Coast Guard assists boaters when sailboat runs aground on Lake Erie

9th Coast Guard District News
CLEVELAND – Coast Guard crews responded to assist two boaters after their 30-foot sailboat ran aground on the Lake Erie coast near Rocky River, Ohio, Wednesday evening.

The mariners exhibited exceptional personal responsibility and demonstrated sound recreational boating safety practices by utilizing a marine band radio to contact response authorities and then activating an emergency beacon they had onboard.

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Sector Buffalo Operations Center were alerted of the situation when the operator of the 30-foot sailing boat contacted them on VHF-FM Channel 16, the international hailing and distress frequency, at about 6:40 p.m. Watchstanders were also contacted by other mariners who witnessed the sailboat beset by heavy waves.

Following his marine radio communication, the operator activated his 406 MHz emergency position indicating radio beacon, which communicated his distress and location to the Ninth Coast Guard District Operations Center in Cleveland. Because the boat owner’s EPIRB was properly registered, the Coast Guard was able to contact his home and confirm with family that the boat was indeed underway with two middle-aged men aboard.

Coast Guard Station Cleveland Harbor launched a rescue crew aboard a 45-foot response boat-medium at about 7:30 p.m., and they arrived on scene 20 minutes later. Although the water proved too shallow for the RB-M to come alongside the sailboat, the Station Cleveland Harbor crew remained on scene as Rocky River EMS, police and fire department crews attended to the two men.

They were taken off the boat in good condition and declined medical treatment. Personnel from Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Cleveland inspected the boat this morning. It does not pose a hazard to marine traffic, and the Coast Guard is working with the owner to coordinate the vessel’s salvage. At this time, the vessel has not released any hazardous materials, but the Coast Guard continues to monitor the situation.

“To us, this case clearly demonstrates how a mariner, when equipped with the right safety gear, can provide response agencies with the information necessary to respond as quickly as they can to get that person home safe,” said Capt. Stephen Torpey, chief of incident management for the Ninth Coast Guard District. “First, he communicated his distress to us on a marine radio, which is much more reliable and effective than calling on a cell phone.”

“Next, he followed up his radio call by setting off his EPIRB, which, via GPS satellite, provided us with his location,” continued Torpey. “Finally, his EPIRB was properly registered, so we could confirm with his family that there were indeed two people underway and also provide a description of the boat. We have to treat every call like it’s a real emergency, but sometimes, EPIRBs are tripped accidentally. With proper registration, we can track down vessel owners and rule out those possibilities, assigning the proper assets to a search.”

“EPIRBs, when properly registered, maintained and activated, can truly take the search – out of search and rescue.”

“In the race to find mariners who are missing or in distress, having thorough and accurate information is invaluable,” said Torpey. “Two people are safe today because they were prepared for the unexpected.”

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