Coast Guard rescue crews from Station Cape Disappointment responded to three distress calls during the season opener of the Washington State commercial crab season this past Saturday.
The station, located in Ilwaco, Wash., is at the mouth of the Columbia River near several marinas that are home to numerous commercial crab and fishing vessels.
Station Cape Disappointment, along with Station Grays Harbor, launched 47-foot Motor Lifeboat [MLB] rescue crews at 7:30 a.m. for a fishing vessel taking on water near Willapa Bay. A Coast Guard helicopter eventually hoisted three individuals and their dog off their capsized vessel. The full press release from that case can be found HERE.
The crew was then diverted at 9:15 a.m., south in the vicinity of Gearhart, Ore., to assist another fishing vessel with an injured crewmember. The individual sustained a head laceration and foot injury after their vessel was struck by a wave. Once on scene, the rescue crew aboard the MLB transferred a Coast Guard first responder to the vessel in 16 to 18-foot seas. The rescue crew then determined it was safer for the injured person and Coast Guard crewmember to remain aboard the vessel and transit the Columbia River bar with the MLB crew as an escort. At 1:45 p.m., the 62-foot fishing vessel was moored in Ilwaco and the patient was safely transferred to awaiting EMS.
Simultaneously, a separate MLB rescue crew was assisting the crew of a 66-foot fishing vessel off the coast of Long Beach, Wash. The initial distress call came in at 9:30 a.m., stating a vessel with five people aboard was disabled and drifting to shore, dragging its anchor. In 16 to 18-foot seas, the MLB crew placed the vessel in tow, de-anchored the vessel, and began the transit south. With the disabled vessel being above optimal towing capabilities and with the increased risk of crossing the bar, the MLB crew from the previous rescue joined to assist with the tow. The new MLB crew put the vessel in an alongside tow while the other MLB continued a stern tow. At times, the ebb tide was strong enough that at several points, all three vessels were unable to make any headway. The disabled vessel was taken to a pier in Warrenton, Ore., and safely docked around 9:30 p.m.
“Coast Guard rescue crews around the country stand the watch 24/7/365,” said Lt. Jessica Shafer, commanding officer, Station Cape Disappointment. “They do so much more than that, too. The same crews underway are the same crews that maintain the boats and facilities. The evening before, the crews were up at 1:30 a.m. A strong storm had knocked the power out around the local area. The crab fleet had just begun to depart for sea so the crewmembers immediately validated that the Columbia River Bar range lights and the lighthouse were operating under generator properly. It is truly impressive to witness that sort of dedication.”
Shafer continued, “...the actions of the Coast Guard small boat crews throughout the day were phenomenal, but so were the actions of the crews we assisted. When our boat arrived on scene with the distressed vessel in Long Beach, the fishing vessel's crew had already donned their survival equipment. They knew what attachment points would be the strongest to use, and they were efficient at bringing our assistance lines over and attaching them. Those precious few moments can make all the difference.”
In total, the Station Cape Disappointment crews spent nearly 28 hours underway in seas up to 20-feet and helped save $638,595 of property.