Coast Guard Auxilary Aids Two Boaters; One in WaterCO of Station Barnegat Light Praises Volunteers
The United States Coast Guard is the nation’s smallest armed uniformed force, with just approximately 42,000 active duty personnel. Yet it has numerous missions.
The Coast Guard is, of course, responsible for maritime search and rescue. It also has several homeland security missions, including maritime law enforcement, drug interdiction, migrant interdiction, and port, waterways and coastal security. Coasties are responsible for maintaining aids to navigation, helping to enforce fisheries laws, inspecting vessels, maritime environmental protection (think oil spills) and breaking ice. The Coast Guard also has to be prepared to go to war. Oh, and don’t forget the fact that the Coast Guard is responsible for all of these things on the waters of the world’s largest exclusive economic zone – an area of 3.4 million square miles!
Not surprisingly, Coasties are thankful for the help of some 30,000 members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, a group of uniformed volunteers who help the Guard in all of its noncombatant and non-law enforcement missions. Some people think the auxiliary only teaches boater safety classes and conducts voluntary vessel safety inspections, yet those activities are only part of the picture, as a crew of auxiliary members out of Bayville proved on Saturday.
Coxswain Mike Bennett and his crew – Deborah Bennett, Bob Keene, Deborah Nowakoski and Ted Ballin, along with trainees Dennis and Barbara Narehood – left the dock at about noon on Saturday. It’s hard not to think of the Minnow when hearing their story, because just as the cast of “Gilligan’s Island” was expecting just “a three-hour tour” when they took off into the Pacific, Bennett and his crewmembers were expecting a mere boat ride on the bay on Saturday.
“I told everybody I wasn’t even looking to do any training, that we were basically just going for a boat ride,” said Bennett, who is new to the area, transferring to Flotilla 7-11 in Bayville after moving to Ocean County. “I was just trying to familiarize myself with the area waters and letting the crew get familiar with the boat.”
Everything changed in just 15 minutes.
“We came upon a sailboat that had flipped over with two people on board,” he e-mailed Warrant Officer Jay Greiner, commanding officer at Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light. “The boat was drifting towards the Toms River bridge and one person was in the water. The person in the water was too exhausted to swim back to the boat, about 75 yards away, so we brought him aboard to rest while we tried to right the boat.
“The reason I bring this to your attention is that this being the maiden voyage of the vessel 363363, and a crew that had not worked together, and the wind a sporty 25 to 30 knots, I, as a new coxswain was tense as the situation seemed to worsen as the (capsized) boat drifted closer to the bridge.
“All said and done, the boat was saved and the person in the water was rescued and rested on our vessel until able to be returned to his boat.
“Your watch stander Dan Swedrow and OOD (Officer of the Day) Jim Corisbero were constantly in touch when they recognized the tenseness in my voice to make sure that we were OK and if assistance was needed. The concern for us as a crew was evident and the professionalism in the way they communicated with me during the whole incident was reassuring as a new coxswain with limited experience in a high stress event. They should be commended for the job they did and the concern they showed for us. I personally thank them for making a difficult situation a little easier and giving me the confidence to perform.
“Please pass on our appreciation.”
Greiner was eager to express his appreciation as well – not only for his men but for the auxiliary members.
“This is an example of what the CG Auxiliary does every day,” he told the SandPaper. “They help keep our waters safe. Whether they are teaching a boating class, inspecting aids to navigation, visiting local boat dealers, or on patrol, they help keep local mariners safe.”
Bennett said the rescue took about 45 minutes due, in large part to a brisk, southwest wind. He also feared his own vessel would run aground, said he worried that the capsized boat would crash into the bridge supports and, most of all, was concerned that the man in the water might be hit by a passing motor vessel.
“This is something you might want to tell people,” Bennett said. “The guy in the water was all in black: a black wetsuit, a black PFD, he even had black hair. If it was later, he wouldn’t have been easy to see. Even then his visibility was low.”
So, folks, if you want to be like Johnny Cash and be a man in black, fine, but do it on land. Wear something lighter in color when out on the water. Make the jobs of the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Auxiliary a little easier on their 3.4 million square miles!