Coast Guard Tows “Hot Ticket” to Safety

MIAMI – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Farallon successfully towed the disabled 37-foot sailing vessel Hot Ticket into an anchorage off Sunset Key, Key West, Fla., Friday.

The Cutter Farallon rendezvoused with the Hot Ticket at approximately 6 p.m. Thursday after battling 10 to 12-foot seas for almost 10 hours in response to a distress call from the Hot Ticket, which became disabled approximately 130 miles southwest of Fort Myers Beach, Fla., Wednesday afternoon. The Farallon then battled those same seas for another 24 hours transiting back to Key West with the Hot Ticket in tow.

“This case demonstrates just how important it is to have all the necessary safety gear aboard your vessel,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Jimenez, a search-and-rescue controller at Coast Guard District Seven. “The crew of the Hot Ticket had an emergency position indicating radio beacon, a VHF marine radio and a satellite phone. If one failed, they had another piece of equipment to use.”

James Hightower 61, Todd Davey 38, Grayson Saunders 59, and Neil OSullivan 39, the crew of the sailing vessel Hot Ticket, activated their EPIRB Wednesday afternoon when they lost steering and the vessel began to take on water. The unlocated but registered EPIRB signal was received by search and rescue coordinators at the Eighth Coast Guard District Command Center in New Orleans. Eighth District controllers then contacted the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administrations U.S. Mission Control Center in Suitland, Md., to obtain the Hot Tickets position from the agencys Cospas-Sarsat program satellites. Controllers at the Seventh Coast Guard District were then notified of the case. The position of the Hot Ticket was also checked against information passed by the captain to a friend during a satellite phone call.

SAR coordinators at the Seventh Coast Guard District in Miami took control of the rescue, directing the launch of an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla. Moments later, the Atlantic Area Command Center received an alert from the cruise ship Grandeur of the Seas that relayed a mayday call from the Hot Ticket. In the mayday call the crew stated they had lost a rudder, were slowly taking on water and their satellite phone was no longer working.

Two HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Clearwater and an HU-25 Falcon jet from Air Station Miami flew missions to remain with the Hot Ticket throughout Wednesday evening and until shortly before the Farallon rendezvoused with the disabled sailing vessel Thursday afternoon.

The Farallon is a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in Miami.

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  1. david says:

    Cudos to the USCG for their response.
    I know this skipper and have raced across the atlantic with him. he has raced across the ocean a couple times. The boat was prepared and very sea worthy. I spent three days sailing in a gale on this same passage on this boat and it was the best offshore boat I have been on and I have sailed offshore for 20 years or more.
    I shipped the liferaft out for inspection and repacking before Hot Ticket left. I updated the contacts for the EPIRP and replaced all the batteries and tested the sat phone.
    Everyone had inflateable harnesses/lifejackets and all of the flares were new….both 25mm parachute, 12mm standard flares along with handheld flares. If the satellite phone worked there would not have been a reason to remain close in case the situation changed for the worse.
    This was a seasoned captian and crew who has lots of experience dealiing with all sorts of problems.

  2. david says:

    Let me clarify one thing! I was extremely impressed with the USCG response and was proud of the efforts. I was NOT on this particular passage but was on this boat for a previous Galveston to Key West passage.
    The USCG called me as the EPIRB on-shore contact and was exceptional in the way the kept us informed of the status of the efforts to make sure the crew was safe from the moment the EPIRB went off until the crew was on-shore.
    Thank you to all involved for your hard work!

  3. Jason says:

    I’m taking off for some cruising soon on a 45′ ketch. It’s a seaworthy vessel. I’m definitely going to be prepared with EPIRB, two VHF, one sat phone and one SSB radio. Anything else recommended?

  4. John says:

    My Top 10 would be:

    1. Get a Vessel Safety Check.
    2. Visit and read everything that is there.
    3. If you haven’t already, take a Boating Safety Course.
    4. Always wear Coast Guard approved life jackets
    5. Be aware of weather and water conditions
    6. File a float plan to let others know where you are going, and make sure they know what to do and who to call in case of an emergency
    7. Maintain constant awareness of other vessels in the immediate area
    8. Never drink and boat
    9. Use caution – do not exceed your ability to handle your vessel
    10. Always wear Coast Guard approved life jackets. Yeah I know I’m repeating myself. There’s a reason for that.