Safety First!
by Wayne Spivak
National Press Corps
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

A Restless Spirit saves the Pentecost
America’s Volunteer Lifesavers
assist in saving the day

With Hal Leahy
Flotilla 51 - Riviera Beach, FL
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

The 15th of April was just another average, run of the mill day. But for some American’s, each day brings new adventures and new opportunities. These Americans choose to volunteer their time to help both their community and their sport, as members of America’s Volunteer Lifesavers – the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.

It was a clear warm day in sunny Florida, just like any other day, except on this day, an Emergency call will challenge several members of the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Palm Beach Police Department’s Marine Bureau.

At 1PM, Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet received an emergency call from the Restless Spirit, a 50’ live-aboard sailing vessel. The report as taken by Auxiliarist Tom Dubell, who was augmenting this day as a Watchstander (someone who mans both the radio and phones at a Coast Guard Station) stated that the sloop Pentecost, another 50’ sail boat, with no one aboard had dragged its anchor and collided with the Restless Spirit.

While the damage report was currently minor, the Restless Spirit was reporting that the bow spirit (the front most extension on a vessel) was caught in the rail of the Pentecost. The Restless Spirit also reported that two of the crew were attempting to hold-off the Pentecost, from causing more damage.

Adding to the burden, was the tide and condition of the Restless Spirit. The tide was at its low, and as is normal, the Restless Spirit was aground. Thus, moving or maneuvering the vessel was out of the question.

The Auxiliary vessel Rena Bug II was on a regularly scheduled patrol in the area of the collision. Crewing the vessel this day was Ed McClaran (the Coxswain) and his crew Mirella Ayers, Rhonda Hebert and Hal Leahy.

Approximately 26 minutes after the initial call, the Rena Bug located the two vessels and arrived on scene just after a Marine unit from the Palm Beach Police Department arrived.

Shortly thereafter, Sea Tow, a commercial salver, arrived. The skipper of the Sea Tow vessel however, could not render assistance. Company policy requires that an owner be present when it is not a salvage event.

After discussing the situation with the station, the crew of Restless Spirit, the Palm Beach PD vessel and the Rena Bug, it was decided to attempt to move the Pentecost away from the Restless Spirit. This normally would be somewhat complicated, but both the Palm Beach vessel (a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat – RHIB) and the Rena Bug were 21' vessels.

As the RHIB tied off to the port side of Pentecost facing her stern the Rena Bug tied up to the starboard side of the RHIB. She, the Rena Bug was also facing the stern of the Pentecost. This was done to get maximum power from the engines.

Auxiliarists Ayers and Leahy boarded the Pentecost in order to slacken the anchor line to allow the PD and Auxiliary vessels to move the Pentecost away from the Restless Spirit. Having cleared the immediate distress, Ayers and Leahy reboarded the Rena Bug and then both “rescue” boats disengaged from each other and the Pentecost.

The Rena Bug then towed the Pentecost further away while dragging her anchor. It was hoped that the Pentecost's anchor would set; something it failed to do. While the Rena Bug theoretically could control the Pentecost, this day reality got in the way. Due to the wind and current, it was impossible for the Rena Bug to safely tow the Pentecost.

Shortly thereafter, a 41’ Coast Guard Patrol Boat from Station Lake Worth Inlet arrived on scene, with a spare anchor. With the assistance of the Coast Guard 41’ boat, the spare anchor, and the Rena Bug, the Pentecost was successfully moved, reanchored and secured, with minimal damage, and no injuries.

From 1PM till the scene was considered secured, some three and a half hours later, both the Crew of the Rena Bug, the Palm Beach Police Department, Sea Tow and the Restless Spirit were all coordinated and corresponded with Station Lake Worth Inlet. At the station, monitoring and controlling the actions and responses of the vessels involved in the incident, Auxiliarist Watchstander Tom DuBell.

Summing up the experience, Hal Leahy said “an interesting case, where multiple services worked as a team to bring about a successful, safe conclusion. That what being a member of the Coast Guard Team is all about.”