A Good Samaritan and the U.S. Coast Guard worked together Tuesday to rescue a U.S. Virgin Islands man from the water after his 12-foot catamaran capsized north of Culebra Island, Puerto Rico.
According to a USCG news release, Kevin Wenk, 36, from the USVI was thrown into the water when his pleasure craft, “Electra Cat,” capsized half a mile off the north northeastern coast of Culebra Island Tuesday morning.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan received a VHF Channel 16 marine radio transmission at 11:02 a.m. Tuesday from Wenk, who reported that he was clinging to his catamaran. Despite having had life jackets onboard, he said he had been unable to retrieve one when the vessel capsized.
Watchstanders in Sector San Juan broadcasted an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast to mariners in the area advising them to be on the lookout. They also launched a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen, a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement boat from Boat Forces St. Thomas, and directed Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier to search for the distressed boater.
With rescue efforts underway, the operator of the vessel One Life, a recreational vessel near Wenk’s location, headed to the scene upon hearing the Coast Guard’s UMIB. The Coast Guard did not provide the name of the boater, but as the Good Samaritan responded, Wenk was able communicate via marine radio and direct the One Life to his position.
“This search and rescue case highlights the importance of having a VHF Marine Radio onboard all maritime vessels,” said Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Phipps, chief of the Sector San Juan Command Center. “The Coast Guard listens to VHF Ch. 16 24 hours a day. Based on the VHF Channel 16 transmission, we quickly acquired a Line of Bearing from the handheld waterproof VHF marine radio transmission, which allowed us to vector responding assets to his position. We were also able to talk to Mr. Wenk directly and keep in contact with him until assistance arrived.”
The operator of One Life safely recovered Wenk from the water and brought him to the crew of the Boat Forces Detachment St. Thomas boat, who embarked and transported the rescued boater to St. Thomas.