One late summer Sunday, while on an on-water Maritime Observation Mission (MOM), after completing verification of the aids to navigation on the Waccamaw River and then working at moving a rather large tree that was a hazard to navigation on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), the Auxiliary patrol crew spotted a personal watercraft (PWC) with two passengers stranded in the water in the middle of the ICW.
They approached the PWC and inquired if they required assistance. The operator, Scott (surnames withheld), said that his engine had quit and he was unable to restart it. He declined assistance stating that he was just waiting for his wife and other daughter, on their other PWC, to return for them “as soon as she figured out that he was no longer behind her.” He had no means of communication aboard his PWC. The Auxiliarists told him that they would remain in the area and check back with him as soon as they were done moving the tree.
The Auxiliary patrol then returned to its task. They found that the tree had begun to move along the shore to the southwest, pushed along by the tidal current. Since it was now fairly close to the shore, the Auxiliarists decided to try to use a boat wake to propel it to shore with a couple of close-aboard high-speed passes. Seeing that the tree was indeed moving into the cypress trees, the Auxiliarists headed back to check on the disabled PWC.
The PWC and its two passengers were now up against the western shore, pushed there by the same tidal current that had pushed the tree. They were trying to disengage themselves from the branches of a tree. They were again asked by the Coast Guard Auxiliary crew if they would like assistance. This time they accepted. Scott said that his wife had tried to tow them but her engine had begun to overheat from the load, so she disengaged and began to head up the ICW looking for help. Scott was given a line and pulled away from the shore into a more favorable position to set up for a tow; he and his daughter Jordan were taken aboard the Auxiliary boat and their PWC was towed.
Speaking with Scott on their way to the public landing at Wacca Wache Marina, the Auxiliary crew learned that Scott was an Army veteran of Desert Storm, having served with the 82nd and 101st. Airborne. It made the Auxiliarists feel good to assist a combat veteran, especially the Coxswain who is a retired Navy veteran. Scott thanked the crew for its assistance and expressed his gratitude for the work the Coast Guard Auxiliary does for recreational boaters. He was also invited to visit the Flotilla at a monthly Flotilla meeting, and to have a vessel safety check on his PWC after it was repaired.
The multi-missioned boating safety skills of this Coast Guard Auxiliary crew resulted in a safer waterway and a happy, assisted boater.
Jack Margolis USCGAUX