At 2PM on a typical summer afternoon in the Northern Neck, a 911 call comes into the Sheriff’s office in Heathsville. A sailboat has had an engine malfunction and needs immediate assistance. The Sheriff phones the Smith Point Sea Rescue dispatcher, who contacts the duty volunteer emergency crew to begin the rescue while also establishing communications with the distressed boater to exchange information regarding location, life jackets and other emergency items.
. Meanwhile, the captain hops in his truck and heads for Cockrells Creek to pick up the rescue boat, "Rescue 1,” (a 42 foot Provencial, purchased from Prince Edward Island in 2001, designed specifically for sea rescues. Rescue 1 averaged approximately 65-70 rescues per year until 2009 and 40-45 over the past two years.) By the time the captain reaches Rescue 1, he has already contacted Wally for information regarding the “what” and “where” of the emergency, and once at the boat house, he enters the location of the disabled boat in his GPS and verifies the coordinates on his paper charts. Both crewmen are now on board and immediately begin the checkup of the boat and assure themselves that all is in order.
Once out of the boat house, the captain advises Wally that Rescue 1 is underway, and Wally then contacts the distressed boater, advising that Rescue 1 is listening for them on channel 66. At the scene, the Rescue 1 crew takes appropriate action which, in this case, was towing the distressed boat back to a local marina. At each step along the way, Captain Buddy keeps Wally informed in case they are needed for another emergency or require additional assistance.
The above represents an ideal situation for the crew of Rescue 1 where the distressed boat has communications and its location is known. In some cases, the rescue crew has little or no information and has to blindly search for a distressed boat. The result may be that the crew will be on a rescue mission for 8 or more hours with the success of the mission being in doubt, but with the determination of the rescuers never wavering.
Please note that before being allowed to serve on a rescue mission, all Smith Point Sea Rescue captains and crew members must pass a rigorous training program, including CPR and First Aid training, which prepares them to handle any emergency. Smith Point Sea Rescue (SPSR) can be reached for assistance on channel 16, via 911, or a call to the Sheriff’s department. When requested, SPSR is also available to assist the Coast Guard.
No matter what the situation . . . your safety is our most important mission.