Cutter Tahoma nabs drug smugglers, rescues migrants during holiday Caribbean patrol

BOSTON — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma has interdicted 450 pounds of marijuana, nabbed four suspected drug smugglers, rescued 127 Haitian migrants and coordinated the rescue of 12 Cuban migrants thus far during a Caribbean patrol that will keep them away from home this holiday season.

Tahoma was one of the first response assets to arrive on scene in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the wake of a massive earthquake in January that devastated the capital city.

Tahoma is supporting operations focused on the deterrence and interdiction of illicit drug and migrant traffickers along with the Coast Guard’s other multiple missions, including search and rescue, law enforcement, and military operations.

On Dec. 4, a go-fast vessel was detected in international waters off Cuba by Coast Guard aircraft. After the go-fast vessel failed to respond to orders to heave to, Tahoma’s small boat crew fired a series of warning shots across the vessel’s bow. The go-fast stopped and its crew complied with orders from the Tahoma’s boarding officer. More than 450 pounds of marijuana were recovered from the water in the vicinity of the stopped go-fast vessel.

During this interdiction, a Coast Guard aircraft crew detected a small vessel immediately north of the go-fast. Tahoma’s operations specialists vectored the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Sitkinak to the second vessel, a small home-built motorized raft with 12 Cuban migrants onboard. This group had been drifting at sea for six days without food or water after their engine died. The migrants were provided food, water, shelter and basic medical attention prior to being repatriated to Cuba Saturday.

The following day, a Coast Guard aircraft crew located a sail freighter about 85 miles west of Great Inagua, Bahamas, with what initially appeared to be 60 people aboard. Arriving on scene with the severely overloaded 40-foot vessel, Tahoma’s boarding team discovered 127 Haitian migrants packed inside. Due to extreme overcrowding, conditions were unsanitary and unsafe for the voyage. In addition, there was little room for food and water. Tahoma crewmembers safely embarked all 127 Haitian migrants and provided them with food, shelter and basic medical attention. The migrants were repatriated to Cap Haitien, Haiti, on Dec. 6.

“Although we’re away from our families this holiday season, we are proud that Tahoma’s crew was instrumental in keeping illicit drugs off our streets and rescuing migrants from their peril at sea,” said Cmdr. Jim Spotts, Tahoma’s commanding officer. “We are looking forward to the remainder of our patrol and reuniting with our families after the holiday.”

The Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter home ported in Kittery, Maine.

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