Thursday, December 20, 2007

UPDATE: Tandem tow anyone?

Remember this blog I posted back in August about the two boats needing assistance, and the story that one boat got left behind and a family spent the night in the water? Here is a quote from the original story:

Shortly before 4 p.m. Aug. 18, a commercial salvage company had been assisting two vessels that had reportedly run out of gas. Upon towing in one of the vessels, when the salvage company returned to tow the other vessel in they were unable to relocate the vessel and then notified the Coast Guard..... The crew of the Falcon located a 25-foot vessel with one person aboard and dropped food, water and a VHF marine radio. Upon establishing communication with the individual through the use of that radio, the person informed the Coast Guard that his vessel began taking on water the last evening and four persons abandoned the vessel around midnight.

Well, the above quoted article didn't quite have the story correct. The actual scenario was far more complicated than that. Here is a more accurate description of the events, from Soundings Magazine November 2007 [read the entire article here]:

The drama began to unfold late Saturday afternoon, Aug. 18, says Capt. Don Cramer, of BoatU.S. Marco Island. That’s when the Coast Guard alerted him to a disabled boat whose skipper had called them for help. The boat’s engine had died and the skipper couldn’t get it started again. Cramer says he couldn’t raise the boat by VHF radio — he believes the skipper was carrying a handheld VHF — so the Coast Guard relayed the boat’s GPS coordinates. Cramer dispatched a towboat about 5 p.m. As the towboat headed out to the vessel’s reported position the Coast Guard advised Cramer of a second disabled boat, which had run out of gas two miles south of the first.

Cramer believes the two boats had gone out fishing together, probably at a communications tower off Cape Romano, because they were in cell phone contact with each other. The skipper of the first boat called the Coast Guard and told them the other boat was in trouble, too. However, the position the skipper gave the Coast Guard now was about 20 miles from the earlier one he had provided. Cramer told his tow captain to make a swing south because the second boat — a 25-footer — had children aboard, and should be rescued first if possible. The tow captain couldn’t find the 25-footer, but he did find the first one and took it under tow.
Then Cramer went out to look for the second boat. Meanwhile, conditions had begun to deteriorate. Winds were....

So, my suggestion that this might have been a chance to conduct a tandem tow was based on completely erroneous information. The true story turned out to be far more complicated and filled with communication breakdowns, nightfall and deteriorating weather. I highly recommend reading the Soundings article.