Coast Guard Cutter Confidence Returns to Cape Canaveral

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – The Coast Guard Cutter Confidence will return to Cape Canaveral Thursday at 8 a.m. following one of the most successful patrols in the ship’s 41 year history.

While deployed to the Florida Straits and Yucatan Channel for six weeks, Confidence and her crew participated in the successful interdiction of six “go-fast” smuggling vessels and played a key role in the massive Coast Guard response effort following the disappearance of the charter vessel Joe Cool last month.

Confidence’s immensely successful campaign against illegal Cuban migrant smuggling began in the first week of September when specially trained crewmembers deployed aboard the cutter’s Over-the-Horizon small boat to help nab three high-speed, migrant-smuggling vessels filled with 27 illegal Cuban migrants in three days. During one pursuit, Coast Guard forces used disabling fire to interdict a vessel 22 miles south of the Florida Keys after pursuing the suspected smugglers for more than four hours. Another case culminated in the successful interdiction of a loaded and disabled smuggling vessel near the center of Cay Sal Bank, during which Confidence’s boat crew endured both extreme weather conditions and a nine-hour transit and towing evolution to ensure the safety of 15 Cuban migrants.

Confidence’s most recent go-fast interdiction came on Oct. 4th, when a small boat crew from the cutter, working with the cutter Pea Island, as well as four vessels and one helicopter from the Mexican Navy, successfully interdicted two smuggling vessels traveling from Cuba to Mexico in the Yucatan Channel. One of these vessels had been reported stolen by its owners in western Florida, and was towed by the Confidence for 250 nautical miles north over two days for subsequent transfer to federal authorities in Florida.

Confidence provided food, water, and medical care for a total of 145 illegal Cuban migrants during this six-week patrol.

Confidence and its crew were also involved in several high-profile cases in late September. On Sept. 22, the ship’s embarked helicopter spotted a vessel engulfed in flames southeast of Miami Beach. Confidence and her crew immediately responded by assuming on-scene command of other units in the area, including the Coast Guard Cutter Shrike, which is also homeported in Port Canaveral. Confidence proceeded to the scene, initially engaged the fire with its own onboard fire-fighting equipment, and coordinated firefighting efforts with a Miami-Dade fireboat that arrived on scene later and finally extinguished the fire. Confidence also ensured that the two occupants of the burning boat, who were suspected by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of prior migrant smuggling, were safely transported to authorities in Miami.

Two days later Confidence was tasked to search for the missing charter vessel Joe Cool, after it was reported overdue following a trip from Miami Beach to Bimini, Bahamas. Confidence developed an initial search pattern for the ship and embarked helicopter crew. The aircrew spotted the vessel’s liferaft in the early morning hours of Sept. 24, with two passengers onboard: Kirby Archer, 34, and Guillermo Zarabozo, 19.

Both men were rescued by the cutter’s embarked helicopter and transported to Confidence for basic medical care. Inconsistencies in these survivor’s statements led to agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) coming aboard Confidence to continue the investigation. Confidence was later able to recover the survivors’ liferaft and belongings, greatly aiding investigators in their ongoing investigation. Archer and Zarabozo are currently being held by federal officials in Miami.

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