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Old 07-12-2016, 10:35 AM   #1
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Our part in a rescue, Bahamas

A couple of weeks ago, during our annual summer Bahamas trip we were in the Sea of Abaco, just outside of Hopetown, when I heard a mayday come through on the VHF. It was faint, so I didn't respond when I first heard it as I expected someone nearer or with a base station VHF to pick it up. When I heard it a second time about 30 seconds later I responded.

It was a woman anchored just off of the Fowl Cay dive site, her husband was diving, had gotten exhausted, caught in the current and was drifting away from the boat. She was unable to launch a dinghy or move the big boat (50 ft Cruiser) to go to him. She was unable to tell me exactly where she was located but was able to read the GPS to give me LAT/LONG #s.

Interestingly, no one else could hear them, or bothered to respond to her. We found out later that she was on a handheld. I think we may have just been lucky enough to be right in her line of sight, though we were 5 to 10 miles away. Or maybe it was some sort of weird skip? Hard to say.

I hailed BASARA, who responded immediately, and launched a boat from Dive Guana on Guana Cay with 4 rescue divers on board. They were on site in under 10 minutes, found the diver and brought him back to his boat.

During the entire process we were the only VHF station that had constant contact until the very end when the rescue boat was very close. I stayed on 16, relayed messages and tried to keep her calm.

A few days later we coincidentally got a slip right next to them at Treasure Cay. They told us the whole story. The husband and teenage son were diving with scooters. The scooter batteries died and they were unable to swim back with them against the current. The father took both scooters and sent the son back to the boat. The son was able to make it back, but the weight of the scooters exhausted the father. He ended up abandoning the scooters but it was too late.

Interesting given the recent thread on handhelds vs PLBs. In this case the VHF worked, but not very well. They got kind of lucky that we heard them.
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Old 07-12-2016, 10:42 AM   #2
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Thanks for sharing!
Did she not have a fixed mount VHF on board?
Thank God you heard the call and were able to help.
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Old 07-12-2016, 10:47 AM   #3
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They did have a fixed mount on board, but she was afraid to go below and use it, as that would have meant taking her eyes off of the diver. I don't blame her, though I'm not sure why she didn't have her son watch him. Maybe he was too tired.
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Old 07-12-2016, 10:55 AM   #4
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In the fear and anxiety, that just may not have occurred to her.

Just glad it ended well.
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Old 07-12-2016, 10:56 AM   #5
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They did have a fixed mount on board, but she was afraid to go below and use it, as that would have meant taking her eyes off of the diver. I don't blame her, though I'm not sure why she didn't have her son watch him. Maybe he was too tired.
Too tired, too young, too scared... who knows? I understand her not wanting to lose sight of him and I imagine that if you hadn't responded to her mayday, that she would have moved below. Not sure what I would have done, but I think I would have used the fixed VHF. In my cruising area, I would also have used the emergency DSC feature on the VHF.

Thanks for responding to the call and helping out. Your actions likely saved his life.
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Old 07-12-2016, 11:08 AM   #6
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It's a strange feeling, I didn't really do much other than talk on the radio, but they told me I saved his life. I personally think it was Dive Guana that saved him, not me.

I've always believed, like Travis McGee, that it's not one single big thing that goes wrong on a boat that gets you in trouble, it's a chain of small things. In this case the stronger than anticipated current, the dead scooter batteries, the weak radio and boom big trouble.
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Old 07-12-2016, 11:12 AM   #7
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Never taking your, or someone else's, eyes off some floating in the water is the smart thing to do. Look away for a second and you may never find the again.

I can see in this case doing it if you never get a reply on the hand held. But only as a last resort.

We were in Chub Key a week or so ago and I was one of only two boats that could hear a boat off Whale Key faintly and broken up calling for help. Between myself and the other boat we figured the general area they were in and I went out with my mate and a couple of guys from the marina in the 34' CC boat we tow, found them and towed them in.

They said they got bad gas at Highbourne Key and both their OBs quit on the run between Nassau and Chub.

The guy who owned the boat wanted to pay us back for the tow once we got him in. But I told him not to worry about it and just pay it forward at a later date to someone else in need of a hand. When we went to check out of the marina the next morning we found he had payed for our dockage for the night in full. Class act.

This and another similar event in the Turks & Caicos reminded me why I like to keep my radio on with the volume turned up a bit even at the dock. You never know went you will be the only one to hear that call for help.
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Old 07-12-2016, 11:28 AM   #8
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I have long strongly advocated making sure the woman aboard can operate the boat and the dinghy. Although it would be nice, she doesn't need to be able to dock it, but get it back to harbor is a must.

A little patience and training, and practice is what is needed. Also consideration must be given when purchasing a dinghy outboard to the woman being able to start it.
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Old 07-12-2016, 11:38 AM   #9
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I have long strongly advocated making sure the woman aboard can operate the boat and the dinghy. Although it would be nice, she doesn't need to be able to dock it, but get it back to harbor is a must.

A little patience and training, and practice is what is needed. Also consideration must be given when purchasing a dinghy outboard to the woman being able to start it.
That's a definite thing for us. I'm slowly learning our boat. I doubt I will ever have the confidence to try and dock it in our slip or any other but I know I can get close enough to where someone can jump on board in an emergency and dock it for me.

Our plan is to find a day when we can go out on a weekday when there's not so much boat traffic and just let me practice.

Our current dinghy is a little 6ft inflatable with a 5 hp OB with a pull start. I can't start that thing. I'd prob throw my back out and fall overboard. That dingy has to go. I want something with an electric start and a steering wheel not a tiller.
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Old 07-12-2016, 11:47 AM   #10
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That's a definite thing for us. I'm slowly learning our boat. I doubt I will ever have the confidence to try and dock it in our slip or any other but I know I can get close enough to where someone can jump on board in an emergency and dock it for me.

Our plan is to find a day when we can go out on a weekday when there's not so much boat traffic and just let me practice.

Our current dinghy is a little 6ft inflatable with a 5 hp OB with a pull start. I can't start that thing. I'd prob throw my back out and fall overboard. That dingy has to go. I want something with an electric start and a steering wheel not a tiller.

I've lost count of the number of people I've taught to run boats. I can guarantee you can learn to dock that boat. And dock it well.

I've always found women to be done of the quickest learners when it comes to docking. Less ego to get in the way.
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Old 07-12-2016, 11:58 AM   #11
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By the way Doug, nice job on the radio relay.
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Old 07-12-2016, 12:07 PM   #12
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I have long strongly advocated making sure the woman aboard can operate the boat and the dinghy. Although it would be nice, she doesn't need to be able to dock it, but get it back to harbor is a must.......
Being alone on board she did 100% the right thing, trying to pull the anchor starting up the vessel she will lost have eye contact and possible never found him back again. Clear a fixed VHF should be reacheble from the cockpit and saved her a lot of trouble..
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Old 07-12-2016, 12:28 PM   #13
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That's a definite thing for us. I'm slowly learning our boat. I doubt I will ever have the confidence to try and dock it in our slip or any other but I know I can get close enough to where someone can jump on board in an emergency and dock it for me.

Our plan is to find a day when we can go out on a weekday when there's not so much boat traffic and just let me practice.

Our current dinghy is a little 6ft inflatable with a 5 hp OB with a pull start. I can't start that thing. I'd prob throw my back out and fall overboard. That dingy has to go. I want something with an electric start and a steering wheel not a tiller.
Trust me, you can learn to start a 5 horse pull start if it is in any kind of decent condition at all. It's not even remotely difficult and shouldn't be hard to pull. My late 40's wife who weighs 110 lbs and considers herself to be weak can start our 20 hp four stroke. She doesn't like doing it, much prefers to have one of the three males she keeps around do it, but she can do it when needed.

Totally understand if you want a new dinghy and are looking for an excuse, I do that sort of thing all the time, but you can make the pull start work.

Also consider that batteries often fail and electric start is no guarantee.
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Old 07-12-2016, 12:39 PM   #14
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They did have a fixed mount on board, but she was afraid to go below and use it, as that would have meant taking her eyes off of the diver. I don't blame her, though I'm not sure why she didn't have her son watch him. Maybe he was too tired.

First, well done. I was a radio relay once, strange experience... and our event didn't end well. Good when it works.

Second.... sounds like a typical sailboat radio installation. Often mounted below at a nav station, useless from the cockpit... and probably a major reason why sailors often don't answer a hail (at least around here). After-action analysis in their case should suggest installation of a remote mic, at least...

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Old 07-12-2016, 01:21 PM   #15
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Second.... sounds like a typical sailboat radio installation. Often mounted below at a nav station, useless from the cockpit... and probably a major reason why sailors often don't answer a hail (at least around here). After-action analysis in their case should suggest installation of a remote mic, at least...
I must have missed the part about it being a sailboat. When the OP said "50' cruiser" I assumed a powerboat.

In my sailboats, the VHF was below. However, I always had a remote mic wired into the cockpit and it was always on while underway. I never seem to have a problem hailing sailboats in my area. In the three cases where I have witnessed boaters coming to the aid of a boater due to a mayday or a USCG request, they were all sailboats that responded. Maybe just a PNW thing....
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Old 07-12-2016, 01:51 PM   #16
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Couple of comments on women learning to dock the boat (fine if it is the case and the best helmsman I have ever run across was a woman with a DeFever 49). What is important is to learn the basics in operating the boat, especially communications, locations, rescue of an overboard crew member, and then moving the boat toward a harbor where someone else can assist. Not being able to use the dinghy on a cruising boat is a disaster waiting to happen.

In the past there were courses called Skipper Saver, now Partners in Command that address this issue directly. I use to have two recordings of calls for help over the VHF from women where the Captain was disabled, both very sad to listen to. One the woman did not know how to use the mike so she was holding the transmit button down and no one could respond. The other was a communication where the woman did not know how to tell where she was.

As you can tell I have found this to be a very important issue and have stressed it in one class after another. Many times i have shamed the men into teaching their wives girlfriends the basics.

Don't know the facts in the situation described in this thread so I can't say training would have helped.
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Old 07-12-2016, 01:57 PM   #17
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Not uncommon for a single radio relay rescue.....weird sometimes how it works that way. Have been in a helo and done relays for both boats and other aircraft when one would think hundreds would could hear even better....but not.

Great job helping out....a big thing which needs to be done and sounds like it was as the sole radio response...keep the other party calm and focused.

Her not leaving the visual picture of the PIW was exactly correct ....why?....cause the handheld DID work. Being a mic cord length away from a fixed VHF is just not possible all the time.

In places with strong currents or when you can venture out of sight by scooter or dingy....a PLB is a pretty convincing rescue tool.

The diving TF member who posted that he carries a piece of PVC that has a PLB and radio in it was a great idea/post.

Prompted me to make an underwater camera for less than $30 out of a surveillance camera, cables, and PVC.
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Old 07-12-2016, 02:27 PM   #18
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.......In my sailboats, the VHF was below. However, I always had a remote mic wired into the cockpit and it was always on while underway. I never seem to have a problem hailing sailboats in my area.SCG request, they were all sailboats that responded. Maybe just a PNW thing....
On the North Sea its not the sailboats not attending the VHF its these monsters where no body seems to be on the bridge....
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Old 07-12-2016, 03:00 PM   #19
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Nice job Doug!
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Old 07-12-2016, 03:59 PM   #20
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I must have missed the part about it being a sailboat. When the OP said "50' cruiser" I assumed a powerboat.

In my sailboats, the VHF was below. However, I always had a remote mic wired into the cockpit and it was always on while underway. I never seem to have a problem hailing sailboats in my area. In the three cases where I have witnessed boaters coming to the aid of a boater due to a mayday or a USCG request, they were all sailboats that responded. Maybe just a PNW thing....
It was a 50' power boat, some sort of Sea Ray type boat.

They didn't have a dinghy, just a jet ski they keep below the cockpit in a "garage" it was too heavy/complicated for her to launch.

She said they were anchored and she couldn't get the anchor up by herself or run the boat well enough to get to him.

In retrospect, I think it would have been a mistake for her to try, she would have lost sight of him maybe, and it would have taken her a long time to get the boat moving. I guess she could have cut the anchor free, but I still think she did the right thing.
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