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January 2018

USNS Yuma Mariners Save 7 During Rescue at Sea
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By Bill Mesta, Military Sealift Command Public Affairs

Civil Service Mariners who crew Military Sealift Command’s expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Yuma (T-EPF 8) performed a rescue at sea of seven pleasure boaters, Oct. 29.

“Yuma was transiting from Gulfport, Mississippi, to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story when we received a request from the U.S. Coast Guard to assist the 50-foot pleasure boat, Good Ole Girl II, which had lost power and was adrift in heavy seas approximately 15 miles south of Key West, Florida,” said Capt. David Gommo, USNS Yuma’s master. “The boat was approximately 45 miles south of Yuma when the distress call was received.”

There were no other U.S. Navy or U.S. Coast Guard assets in the vicinity of the pleasure-boat when the call for assistance was raised.
“We received the call at 10 p.m. with information that the vessel was drifting south towards the coast of Cuba,” added Gommo. “So we immediately changed course to search for the disabled boat.”
The seas between Yuma and the Good Ole Girl II were 7-9 feet at the time of the distress call.

“My biggest initial concern was that if we were going to perform a rescue at sea I wanted to do it during daylight hours as I didn’t want the added complexity of performing a rescue at sea in the dark.” said Gommo. “Initially, we were unable to find the distressed boaters but with the assistance of a merchant ship we located Good Ole Girl II.”

“We were able to establish radio communications with the boat once Yuma was on scene,” said Gommo. “The pleasure boat was without power and had been adrift, ‘beam to the seas’ for about six hours.”

Once the distressed vessel was located, Yuma maneuvered very close to the boat and performed a ‘skin-to-skin’ maneuver to bring aboard six of Good Ole Girl II’s passengers. One person remained aboard the pleasure boat as the owner hoped to have the craft towed to safety.

“We attempted to tow the boat to shore but the 7-9 foot seas caused the mooring line to fail,” according to Gommo. “When the mooring line failed we recommended to the owner that we would not be able to tow the vessel to land. He was fine with this and just stated they were all grateful to be aboard Yuma.”

USNS Yuma is crewed by an all civilian crew of 30 civil service mariners who perform all of the ship’s functions including deck watches, engineering and supply requirements.

“The rescue of the passengers aboard Good Ole Girl II was an all-hands evolution,” stated Gommo. “From maintaining the proper propulsion and navigational direction to line-handling, all of Yuma’s mariners were key to the rescue’s success.”

The rescued pleasure boaters expressed their gratitude to the crew of Yuma with a letter penned to Rear Adm. Dee Mewbourne, Commander Military Sealift Command.

“We want to express our deepest gratitude, honor, praise and respect to these heros,” the letter states. “We are forever indebted to them. Everyone demonstrated the highest quality of care and generosity while aboard Yuma.”

USNS Yuma is the U.S. Navy’s newest expeditionary fast transport whose primary mission is to transport personnel and cargo at high speeds.

“Yuma is an incredible vessel, but it is the Captain and crew which makes her extraordinary to us,” concluded the letter.

According to reports, Good Ole Girl II drifted to the coast of Cuba. The owner’s insurance company is in negotiations to have the pleasure-boat returned.