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School Ship Recognised for Sea Drama Rescue of 51

by Barby MacGowan on 22 Jan 2006
The Corwith Cramer under full sail SW
When 22 college students set out from Key West Florida with a crew of 11 for a standard six week 'Sea Education Association' training voyage last year, they had no idea that they would become involved in a dramatic sea rescue in the Caribbean.

As a result of the rescue, the Sea Education Association of Woods Hole, Mass., Captain Steve Tarrant, and the crew of the Corwith Cramer were selected by The Cruising Club of America to receive the coveted Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship at the club’s annual Awards Dinner in New York on January 17. The Rod Stephens Trophy is to recognize 'an act of seamanship which significantly contributes to the safety of a yacht or one or more individuals at sea.'

When the Corwith Cramer came upon the 51 people they were aboard a dismasted and disabled sailboat. The 25-foot boat, carrying Haitian refugees toward Jamaica, had been at sea for five days without food and was quickly running out of water. The refugees, which included 35 adults and 16 children as young as babies, were brought aboard and taken to safety at Port Antonio, Jamaica.

The story of the Rescue:

The rescue occurred on March 9, 2005 when the 134’ brigantine, Corwith Cramer, and their crew of 22 college students and 11 other crew found the distressed boat while in the fifth of a six week voyage that began in Key West on February 9, 2005 as part of the sea component of the Association’s semester-long program, SEA Semester. At the time, the students were deploying oceanographic sampling equipment in clear weather with a moderate wind blowing.



After making radio calls to the U.S. Coast Guard and SEA headquarters in Woods Hole, all involved on the Corwith Cramer worked to understand the situation, evaluate the condition of the refugees, assess the various risks to all concerned and to develop a plan that all could support. Captain Steve Tarrant ordered the Corwith Cramer’s rescue boat to be launched and sent to the boat with water and a French speaking student, Anita Kasch, to assess the situation. It was determined that they were Haitian refugees, were out of food and almost out of water, but had no injuries or apparent sickness aboard. They also determined that they were fleeing Haiti and were seeking help since their boat was totally disabled

The USCG advised that there was no other vessel in the area capable of making a rescue of the disabled craft. They requested that the Corwith Cramer perform the rescue and offered to be a liaison with the Jamaican Defense Forces.

Various options for the rescue were discussed along with safety and health issues. In the end it was decided to bring all of the Haitians aboard, provide them with easily digestible food and water, install a temporary deck toilet, and provide them with shelter from the wind and spray on deck. After the vessel was prepared, the boarding went smoothly and the following day the refugees were turned over to Jamaican authorities at Port Antonio.

Of the rescue, Captain Tarrant said, 'The survivors were extremely grateful and very cooperative during their rescue. We were lucky to have been in the area and equipped to undertake this mission.'

John K. Bullard, President of SEA said, 'We are thankful we could be of help in this situation and for the efforts of our outstanding captain and crew. We are also happy that our students had a chance to contribute to a successful humanitarian mission.'

About Cruising Club of America

The Cruising Club of America is dedicated to offshore cruising and 'the adventurous use of the sea' through efforts to improve seamanship, the design of seaworthy yachts, safe yachting procedures and environmental awareness. Now in its 83rd year, the club has 10 stations throughout the U.S., Canada and Bermuda, with approximately 1200 members who are qualified by their experience in offshore passage making. In even numbered years, the CCA organizes the Newport to Bermuda Race in conjunction with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. It also sponsors several Safety at Sea seminars and hosts a series of 'Suddenly Alone' seminars for the cruising couple.

For more information on the CCA, go to http://www.cruisingclub.org.

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