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Ten rescued from Rappahannock

It was after sunset and light was fading fast. A Coast Guard Auxiliary patrol boat was headed back to its home dock in Kilmarnock after “sweeping” the Rappahannock River from Stingray Point throughout the day on Saturday, August 9.

“Just as we were going under the Rappahannock River Bridge, one of our crew members noticed something near the shoreline,” said Jim Thomas, auxiliary coxswain with Flotilla 33 of Kilmarnock. “Since there was little light remaining and the boat was just off the shore, it was difficult to identify the object. Although it had been a long day already, we decided to check it out.”

The patrol, consisting of Coast Guard Auxiliary members from Flotilla 33, quickly discovered it had come upon a boat that could not start its engine and had requested assistance.

“While radioing the Coast Guard Station at Milford Haven to inform them of the situation, we started our observations in preparing to tow,” said Gerry Hawley, an auxiliary crew member. “We were surprised to find that the 23-foot boat had 10 people on board! People were all over the boat, and it was too small to handle all those people in its open area.”

The disabled boat’s passengers were preparing to spend the night anchored in the river with the hope they could get help in the morning.

“They were already bouncing around due to the two to three foot waves and the 10 to 12 mile per hour wind,” stated Andy Ernst, an auxiliary crew member. “It would have been a very uncomfortable, long, dangerous night for them under these conditions and the expectation of possible lightning.”

After getting authorization from the U.S. Coast Guard, members of the auxiliary patrol took the boat and its 10 passengers in tow and headed for the disabled boat’s marina, Locklies Marina on Locklies Creek in Middlesex County.

Compounding the problem of towing the boat a couple of miles in dark, rough conditions, the light on the marker marking the narrow entrance to Locklies Creek was out.

After getting the towed boat into a protected harbor, the auxiliary crew secured the disabled boat alongside the patrol boat so the boat could be brought to a pier for docking. Members of the disabled boat were glad to be back at port, a little later then they expected, but dry and safe.

“We used a lot of our training on this mission,” said Thomas. “Our lookouts did a super job in discovering the small boat with little light, and we had to take a boat in tow in the dark and in bad conditions. Our training in navigation and night operations really came in handy but, most importantly, 10 people got home safely that night.”

posted 08.23.2008

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