"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!" It was Wednesday, a week before Thanksgiving, and I had just arrived at work after having Monday and Tuesday off. I had checked the gas pumps and retrieved the daily printout from our fuel tank monitoring station. The voice on the radio was shrill and high pitched. I first thought the voice sounded like a child playing on the radio.
I hurried into my dock shack to hear this on the big radio. I was sure the Coast Guard would come on and tell the kid to quit playing on the radio.
"Vessel hailing Mayday, this is the United States Coast Guard, Section Tybee, do you copy?" I thought, "Gee! Are they are taking this child seriously, or giving him enough rope to hang himself?"
"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is the "Dauphina!" We are taking on water, possibly sinking! The bridge just closed right on top of us. U. S. Guard, Mayday!"
A chill went up my spine almost causing my hair to stand on end! This was no child, but an obviously hysterical lady shouting into the microphone.
This is every boater's nightmare who operates a boat tall enough to need draw bridges to open for safe passage. There is a drawbridge just south of our area and also one just to the north of us. This boat had tried to go through the drawbridge to the north of us as it headed south, coming towards us.
I settled onto my stool and turned up the volume. I was compelled to listen as this played out.
"Coast Guard! This is the 'Dauphina,' we were heading south under the bridge and it closed right on top of our mast! Our cockpit was pushed completely under water and we are taking on water! We need help!"
Coast Guard Tybee: "Yes ma'am! I understand the bridge came down on top of you and you are taking on water. What is your current position, ma'am and how many people are on board?"
Dauphina: "We are at the Causton Bluff bridge and are taking on water! The engine quit and we are trying to get our bilge pumps on and to get clear of the bridge. There are two adults on board. The bridge tender closed the bridge on us!"
Coast Guard Tybee: "Delphina, I understand you are taking on water and there are two adults on board. Ma'am at this time, I'd like you toput on your PFD's (life preservers) if you haven't put them on yet."
Dauphina: "Coast Guard I understand. Yes, we are putting our life vests on now. Our situation is stabilizing, the water is being pumped out and my husband just threw out an anchor. There seems to be a lot of damage, our engine quit."
Coast Guard Tybee: "Dauphina, this is Coast Guard Tybee. Ma'am, I understand you have thrown out your anchor. Please give me your current position."
Dauphina: "Coast Guard Tybee, we are right at the bridge and, hold on, here comes my husband. He can update you on our situation." (Voice of husband) "Coast Guard, our pumps seem to have cleared our cockpit of water, we seem to be stabilized now and I can't see any more water coming in. We need to be towed to a facility to assess our damage and get the boat out of the water. Please send a tow boat as fast as possible."
To make a long story short, (this dialogue went on for over forty-five minutes), The Dauphina was a sailboat heading south on the Intra Coastal Waterway. It had approached the bridge right behind another sailboat. The first sailboat hailed the bridge on the VHF radio and requested an opening for passage through the bridge. The Drawbridge operator complied and the Delphina followed the first boat through without contacting the bridge operator. The bridge tender, as they are called, must not have noticed the second boat, or grossly misjudged the timing of closing the bridge for a safe passage by both boats.
I did some follow up investigating a couple of days later, as I have friends working at the facility where the boat was eventually hauled out. There was very little damage that actually occurred. The boat is of a type that is built for offshore racing and was strong enough to survive this punishment. I was astounded.
According to my friend, the bridge came down on the top of the mast and literally pushed the boat down into the water. This caused the cockpit to go below the surface of the water and it filled up immediately spilling water down the companionway into the cabin and engine compartment of the boat.
Fast work by the captain of the boat got the pumps on and the water out before complete floatation was lost. No damage to the deck where the mast was stepped occurred and very little damage happened to the rigging.
If you were looking for a holiday miracle, well it's a miracle that no one was injured and that the boat was able to weather such a blow and survive.
I'm proud of the Coast Guard in the way that they handled this event. They had a launch on scene much faster than I had thought possible. They got a commercial towing outfit to respond to the situation and got the main channel to the Intra Coastal Waterway cleared for navigation in what seemed like record time.
I've said it here before, and I'll say it again. Thank God for our boys in blue! You can all be proud of the way the Coast Guard operates in my area, and I'm sure how they operate around the rest of the country as well. Well done, U. S. Coast Guard!
Just a note to explain the lighthouse that now appears in my "About Me" space. Recently, AOL began putting advertising at the top of our journals without any warning whatsoever. Many who have journals on AOL left AOL and set up their journals via different service providers as a way of protest to AOL's actions.
This lighthouse was created by Nightmaremom, (Donna), over at The journal "This That and Hockey." The lighthouse is to represent to our friends who left that we have left a home light burning so that they may find their way back to read and comment in our journals, or to come back and journal here at AOL again.
We will always cherish the friendships we have made in this community and respect the decisions of those who both left and those who stayed. We just wanted to let them know they are welcome back anytime!