SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guard rescue crews and the crew of Good Samaritan sailing vessel rescued three French boaters from a sinking catamaran Sunday morning, approximately 25 nautical miles southeast of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
The rescued men were transiting from the Dominican Republic to the island of St. Maarten at approximately 2 a.m. Sunday when their catamaran began taking on water and started to sink.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan received a “Mayday” call on VHF-Channel 16 from the distressed boaters who were unable to provide their position and only stated they were near the big rock west of Puerto Rico.
Coast Guard watchstanders proceeded to divert the Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark and launch an HC-144 Ocean Sentry and MH-65D aircrafts to search. Watchstanders utilized Rescue 21 direction finding capabilities to determine the position of the distressed boaters’ VHF transmission. They also contacted and alerted the sailing vessel Ondine and the cargo ship Grand Sapphire that were transiting in the proximity of the distress to assist. Shortly thereafter, the crew of the sailing vessel Ondine reported seeing a flashing light and headed to investigate. Upon arriving to the area of the flashing light, the Ondine came upon and recovered the three French boaters from on top of the partially submerged vessel; they were all wearing lifejackets.
The Reef Shark rendezvoused with the Ondine, embarked the rescued men and transported them to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where they were transferred to awaiting Customs and Border Protection Field Operations officers.
“This case exemplifies the selfless actions of mariners going out of their way to rescue fellow mariners in need and also highlights the importance for boaters to have working VHF radios and life saving equipment,” said LuAnn Kehlenbach, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan search and rescue mission coordinator. “Watchstanders were able to get a line of bearing on the VHF radio communication that narrowed down the search area and allowed for the prompt rescue and saving of three lives.”
Rescue 21 is the Coast Guard’s advanced command, control and communications system created to improve the ability to assist mariners in distress and save lives and property at sea, the system is currently being installed in stages across the United States.