Sailors Rescued in Storm Sally off Key West

September 14, 2020

Yachting Journal

The sailboat Preston Point about 14 miles west of Key West, Fla. The sailboat owners called Coast Guard Sector Key West watchstanders at approximately 6:30 p.m, Saturday, September 12, stating their engine was disabled, adrift and in danger of capsizing. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Two people aboard their sailing vessel Preston Point were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, Sunday, after they were in distress in heavy seas about 14 miles west of Ponce de Leon Bay off Key West, Fla., during Tropical Storm Sally.

The sailing vessel's owners called Coast Guard Sector Key West watchstanders at approximately 6:30 p.m, Saturday, stating the vessel's engine was disabled and that they were adrift and in danger of capsizing. The watchstanders directed the launch of an Air Station Miami MH-65 Dolphin helicopter rescue crew and diverted the Cutter Raymond Evans crew to transit to the scene.

Once the Dolphin helicopter aircrew arrived on scene, the rescue swimmer was lowered in 6- to 10-foot seas and 35-mile-per-hour winds. The rescue swimmer attempted to swim to the sailing vessel, but was unable to reach the vessel due to the seas and the drift of the vessel.

The helicopter aircrew was unable to stay on location due to getting low on fuel. An Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew was launched to provide assistance to the rescue swimmer who was still on scene attempting to swim to the Preston Point’s location.

A Coast Guard Cutter Raymond Evans small boat crew located the rescue swimmer and brought him aboard the cutter in good health. The small boat crew then embarked the two people from the sailboat also in good health.

"Florida weather during hurricane season is unpredictable," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Steven Evans, watchstander, Sector Key West command center. "It is important that mariners check the weather before going out on the water, whether it's a day trip or longer."

The owners are working with a commercial towing service to recover their sailboat.

The Coast Guard is reminding mariners to check the weather before going out, tell someone where they are going and when they will be back, wear a life jacket, ensure safety gear is up to date, and have a registered emergency position indicator radio beacon on board.

Video: Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Johnson, a rescue swimmer from Air Station Miami and Petty Officer First Class John Cathy, a machinery technician from the Cutter Raymond Evans, discuss their experiences with the rescue.