Coast Guard rescues 3 boaters in distress, tows their vessel to safety

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Coast Guard rescue crews rescued three boaters Monday after their vessel became disabled and adrift and was taking on water, approximately 55 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

One man and a woman, U.S. citizens, residents of Charleston, South Carolina, and another man, a citizen of the United Kingdom, were traveling from the Turks and Caicos Islands to Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, aboard the 57-foot motor vessel Grace.

Coast Guard controllers in Sector San Juan received an emergency radio call via VHF-Channel 16 at approximately 5:45 a.m. Monday from one of the passengers aboard the Grace, who reported the distress and requested Coast Guard assistance.

Coast Guard controllers launched an Air Station Borinquen HH-65 Dolphin helicopter and diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo to assist. The Coast Guard helicopter crew located the boaters, verified that they were safe and lowered a water pump to assist them with dewatering their vessel. The Sapelo also arrived on scene and the crew embarked the boaters and prepared to tow the Grace to safety to Mayaguez Harbor, Puerto Rico.

“These boaters were rescued in a timely manner because they had a marine radio on board and they contacted the Coast Guard on VHF-Channel 16,” said Cmdr. James Sutton, Coast Guard Sector San Juan chief of response. “Boaters who also use their life jackets, have the proper emergency signaling equipment available and use it correctly, increase their chances of being rescued during a distress situation.”

Boating Safety Tips:

  • Boaters are reminded to equip their vessels with safety equipment, be mindful of state boating laws, and be courteous to fellow boaters while operating on the water.
  • There should be a personal flotation device on the vessel for each person, sized accordingly.
  • Boaters should have flares and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon with 406 MHz capabilities to enable a faster response by the Coast Guard in the event of an emergency.
  • Boaters should have an operational marine VHF radio on their boat in order to contact the Coast Guard on channel 16, in the event an emergency. Due to the high mountainous areas throughout the region, boaters should not rely on their cell phones as a means of communication. In order to expedite the Coast Guard’s response in an emergency, mariners should have a GPS unit onboard or, at a minimum, maintain a knowledge of local waters and know their location at all times. The Coast Guard reminds radio operators that VHF channel 16 is an emergency channel and that improper transmission on channel 16 not only hampers Coast Guard response, but is punishable under federal law.
  • The Coast Guard strongly recommends that all boaters file a float plan with a friend or family member on land, with an approximate time of return and location to which you will be heading. It is also recommended that you regularly check in with those who are aware of your plan, especially if your plan should change.
  • Mariners should check current and forecasted weather conditions prior to getting underway, and remain aware of changing conditions once on the water. The National Weather Service broadcasts weather conditions throughout the day on VHF channel WX2. The Coast Guard broadcasts weather conditions on VHF channel 22A. Current weather information and advisories can be found on the National Weather Service website.
  • It is against the law for anyone to operate a vessel under the influence of alcohol. Consumption of alcohol by anyone else aboard is also strongly discouraged.
  • Prior to taking to the water, boaters are encouraged to go to for more complete information on safe boating. The Coast Guard also highly recommends boaters get a free vessel-safety inspection from the Coast Guard Auxiliary. More information on these inspections can be found at A few minutes now could save a life later.

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