Coast Guard assists 4 people aboard disabled vessel in Lake Michigan

CLEVELAND — A Coast Guard rescue boatcrew assisted four people after their 21-foot recreational vessel became disabled in Lake Michigan, Wednesday morning.

Search and rescue controllers at the Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan Command Center, in Milwaukee, received a call from a man on land, who stated that his friend was experiencing engine troubles aboard his boat. The reporting source then lost communication with the boaters, who were reportedly traveling from Saugatuck, Mich., to South Haven, Mich.

The Coast Guard launched an aircrew aboard an MH-65C Dolphin rescue helicopter from Air Facility Muskegon, Mich., and a rescue boatcrew aboard a 25-foot Response Boat-Small from Coast Guard Station St. Joseph, Mich.

The rescue helicopter crew located the disabled vessel about halfway between Saugatuck and South Haven and then relayed the vessels position to the rescue boatcrew.

The boatcrew arrived on scene and towed the disabled vessel to South Haven.

There were no injuries reported.

“While many boaters rely on cell phones for emergency communications on the water, VHF-FM radios are much more reliable in the marine environment and work in areas where cell phones sometimes don’t,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey Catanzarite, coxswain of the RB-S.

When a mayday is broadcast over VHF-FM Channel 16, the international hailing and distress frequency, multiple response agencies and other nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance.

Marine radio communications can also be traced using Rescue 21, the Coast Guard’s new maritime communications system, which was recently installed throughout Lake Michigan. This capability allows Coast Guard crews to get on scene faster, increasing the probability of survival and decreasing associated costs of searching.

The Coast Guard also recommends all mariners equip their boats with Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons and/or their life jackets with Personal Locator Beacons.

EPIRBs and PLBs may be activated manually by the push of a button or automatically when they enter the water, depending on the model.

After the Station St. Joseph boatcrew towed the vessel to South Haven, a safety inspection was conducted and the vessel was found to be lacking a visual distress signal device.

In accordance with federal law, recreational boats 16 feet and longer are required to carry visual distress signals such as flares, smoke signals or non-pyrotechnic devices. State and local laws may require further safety equipment.

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