On January 18, the crew of the LNG tanker Stena Crystal Sky rescued two American sailors from a damaged yacht in the Eastern Pacific.
The sailors, Don Spitler and Elizabeth Anderson, had planned a voyage from Cabo San Lucas to the Marquesas to the Cook Islands aboard their yacht, the Jaunt. On January 18, while under way 850 nm southwest of Cabo, they encountered severe weather and suffered damage to their rudder and autopilot. They sent a distress text message to the Garmin inReach emergency call center, and the center contacted the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard then used the AMVER vessel reporting system to identify the nearest participating merchant vessel, the Crystal Sky, which was about 240 nm away.
The Crystal Sky’s master agreed to divert to assist, and the ship got under way. When she arrived on scene, surface conditions were unfavorable for small boat operations, with winds of 20 knots and swells over ten feet. Her boat crew – Second Officer John Giffin, Third Officer James Hamilton, Third Engineer Shaun Reid and able seaman Alejandro Flores – launched despite the swells and safely rescued the two sailors. They abandoned the yacht at sea, and the two survivors remained aboard until the LNG carrier arrived in Panama.
“To sum up the event, we knew that we were in a difficult rescue situation and had no expectation, only hope,” said Don Spitler in a statement provided by the Crystal Sky’s ship manager. “We felt for our rescuers as they put themselves out for us. We knew that this was a commercial vessel, not the Coast Guard, but the skill of the captain and crew proved them capable of just such a rescue as well.”
“I would like thank Captain Whiteley and the crew for their professionalism and exceptional effort in rescuing Mr Spitler and Ms Anderson,” said Andrew Salt, fleet manager for Northern Marine Management. “Fulfilling their obligations to aid those in danger at sea, the crew displayed exceptional seamanship and their actions are a credit to themselves and to the Company.”
In a separate statement, the Coast Guard reminded sailors that they are strongly encouraged to have a registered 406-MHz EPIRB on their vessel in addition to any other communications or emergency texting device they may carry (in this case, a Garmin InReach device). EPIRB messages from U.S.-registered beacons are received and processed directly by a federal search and rescue communications center.