Coast Guard Crew Braves Storm to Save 3 on Boat
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Aug 13, 2014 | by Gary T. Kubota
Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Brad Hudson, who has worked in Florida during hurricane season, had one word to describe the experience of helping to rescue three people aboard a stricken sailboat in Hurricane Julio.
Especially when flying low into 80 mph winds.
"I've gone around hurricanes," Hudson, an aviation maintenance technician, said Monday. "I've gone behind hurricanes. I've never had to fly into a hurricane. ... It was crazy."
But the C-130 Hercules crew from Barbers Point was aware the sailboat Walkabout was taking on water and its captain, who has high blood pressure, was having chest pains.
So the crew braved the storm, flying below an altitude of 800 feet to get under the cloud cover and look for a 42-foot sailboat in 30-foot seas.
"The swells and waves were pretty deep," said the pilot, Lt. Garrett Faulkner, adding that it took about an hour to spot the vessel.
The Walkabout was en route to Hawaii from California when it ran into Hurricane Julio just over 400 miles northwest of Honolulu.
The Coast Guard said it received a message for help Sunday morning after the boat became disabled and was taking on water.
The Coast Guard said a hatch cover blew away, allowing water into the cabin, and the crew was unable to start the engine that powered the bilge pump and was bailing by hand.
At one point the sailboat was buffeted by winds of 92 to 115 mph, according to the Coast Guard. Gusts also carried the life raft overboard.
A helicopter rescue was out of the question because of the distance, Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie said.
So the Coast Guard dispatched a C-130 and diverted a Matson container ship, the Manukai, to the scene to pick up the three men.
The Coast Guard crew dropped a replacement raft and pumps overboard for the Walkabout, but the sailors were unable to retrieve them.
That was frustrating for the air crew, which then could do nothing but circle to mark the sailboat's location, Faulkner said.
The crew stayed with the boat for about 41/2 hours before they were relieved by a second Coast Guard plane.
The Manukai reached the Walkabout around 10 p.m. Sunday but could not pick up the men immediately because of darkness, weather and heavy seas.
"The seas were really bad, and it's kind of windy so they didn't want to do it in the dark," said Coast Guard Operations Specialist Andrew Lincoln.
Conditions eventually calmed, and Manukai's crew members positioned the ship so it wouldn't knock over the sailboat. They then tied a rope around a life raft and let it drift to the sailboat, McKenzie said.
The sailors got in the raft, and the container ship "reeled them in, essentially," McKenzie said. The sailors climbed a ladder up to the ship at about 8 a.m. Monday.http://www.military.com/daily-news/2014/08/13/coast-guard-crew-braves-storm-to-save-3-on-boat.html?comp=7000023468292&rank=3