A guardian is never “off-duty”

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was supposed to be a quiet morning. For Petty Officer 1st Class David Alred, an active duty Coast Guardsman and a father of a one-year-old child, it was a rare break to go fishing.

Alred, 30, a native of Middleburg, Fla., loaded up his 17-foot fishing boat and departed the Mayport Boat Ramp Saturday about 6 a.m. He was fishing on the banks of on the St. John’s River adjacent to Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, the sun yet to rise, when the search and rescue alarm sounded.

“I always keep my VHF radio on channel 16,” said Alred referring to the preferred radio frequency for reporting emergencies on the water. “The Coast Guard station was warning all vessels to be on the lookout for two boaters clinging to a navigational aid.”

So instinctively the fishing poles were stored and Alred changed course.

Alred followed the 25-foot Coast Guard rescue boat crew that launched to Pablo Creek, a small marshy area that feeds off the St. John’s River. He spoke with the coxswain of the boat crew, the term used to refer to Coast Guard small boat drivers, and suddenly found himself part of the rescue evolution.

“The Coxswain asked me if I could make it to the light range where the two boaters we were looking for were stuck and get them off the range,” said Alred. The boat crew could not reach the boaters due to shallow water depth and muddy conditions.

“The sun was starting to come up, and I made my way to the range,” he said. He tied up his boat to the light range where the boaters had been waiting throughout the night.

“The boaters had climbed up the ladder and attempted to notify passerby’s with a light they had,” said Alred. “They said they had been there since 2 a.m.”

Muddy, cold and bruised up, they were now safe. The evening before a leisure after dinner boat ride turned chaotic when the recreational boat struck an unknown object, totaling the boat and leaving the two boaters stranded. Lucky for them the water was shallow enough for them to make their way to the light range in an attempt to locate help. Approximately five hours later, Alred saved the day.

Alred transferred the boaters to the Coast Guard rescue boat crew who delivered them to awaiting EMS personnel ashore

“In my career, I have been a part of rescues,” said Alred. “But I had never physically been the rescuer. It feels good to be a part of something positive.”

This Saturday, Alred plans to be back on the water fishing and to the other boaters out there, rest assured, you have a guardian on the watch.

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