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Auxiliary has busy day on the river

A safety patrol to “sweep” the Rappahannock River on a recent Sunday evening turned out to be a multi-case/multi-mission patrol for members of Flotilla 33 of Lancaster County.

Due to a storm with high winds and lighting, the patrol was delayed for an hour from its scheduled start. As crew members were arriving to board an auxiliary boat, a call was received from U.S. Coast Guard Station Milford Haven asking for assistance.

Coast Guard boats were already out and dealing with other problems. To get to the Rappahannock River would involve too much time for them and there was a need for immediate attention to respond to a number of calls received.

Coast Guard Station Milford Haven asked the auxiliary patrol to check on two barges adrift near the Robert O. Norris Jr. Bridge, a sailboat aground, and another boat with mechanical problems near Belle Island with the possibility of another storm approaching.

The first priority was the drifting barges. Loaded with 3,000 tons of grain, the bridge could sustain serious damage if the barges drifted into it. Upon arrival at the scene, the auxiliary crew found that the barges were not drifting toward the bridge support, and bridge vehicular traffic would not have to be halted. A commercial boat also arrived and hooked up towing lines to slow the drifting barges until a towboat arrived.

After reporting into the Coast Guard Station that the situation was now under control and not dangerous, it was off to the next case.

The auxiliary boat found a disabled sailboat with tattered sails, no one on board, and aground about one mile west of Grey’s Point. It was too shallow for the auxiliary boat to approach the sailboat, but a commercial towboat could. The commercial towers got in touch with the owners and found they were all safe and accounted for and on their way to tow their boat back to port.

Again, a report was made to Coast Guard Station Milford Haven that the situation was now under control and the auxiliary was heading to the next case, a disabled 18-foot Stingray boat.

Contact was made with the occupants to ensure them that help was on the way. The owners of the disabled boat had called for a commercial tow some time earlier, but due to a number of boats affected by the storm, it took some time for the towboat to arrive on scene. Although the auxiliary boat would not tow the disabled boat since its owners had already called a commercial tower, the plan was to stay on scene with them until they could be towed. About halfway there, a call was received from the disabled boat that they were being towed in to a safe harbor.

On the way out to the original call regarding the loose barges, the auxiliary crew noted a kayak adrift with no one in it. A quick search around the area indicated that no one was in the water, but now that the other cases were under control, it was decided to go back and search for the kayak to ensure that no one was missing. On the way, a bag containing kayak seats and life jackets were found in the water. A thorough search found no one in the water and it was concluded that high winds blew the kayak off a dock and into the water.

All the situations were resolved with no injuries or damage. However, just for a change of pace, the auxiliary boat found that the Corrottoman number 7, a lighted channel marker was missing and apparently blown down in the storm.  A Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team was informed of the missing marker, which is an important indicator to keep boats away from shallow water. It should be noted that the Coast Guard responded quickly and a temporary marker was installed.

The auxiliary crew, consisting of Coxswain Jim Thomas and crew members Walter Jackimisky, Andy Ernest, Brian McArdle, Amy Thomas and Howard Montgomery, successfully resolved multiple problems on the river by acting as the eyes and ears of the Coast Guard, which also had their hands full that evening.

posted 08.04.2009

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