The crew of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District Survey Vessel Florida II, assisted the U.S. Coast Guard in the rescue of a small distressed boat off the coast of Florida recently.
The three-person crew conducted a routine hydrographic survey 10 miles offshore near Cape Canaveral and responded to a “MAYDAY” call stating that a vessel was taking on water and going down.
With a global positioning system and visual cues from the vessel operator, the crew aboard Florida II kicked into action to assist.
“We heard the call on the radio, and Jayce and I picked right up on it,” said Tim Gregory, FLORIDA II boat captain, and operator. “We started locking in on his position, calling the guy, trying to figure out where he was located and came to the conclusion that he was only two miles from us, so we started steaming toward the boat.”
The crew immediately set a course with the longitude and latitude and soon came across a disabled 26-foot small craft and taking on water.
They arrived on the scene, and the operator and friend were bailing water overboard with a small pelican case while struggling to keep up with the incoming water.
“We could see that the boat was just about to go down, and the outboard motors were running to keep the boat moving and prevent it from sinking,” said Gregory. ‘We arrived just in time to help.”
Once that potential threat was averted, the Florida II crew made contact with the small boat and conveyed their details to the Coast Guard.
Jayce Evans, also a boat captain on the Florida II, said the crew provided a larger bucket that helped dump the flooding water quicker than the case until a unit from the Coast Guard arrived on the scene.
“We train for these types of situations but don’t actually see it unfold unless things like this happen,” said Evans. “Anything can happen while out a sea, so having a contingency plan usually helps. Not only do we train for ourselves, but we train in case there are situations in distress where we have to help others.”
The Florida II crew directed the U.S. Coast Guard to their location so they could use their dewatering pump and get the boat to safety.
“We relayed GPS coordinates, number of persons on board, and vessel status to the Coast Guard,” Gregory said. “Within 15 or 20 minutes, the Coast Guard arrived.”
Using the information provided by the crew of the Florida II and Coast Guard personnel, quickly arrived on the scene to rescue the boaters and tow their vessel to a nearby marina.
“The support of local agencies is always great, and we are out a sea so much that we have any emergency contacts we need,” said Gregory. “In this case, we had the opportunity to assist.
The Florida II is a 62’ x 24’ foot hydrofoil-assisted aluminum catamaran powered by twin MTU 10v2000 engines. It provides critical support for key USACE missions, including port dredging, navigation, shore protection, environmental studies, archaeological investigations, geotechnical analysis, military projects, and emergency response.
Gregory noted that had rescue vessels not arrived as quickly as they had, the Florida II crew stood ready to take the boaters from the distressed vessel aboard had their situation worsened to the point where that would have been necessary.
Gregory and Evans said the crew of the FLORIDA II were humble about their role in the rescue.
“Yes, it feels good, but we were just out here doing our job,” said Gregory. “It’s all of our responsibilities when we are out on the sea. Mariners look out for one another out here.”
Both Evans and Gregory are former Coast Guard officers with more than 35 years of maritime experience.
After the Coast Guard personnel arrived, the 45-foot Survey Vessel FLORIDA II and her crew of three, including Gregory, captain and the boat operator; Jayce Evans, captain and boat operator; and Chad Schaler, survey technician, went back to their mission of surveying Cape Canaveral.