Cutter Tahoma interdicts Haitian migrants off the Bahamas

CAP HAITIEN HARBOR, Haiti ­­­­– Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma interdicted an overcrowded sail freighter carrying 97 undocumented Haitian migrants in the Northern Caribbean Sea, on Wednesday, July 07, 2010.

The 30-foot long, mahogany-hulled sail freighter constructed with handcrafted sails and rigging, reportedly departed Haiti en route an undisclosed destination. Among those embarked were 82 men and 15 women.

During the six hour evolution to stop and remove the people from the severely overloaded vessel, the Tahoma crew members launched both embarked small boats with law enforcement and rescue personnel embarked. While one small boat was stationed as a safety vessel, the other small boat issued personal flotation devices, and transferred 10 migrant passengers at a time to the Tahoma until 86 were safely removed. However, 11 remained onboard refusing to depart the unsafe vessel. Eventually the last 11 people agreed to come aboard the Tahoma without incident after hours of negotiating.. While embarked the Tahoma each was fed two meals a day and cared for by the ship’s crew including receiving treatment from the ship’s corpsman for minor injuries sustained during their voyage. With an unusually large number speaking English, the migrants regularly engaged in conversations with the Tahoma’s crewmembers over world politics, sports, religion, and life in the United States.

Working alongside the Haitian Coast Guard, the Tahoma successfully repatriated all 97 Haitian passengers safely in Cap Haitien Harbor, Haiti on the morning of Friday, July 09, 2010.

The Tahoma is a 270-foot cutter home ported in Kittery, Maine and is currently underway with primary missions including maritime law enforcement, migrant operations and drug interdiction.

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