Panbo

Gloria A Dios, & to ACR, SARSAT, USCG, USN, etc.

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jan 9, 2010
Gloria_a_Dios_thermal_image_USCG.JPG

One of the great technological and human triumphs of our time has to be the offshore rescue system.  Some details remain unclear -- like what sort of sailboat Gloria A Dios was, and what route owner/operator Dennis Clements attempted to single hand from Virginia to the Virgin Islands -- but we do know this:  90 minutes after the Elizabeth City, N.C., USCG got the distress signal from his ACR Satellite 2 EPIRB at 5 pm last Saturday night, an HC-130J Hercules aircraft was standing by over the boat 250 miles off Cape Hatteras in nasty full gale conditions.  It was that crew who thermal imaged Glory To God (a sobbering film you can find at the bottom of this USCG page), and who dropped two life rafts when an extra big wave dismasted and then holed her...

Getting a helicopter out there was a trickier proposition, so the Coast Guard called on the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower which had departed Norfolk, VA, earlier that day.  The USN then dispatched a SAR team in a Sea Hawk helo, who flew 100 miles in winds hitting 45 knots with snow and sleet.  By the time they joined the Hercules on scene, Clements had been in the water for about an hour, but had found one of the rafts.  Rescue swimmer Kyle Need plucked him out of the ocean in just minutes!  The mission copilot, Cmdr. Byron Ogden, is quoted on the USN site thusly:  "This is honestly one of the most varsity things we could do as far as SAR goes.  I didn't hear one bit of panic in anybody's voice; the whole crew was very calm, cool and collected."
   Clements checked out fine on the carrier and was flown back to the mainland on a USCG helicopter, where he was filmed describing his experience.  Now he's apparently back in Missouri, and, frankly, I'm beginning to wonder if he's already forgotten how many carefully built government institutions and their skilled personnel saved his butt.  This article in his local paper may be largely the fault of its author, but Clements seems to be giving a lot of credit to God, and little to the people who actually risked their lives for his.  Am I being crabby, or do you agree that this rescue is less a "miracle" than the result of amazingly well developed systems?


Gloria_a_Dios_rescue_map_cPanbo.JPG

Comments

This guy...and that "Jesus is my crewmate" article...ticked me off a bit. I get very little sense that the sailor in question was prepared for this voyage, or needed to make it in the face of known bad weather, or needed to go offshore.

I was on a delivery crew on a Bristol 45.5 in the first half of November from Mobjack, VA to the USVIs (so almost the same route), and even though I've seen plenty of rough weather on the Great Lakes, and even though we were a crew of four on an 18 tonne boat, this was not a trivial delivery. Between a very deep trough and a revived Hurricane Ida, conditions were often rough until the proper tropics and we played chicken with worse weather for the first nine days. Certainly those who did the Caribbean 1500 got worse than us...we kept on keeping on thanks to the big air, but we could've had more or worse or longer squalls than we did.

The idea of doing this solo...in a 35 footer...in January...during a predicted gale... strikes me as foolhardy and dangerous.

That's why I choose to ignore the story of the sailor himself and focus, rightly, I think, on the excellent SAR effort. I do have to wonder, however, if the potential for pulling people alive from the water from offshore distances isn't sending the wrong message to underprepared sailors that "the Coast Guard will save my ass no matter what".

This will not advance the offshore cruising lifestyle any more than having airbags means you can leave the seatbelt off and drive drunk.

Posted by: M. Dacey at January 9, 2010 7:19 PM | Reply

Perhaps the nut should be billed for his rescue since he sees less value in the Service and people that rescued him.

Posted by: MaineFog at January 9, 2010 10:09 PM | Reply

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's. Always say thanks to Our Lord, but do not forget to mantain dry your powder. Impressive, coordinated effort from USCG & USN. The solo (& probably imprudent) sailor should have being praising the correct & procedent use of his taxpayer's dollars. And -of course- giving heartly thanks to Jesus for everything.

Posted by: Gonzalo at January 10, 2010 7:22 AM | Reply

I can tell you this from personal experience after having trained as a USCG helo crewman in Elizabeth City NC and flew 3 years (helos) at Air Station Miami. NOBODY in that helo wanted to go, they went because that is their duty. Flying around in that crap at low altitudes, poor visibility, extraordinarily rough seas, and hovering to pick up some dumbass who hasn't enough sense to even sail down the ICW highlights the exceptional bravery and courage of USCG crews. The sad part is,,,they don't always come home. Congratulations to the crew that brought this idiot home,,,and rememberances to those USCG crews that tried,,and didn't make it.

Posted by: David at January 10, 2010 7:26 AM | Reply

I'm giving Clements the benefit of doubt regarding his route. Several reports say he left Norfolk bound for the V.I., but that doesn't mean for certain that he didn't go down the ICW to Beaufort/Morehead City before heading offshore. Which is what at least 99% of vessels that size would do, even during gentler months.

This case brings up an interesting question: Wouldn't those three flight crews have been less endangered if Clements had set off his EPIRB much sooner? Apparently he'd been having major problems for at least three days. Had he sent an earlier distress message, the USCG might have been able to talk to him from an aircraft, drop pumps, divert a ship to his location...had multiple options short of putting helo crews out at night in a storm.

But if Clements had deployed the EPIRB earlier, some people, even fellow boaters, might have said that he misused it! In other words, there may not be a clear line regarding the right and wrong ways to use the distress system. I understand that the Coast Guard is generally forgiving about early use, even unnecessary use, because of these risk dynamics.

Posted by: Ben at January 10, 2010 8:42 AM | Reply

" but Clements seems to be giving a lot of credit to God, and little to the people who actually risked their lifes for his."

Gee, If Clements credits God with the fact he was rescued then why did he bother carrying an EPIRB? I'm sure it all would have worked out just fine without the EPIRB, USCG and USN. Right Clements?

Posted by: Richard C at January 10, 2010 9:57 AM | Reply

God may save, but he doesn't rescue.

Posted by: M at January 10, 2010 10:06 AM | Reply

Note that some of these accounts, especially the ones from Missouri, suffer from the reporter's ignorance. For example, this one, in which the USCG can't find the boat so they just drop the life rafts "randomly":

http://www.kctv5.com/news/22189432/detail.html

A miracle story in the making.

Posted by: Ben at January 10, 2010 10:21 AM | Reply

It's heartening to see that many of the readers of the story were able to "read between the lines" and realize who were the true "saviors".

We should all write letters to the newspapers pointing out the disservice they do by not giving credit to the Navy and Coast Guard. Responsible reporting will educate the public as to how some of their tax dollars are being spent to support of such training.

Posted by: Keith at January 10, 2010 10:39 AM | Reply

I felt compelled to leave the following on the newspaper's comment board:

Sir, God may have saved your soul, but the effort of the US Navy and the US Coast Guard, coordinated by the international search and rescue COSPAS-SARSAT system is what saved your earthly body. You give short shrift to the young Navy Rescue Swimmer who jumped into the very sea that claimed your boat to save your life.

Your earthly body was saved by several billions of dollars of your fellow human beings' treasure ensuring that when your personal choices landed you in the water, there was a system in place that would locate you and find you.

Thank God for being alive and do good things. But heap abundant praise on those that actually saved you.

Posted by: CharlieJ at January 11, 2010 8:56 AM | Reply

Though I'm really glad that some folks in our world have made it their life's work to bring others from peril-whether coasties, mountain rescue etc. I get really pissed when the carelessness, inexperience-whatever create situations where the savers face peril to rescue folks who shouldn't be out there. This guys boat filled because he likely left it open or didn't property prepare the boat-possible both. Sounds like too much sail up and inappropriate "sailing" posture for the conditions.

Thank you Coast Guard and Navy-If you want to support their rescue missions- send a little support-monetary or bodily-to the Coast Guard Auxiliary, who these days are a full team member of the Coast Guard extending their capabilities and capacity to be effective in a significant daily manner doing SAR, communications support and much more.

Sorry for the "blurb" but the facts stand.

Posted by: Anonymous at January 11, 2010 9:02 AM | Reply

didn't any of you watch the video of his interview? he spent the first minute and a half praising the efforts of the coast guard and the navy in rescuing him. if swimming for an hour in those conditions until he bumped into the life raft isn't a miracle, i don't know what is. give him a break.

Posted by: hbum at January 11, 2010 10:51 PM | Reply

Another rescue, very different crew situation, detailed here:

http://forums.sailinganarchy.com/index.php?showtopic=101905

Posted by: Ben at January 13, 2010 3:49 PM | Reply

Have you seen the article in Soundings about the real reason that he thanks God to be alive???

http://www.soundingsonline.com/news/dispatches/392-jan-8/248172-rescue-is-a-race-against-time-weather

I'm normally as skeptical as the next guy, but this is an amazingly lucky guy who had his prayers answered!!!

Posted by: Ed Herlihy at January 15, 2010 9:02 AM | Reply

Chris Landry has an excellent follow-up article on this incident in the March Soundings. Did you know that the only reason the EPIRB activated was because it was put in its mount backwards?

http://www.soundingsonline.com/news/coastwise/250202-twice-lucky-sailor-cheats-death-at-sea

Also in the issue is an article about fast offshore fishing boats that features a gentleman named Bill "WFO" Platt who I may get to fish with next month, thanks to Garmin. You'll laugh when you read about his boat and that nickname:

http://www.soundingsonline.com/component/content/article/250342/250342

Posted by: Ben at March 6, 2010 7:53 AM | Reply

Leave a comment