Adrift on a dead sailboat in the North Pacific, his engine gone, the rigging tangled, alone with two dogs, the Hawaiian beekeeper with an injured hand got an emergency call out just after dawn on May 9.
And the US Coast Guard answered. Watchstanders in Honolulu flashed a MARB — Marine Assistance Request Broadcast — to every commercial and recreational vessel nearby to rescue the 32-foot Wind Rush, which was believed to be floating roughly 5 nautical miles off northwestern Oahu’s Ka‘ena Point and its serrated lava rocks and coral shoals.
They also scrambled the fast response cutter William Hart, which just came out of six weeks of maintenance. The 154-foot vessel’s commanding officer, US Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cynthia Travers, told Coffee or Die Magazine the dispatch was a great “jump back into the routine.”
The cutter was supposed to begin its patrol at 10 a.m., so the crew just put to sea an hour earlier. The vessel easily speared through 4-foot waves and the breeze, which was steady at only 10 knots because the sailboat was adrift southwest of the island’s Leeward Coast, sheltering it from the trade winds.
The US Coast Guard loves Sentinel-class cutters because they boast a flank speed of more than 28 knots; possess some of the world’s most advanced command, control, communications, and computer technology; and launch from their sterns 26-foot rescue boats that can whip over the horizon to make contact with vessels in distress.
And that’s what Travers’ crew did. When they made contact with the beekeeper, they decided to put a member of the rescue team on his sailboat. Because of his bad hand, they weren’t sure he’d be able to disconnect a towline in an emergency.
“These types of missions are really part of the main reason that we’re here: search and rescue,” Travers said. “This is what these assets were really designed to do.”
The team lashed the sailboat to the cutter and made for Wai‘anae Harbor, a leeward mooring north of Oahu’s Kaneilio Point. That’s because weather conditions were worsening along the North Shore, where the beekeeper lived.
“The seas were starting to build a little bit, so we decided to head south along the western coast of the island,” Travers said.
The beekeeper told his rescuers he left Hale‘iwa Harbor on May 6 and thought he’d only be out a day, but he ended up adrift for 12 hours, without food or water. He might’ve been able to fix his sailboat, but once he lost dexterity in his hand he knew he was in trouble and radioed for a rescue.
“That’s perfect. That’s really what we hope all folks out on the water will do,” Travers said.
“It wasn’t a life-threatening situation, but we wanted to get out to him as soon as possible,” Travers added. “We weren’t sure of the severity of his injury.”
That wasn’t the case with another mariner rescued last summer, shortly after Travers arrived in Oahu from a shore assignment in Washington, DC.
On Sept. 10, 2021, her crew rescued Philip Grenz, a 68-year-old mariner on board the sailboat Epic. He was eight days overdue on a trip that was supposed to run from Kauai’s Nawiliwili Harbor to Hale‘iwa on Oahu’s Waialua Bay.
Watchstanders couldn’t make radio contact with him, and no one was exactly sure where Epic had drifted. The anti-submarine warfare crew of a long-range US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol plane spotted the sailboat 310 nautical miles southwest of Oahu, and Travers’ cutter made fast for him.
On Sept. 9, 2021, the crew of a US Coast Guard HC-130J long-range search and rescue plane from Oahu’s Air Station Barbers Point dropped Grenz an emergency kit that included a radio, water, and food.
“He had had a rough couple of days,” Travers recalled. “He didn’t think that anyone knew he was missing. So he was dealing with ‘No one knows I’m out here. No one’s ever going to find me.’ I think he’d really been through the wringer for sure.”
Travers advises all mariners to keep proper safety equipment on board their vessels; make sure they have communications to notify someone in an emergency; and always let someone know the intended route and destination before putting to sea.
Her crew also is getting a sweeter reward this time.
The Wind Rush’s beekeeper was so thankful to be rescued, he promised to deliver honey to the crew later in the week.