Right place, right time


Post written by PA3 Jasmine Mieszala

Normally, a search and rescue call on the water is routed through a Coast Guard unit for coordination. No such call was made when a Coast Guard Auxiliary boat crew happened upon three kayakers in a busy shipping lane with a cargo ship minutes away from colliding with them the night of July 19.

A local Coast Guard Auxiliary crew was underway conducting routine training and drills when a lookout spotted what appeared to be a single kayaker in the middle of the Fort McHenry Channel.

Although sea conditions were calm, the sun was quickly setting and the kayaker was in the middle of a busy shipping channel with a large, cargo ship inbound.

As the crew neared the kayaker, they discovered two additional people in the water. The kayakers had no radio, signaling devices or lights and only one of the men in the water was wearing a life jacket.

“You could tell they were exhausted,” said Coast Guard Auxiliarist Bruce Johnson, coxswain of the 30-foot sailboat, Glamorgan. “The only operator remaining in a kayak was attempting to paddle the two men in the water and the submerged kayaks to shore without much success.”140719-G-XX999-001

The crew provided floatation devices for the two people in the water and threw a line to the only kayaker remaining afloat.

“Our goal was to get them out of the channel as fast as possible,” said Johnson. “There was no way the cargo ship would have seen them. The ship was approaching at about 15-20 knots. We only had about 15 minutes to get them out of the channel before being hit.”

The tow was initiated immediately to remove the kayakers from the ship’s path.

Once out of immediate danger, the crew helped the two kayakers out of the water and began rendering first aid. They were treated for mild hypothermia.

“I’m glad we were there when they needed help,” said Johnson. “We were in the right place at the right time. We saved three lives.”

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