R/V Neil Armstrong aids injured sailor off Puerto Rico

(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — A U.S. Coast Guard Station San Juan crew and the crew of the research vessel Neil Armstrong assisted a distressed sailing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, approximately 35 nautical miles north of Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

Assisted were a man, 63, and a woman, 57, U.S. citizens, after the man – who was the master of the 48-foot Windward, a Texas-registered sailing vessel – suffered a laceration in his arm while trying to repair the boat’s disabled engines.

Coast Guard watch standers in Sector San Juan received a VHF Channel 16 radio transmission from Windward at 3:59 a.m. Thursday reporting the distress. Watch standers directed the launch of a Station San Juan 45-foot response boat-medium to Windward’s reported position. They also transmitted an urgent marine information broadcast to advise marine traffic in the area to be on the lookout.

Christened after the legendary astronaut, the U.S. Navy’s 238-foot research vessel Neil Armstrong is home-ported at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth, Mass. Ken Kostel/WHOI photo

The research vessel Neil Armstrong responded to the the call, arrived on scene and dispatched a medical team along with an engineer aboard the sailing vessel. The medical team was able to stabilize the man’s injured arm while the Coast Guard boat crew arrived on scene.

After completing the 40-mile transit, the Coast Guard boat crew came alongside Windward to assess the situation. The boat crew established a tow line with the vessel in 5- to 7-foot seas and transited 30 nautical miles, over five hours, until they reached safe harbor at Puerto del Rey marina in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

A Sea Tow vessel took over the tow, while the Coast Guard boat crew transferred the injured mariner to awaiting emergency medical service personnel. Following the towing evolution, the Coast Guard boat crew conducted a boarding of Windward with no findings.

“Overall, the crew did an amazing job assessing the situation,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenneth Coates, Station San Juan coxswain for the case. “All we had to do was bring the people we were helping to safety, luckily they had everything they needed. They had an unfortunate situation, and we’re glad we were able to help them out.”

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Rich Miller