the ringer for sure.
Travers advises all sailors to keep proper safety equipment on board their vessels; make sure they have means of communication to notify someone in the event of an emergency; and always let someone know the intended route and destination before setting sail.
His crew also receives a sweeter reward this time around.
The Wind Rush’s beekeeper was so grateful to have been rescued that he promised to deliver honey to the crew later in the week.
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