Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell to return home from Eastern Pacific Patrol

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SAN DIEGO – The San Diego-based Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell is scheduled to return home from a 59-day patrol to the Eastern Pacific Ocean Thursday, at 12:30pm.

During their patrol, the Boutwell and crew performed critical Coast Guard missions while patrolling in the Eastern Pacific, including interdicting a drug-laden go-fast vessel and conducting three search and rescue missions.

Boutwell interdicted a “go-fast” vessel in international waters off the coast of Central America Dec. 30, 2013, apprehending three suspected drug smugglers and seizing approximately 1,375 pounds of cocaine.

The Boutwell’s crew was patrolling in the region when a maritime patrol aircraft reported a suspicious vessel approximately 140 miles away heading north towards Central America. Boutwell’s crew immediately steamed towards the go-fast and as they approached the vessel deployed law enforcement pursuit teams in interceptor boats.

Upon sighting the Coast Guard, the suspects began jettisoning bales and conducting erratic maneuvers to evade the pursuit teams. After a brief high-speed chase, the go-fast ended its attempts to evade and Boutwell’s boarding teams took control of the vessel and suspects. Coast Guard crews searched the area and recovered 14 bales of contraband.

The U.S. Coast Guard patrols the international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean performing a multitude of missions, and is always ready to respond to mariners in need of assistance. The crew of the cutter Boutwell rescued eight fishermen during two separate search and rescue cases during this deployment. The first rescue at sea was reported by the Coast Guard’s 11th District Command Center, based in Alameda, Calif. A disabled fishing vessel has been adrift for 14 days and located 100 nautical miles off the coast of Panama. Four fishermen were found alive and surviving on their catch, bait, and rainwater.

“Thank God! We shared a lot of joy that we were saved,” said one of the fishing vessel’s crew members. “We are very thankful that we were picked up, after so many ships had passed by without seeing us.”

The fishing vessel and crew were transferred to a Panamanian patrol boat the following day, where they could then be taken home to their families.

The cutter’s second search and rescue case occurred when the Joint Interagency Task Force South, based in Key West, Fla., notified Boutwell of a disabled vessel after a maritime patrol aircraft spotted a fishing vessel’s crew waving a white flag to signal for help. The fishing vessel with four crew members on board was discovered approximately 140 nautical miles southwest of El Salvador, reportedly adrift for seven days and 275 nautical miles from their homeport of Costa Rica.

The crew of the fishing vessel was transferred to officials in El Salvador, where transportation to Costa Rica could be arranged. Before departing, one of the survivors stated, “I am a very strong believer in God. I always knew that He would send help.”

A third case occurred off the coast of Mexico when fishermen signaled the cutter and reported that a boat had gone missing the night before. Boutwell searched for the missing boat, partnering with the Mexican navy to expand search efforts. A Mexican patrol boat later found the missing boat and its crew alive.

During deployments, the U.S. Coast Guard often coordinates and fully supports community relations. The crews of different cutters participate in projects with local communities during foreign port calls.

During the patrol, cutter Boutwell hosted a 5- and 10-kilometer race with the Costa Rican Coast Guard in Golfito, Costa Rica. Twenty-one Boutwell crew members and seven Costa Rican Coast Guardsmen participated in the race. One of the Costa Rican participants commented, “Next time, let us know earlier and we will have a game of soccer- your crew against ours.”

This marked Boutwell’s second unit 5K within the past year. The first was hosted in Adak, Alaska, the westernmost town in the Aleutian Islands, while Boutwell was patrolling the Bering Sea in June 2013.

Exchanges like this highlight the positive working relationships that the U.S. Coast Guard is able to establish and maintain with communities and partner nations, allowing the Coast Guard to coordinate its missions with familiar assets.

The 45 year old Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell is a 378-foot high-endurance cutter homeported in San Diego, with a crew of approximately 170. Boutwell primarily conducts counter drug missions in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and fisheries enforcement and search and rescue in the Bering Sea. For more information about the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell please visit the website: http://www.uscg.mil/pacarea/cgcboutwell/.

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