Coast Guard Assists 3 in Graveyard of the Pacific

ASTORIA, Ore. — The Coast Guard came to the aid of three people aboard a distressed sailing vessel just outside the Columbia River entrance, Sept. 12, preventing what could have otherwise been a deadly situation.

Three people aboard the 40-foot, trimaran, sailing vessel, Patsy Stone ran into trouble at approximately 2 p.m., after experiencing an engine failure and hiring a company to tow them back to shore.

A crew from Coastal Sea Tow in Ilwaco arrived and began to tow Patsy Stone toward Ilwaco when things began to go awry.

Coast Guard Sector Columbia River, monitoring the situation via radio communication, received a report from the Coastal Sea Tow crew at approximately 5 p.m., indicating  the chain plate on Patsy Stone’s port hull was damaged. The damage was minimal at first, but soon began to compromise the fiberglass hull, jeopardizing the success of the tow and the safety of the three people on board.

Sector Columbia River Sector Columbia River launched a 47-foot motor lifeboat crew from Station Cape Disappointment, located in Ilwaco, Wash., to assist.

By the time the Coast Guard motor lifeboat crew arrived on scene, the Patsy Stone was taking on water and in danger of being ripped apart.

“As soon as we arrived on scene we noticed that the vessel had a large hole in the portside hull taking in water,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Shane Abold, Coast Guard coxswain on the case. “We were relieved to see all three people aboard Patsy Stone were wearing life jackets.”

The Coast Guard deemed the Patsy Stone unsafe for the three people on board. All three were able to board the Coast Guard motor lifeboat and were taken back to Station Cape Disappointment with no injuries.

“The sailboat was falling apart, the hole in the hull was big enough to jump through,” said Bill Wechter, the Coastal Sea Tow vessel operator. “The Coast Guard arrived and helped us out.”

After getting the three crewmembers safely to shore, the Station Cape Disappointment motor lifeboat crew returned to the scene with Patsy Stone and escorted the tow back to Ilwaco.

A Coast Guard boarding of the vessel Sept. 13 revealed violations including lack of proper documentation pertaining to a waste management plan, a required garbage sticker, an oil pollution placard and a problem with the vessel's fire extinguisher. Ultimately, the vessel was found to be worn-out, unsafe and deemed unseaworthy by the Coast Guard.

"This tow was only one of hundreds of tows Coast Guard Sector Columbia River search and rescue stations become involved with annually on pleasure craft and commercial fishing vessels who find themselves disabled, disoriented or beset by heavy weather," said Captain Bruce Jones, commanding officer of Sector Columbia River. "Many, if not most, of these incidents can be prevented by more attentive vessel maintenance, planning and prudence.  As always, the Coast Guard stands ready to assist mariners in distress, and to keep our waterways safe and secure."

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