The Coast Guard’s First Rescue

The following is excerpted from my book: Rescue Warriors – The U.S. Coast Guard America’s Forgotten Heroes (now in paperback)

Friday, August 26, 2005

The crew of the fishing boat Mary Lynn pitched and rolled in raging forty-foot seas, eighty-five miles west of Key West. With their controls gone and their vessel threatening to break up, they activated an EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radio beacon) buoy and hoped someone would hear its signal. They tried to launch a life raft, but the storm winds capsized it and dragged it away. All they could do now was hang on and pray for help.
At Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, 210 miles away, their signal was received and an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter launched in forty-knot winds around 10 P.M. Soon the big chopper was flying along the leading edge of the storm, blinded by heavy rains, clouds, and darkness, its crew unable to see the ocean rising and falling below them. It would take three hours of manhandling their aircraft through buffeting winds and ballistic rain before they finally arrived on scene. A big four-engine C-130 Hercules from Clearwater was already circling overhead.
Unfortunately, the rough trek had depleted the helicopter’s fuel supply, leaving them only fifteen minutes on scene. Below they could see the Mary Lynn being tossed around in the rolling seas as the crew clung to the stern. Rather than try to rush things and risk someone being swept away, they decided to head to Key West to refuel. Battling 75 mph headwinds, the trip, which should have taken forty-five minutes, took two hours. They landed at 3:00 A.M., refueled, and were back over the Mary Lynn at daybreak. If anything, the storm had worsened in their absence. Pilot Craig Massello told Rescue Swimmer Kenyon Bolton that he —> Read More