Monday, November 28, 2005

A Close Call

"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!


jcole16757 said...

Definitely have to consider these folks very, very lucky!  I'm sure it was hair raising to listen to it.  I'd consider this a holiday miracle no one was hurt also!

ajoleblon said...

Sam that is an awesome story with a miraculous ending.  I have been on the intracoastal waterway many times here in Louisiana.  We have had bridges opened for us to pass through and it's pretty darned scarey to think that that could happen. I cross several pontoon bridges across the Vermilion River everyday and dread the idea that they would open/close the bridge while I'm still on it.  My aunt lived on the Intracoastal Waterway and we used to ride the pontoon bridge as kids. (Before Liability Insurance demaned we stop)  A very fond memory for me.  Gosh, how many times have I swam the intracoastal??  Sorry about the journal entry in your comment section.  LOL

ajoleblon said...

PS  What a wonderful way to welcome everyone home...a lighthouse.  Beautiful.

schnozbeary said...

Chills down my spine!!! I have seen boats in trouble in our ICW and am always amazed and admiring of our Coast Guard attachment who has managed to steer clear of any fatalities that they could get to..... Lots to be thankful for!!! Penny

childebrand1968 said...

Wow, now that is a miracle!  I can't believe the boat suffered little damage.  I've seen drawbridges in operation, and that is a lot of weight coming down on that mast!

Those people must have some serious guardian angels!  Glad no one was hurt :)

I may use that lighthouse... I like the idea.  I have compiled a list of relocated JLanders here:

There are 116 now.  Sad, isn't it?!  Hopefully, AOL will remove the ads, or give folks a choice to have them or not... so they can come back :)

Have a great day, Sam... thanks for sharing yet another tale of the sea.  I enjoy them immensely, especially with happy endings....


madcobug said...

Glad everything turned out ok Sam and no lives were lost. The pictures are good.  You told the story well. Good idea on the lighthouse. I feel as you do about the situation. It should be everyones personal choice wheather to go or stay. We had our journals ad free for a while last night but when I couldn't sleep during the night I turned my computer on and the ads were back. A few of us were really excited thinking maybe they were gone for good. Sigh!. Helen

globetrotter2u said...


I am so glad this story had a happy ending.

And yes, the lighthouse is a wondeful beacon for all those weary bloggers out there looking for some light!


labdancer51 said...

What a dramatic story!  Thank goodness no-one was hurt.

Sandra xx

ally123130585918 said...

Hello Sam - I was sitting on the edge of my seat to find the outcome of your story, I am so glad they were safe and not too much damage was done to their boat. Their Guardian Angels must have been working very hard for them...when you look at the size of the draw bridge I'm surprised anything survived..Take care...Ally

my3gifts said...

I'm gulping back the tears right now, literally. Those guys in blue are awesome! My aunt retired from the CG last yr, although her job was a desk job we know we need all types to keep the military running, and she had the utmost respect for the guys at sea. We also had a neighbor in Virginia who was in the CG and we loved them!

So often I think of how the CG is left out of the military because they don't seem to deploy, etc...but their job is so extremely important at keeping our shores safe.

Thanks for the reminder!

God Bless

xzasporated1 said...

Love the lighthouse.  You are a true gentleman.  And no matter the choices each of us is making, we remain a single community.  And a great team!

~~ jennifer

rap4143 said...

Sam I snagged the lighthouse :). Thank you!!!

guru4yall said...

Thank you for sharing another wonderful entry. I read your journal frequently commenting seldom because I don't feel I can add anything constructive to what you wrote. I know that every now and then we all like an acknowledgement that we're appreciated. Just letting you hear from a lurker who appreciates and even envies your work. Keep it up....and by the way I'm glad you stayed.

nightmaremom said...

Wow!  What a day that must have been.  I am so happy everyone is ok and their baby suffered little damage.  I can't even image.  You had me on the edge of my seat the whole way, as usual :)
The light house looks wonderful Sam, I have to say it fits your theme magnificently and the meaning is so strong.  We all agree that we want our community to be strong and know we are all here for each other.  You put it so elegantly.

ryanagi said...

Thanks for leaving the light on. ;-)

barbpinion said...

Wow! Talk about a miracle. This was one! Thanks for sharing it. I'm so glad the Coast Guard was able to help them. Have a terrific day, my friend.

lurkynat said...

Dear Sam
whata touching entry! Wow That must have beens tressful! Im so glad taht youwere there to help everyone!

sieblonde said...

You never know what a day will bring, huh.   Glad that everything worked out well for those guys.  ~Sie

judithheartsong said...

thank you for the light...... that means a lot. judi

mutualaide said...

Great entry Sam!  As always you make us feel as if we are sitting or standing right next to you!

Keeping the light burning -- a great idea!

coljan61 said...

Amazing!  I have been rescued by the Coast Guard once and they were incredible!  Our first power boat had a glitch (flaw) in the fuel system, and it would take on water into the lines when we stopped for a short period of time.  Needless to say, then we couldn't get started again.  One summer afternoon this happened after we had it "repaired" and a storm was coming.  Lake Ponchartrain was getting rough, and a little scary.  It was hot, and geting dark and we asked the CG to come and help.  They arrived, and were absolutely wonderful--boarded our boat, inspected our certificates, we had on life vests, and they then lashed our boat to theirs and home we went--they even docked us into our slip.  I wrote to their commander to thank them for their professionalism and spirit.  They are some of the first lines of defense we have for homeland security.  Next time you get a chance, thank a CG member for some of the freedoms we take fo granted.

mavarin said...

That was fascinating, Sam.  And your note at the bottom made my cry.  But in a good way.  Thanks. - Karen (every day) (occasionally)

yakima127 said...

What a story!  JAE

pixiedustnme said...

What a great story - and you are right about the Holiday miracle, WOW!

ksquester said...

I love your comment in red........I hope they will return also.   ANNE

jtuwliens said...

Awesome story!  The Coast Guard did a remarkable job.  Thanks for sharing this, Sam.
And, I love the lighthouse!

indigosunmoon said...

Wow!  How scary was that!  Whew! Those folks
were very lucky!

jeroldssis said...

who would have thought the perverbial light house would get me all teary-eyed??  That is just the NICEST things for us who have left.  Wow.  Speechless...uh, well, before I get speechless, you're a great story teller.  But you know that already.


louie0768 said...

There is definately nothing routine about your job Sam. Although I am very grateful for the safety and the quick action taken by both the couple on the boat and the Coast Guard, I would have to say that I would have done exactly the same thing that you did. Ran and taken a seat right next to that radio.

We used to have a police scanner here for Pat's job and him and I were constantly running so he could get photos for the paper and such. Fires, accidents. Not really a very appealing thing but when you are not really physically involved in the action, it sure is good for a story such as this. Especially when the ending is good.

Being one of those who has left AOL, that is a really thoughtful thing that Nightmare mom has done and you as well. Thank you for that kind gesture as you both have visited my journal. Makes one feel special.  :O)  (guest writer)

onemoretina said...

    Hello, Sam !  Fascinating and suspenseful story. And you are right  ...  The Coast Guard did one heck of a job to avert what could have been a real disaster.  Isn't it nice to know they are looking out for us ?
    Hope you enjoyed the Thanksgiving weekend with your family.  By the way, I just HAVE to tell you ..... the picture of you on the preceeding entry looks SO much like my husband.  I had noticed the resemblance in pictures I had seen of you before, but that one really struck me.  "Separated at birth," perhaps ?? LOL    Take care, my friend ... always good to read about your experiences ....  Tina

sistercdr said...

What a story!  I don't think the Coast Guard gets the credit they deserve in the public eye.  My journal here may be closed, but I'm still reading my friends.

jlocorriere05 said...

You are rightly proud of your coastguards. Ours too do remarkable work, out in all weathers and situations. Our are voluntary so do'nt get even get paid for being out in storms etc.!! Not a job I'd relish!! Jeannette.

ondinemonet said...

Ahoy Sam :)

This was an amazing entry. You told it with such detail, it felt like I was there. I like hearing about things that happen at the dock and how the situations are handled. This could have been a much different story, I am glad the outcome was a happy one. Little damage to the boat and the two souls on board safe and sound. I also want to tell you that once again you have amazed me with your photographs. You have some real talent. Thank you for the lighthouse on the sidebar, it is good to know there is a light in the middle of all this darkness.


Always, Carly :)

piperacharmed1 said...

Great entry...I always feel as if I am right there when I read your stories...and they were very lucky to come out of that with very little damage.


dtbrierly said...

Hi Sam, I really enjoy your entries and this one was amazing!  I was never part of J Land but I wish I had experienced it, the lighthouse is very touching.  Hope you had a great holiday.


blondepennierae said...

Great story Sam!  But then again all your tales of the sea are fascinating.  We love reading them.  I love the lighthouse idea.  Pennie

memes121 said...

Wow. Sam, that was awesome! You had me on the edge of my seat! Good think the desk was there to catch me.

slbourgoyne said...

Very interesting story!  I always have a little fear when we go under a bridge on our boat.  We should all appreciate the Coast Gaurd, from boater training to emergencies.  Lynn

rivercitygirl1 said...

Hi Sam,
This was an amazing story.  I've always been afraid to go out on the water plus I get deathly sick sea.  I know sea sickness isn't fatal but the few times that I've been on the water I felt as though I was going to die.  Thank God for the Coast Guard.  :)

cyndygee said...

All's well that ends well.  That was scary there for a little while!

Great photos, Sam!

sunnyside46 said...

what an exciting story, well told!

jevanslink said...

Great tale with terrific pictures.  I love the Lighthouse.  I've got one foot out the door.  But it will take me awhile to completely leave.  I'm not as organized as some of the other folks. My bags weren't packed.

Mrs. L