MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Ferry captain: Training, expertise led to successful rescue operation

Mar 12, 2024, 3:09 PM | Updated: Mar 13, 2024, 2:25 pm

The Washington State Ferry Samish crew, along with the United States Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound...

The Washington State Ferry Samish crew, along with the United States Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, acted quickly to rescue boaters aboard a sinking cabin cruiser. (Photo courtesy of the USCG Sector Puget Sound)

(Photo courtesy of the USCG Sector Puget Sound)

The rescue operation led by Captain Noah Landau and the Washington State Ferry crew is a remarkable example of the bravery and professionalism that maritime workers exhibit in times of crisis.

Background of the rescue: Samish ferry crew, Puget Sound Coast Guard rescue sinking boaters

The quick thinking and familiarity with the local waters were crucial in locating and assisting the distressed boat. The combined efforts of the ferry crew, the Coast Guard and even the passengers on board who were medical professionals, ensured that everyone involved was safe and received the care they needed. This incident highlights the importance of being prepared for any situation and the value of teamwork in overcoming challenging conditions.

The Washington State Ferry and United States Coast Guard worked in tandem to rescue a boat in distress on Saturday.

The 37-foot cabin cruiser was near Rosario Strait when a large wave pummeled their boat and shattered the front window, flooding the boat.

The ferry M/V Samish was in the area and able to reach the boat before the Coast Guard could get there. As the ferry approached the boat, Landau could see the passengers frantically scooping out water using a 5-gallon bucket.

Landau told KIRO Newsradio about the initial contact.

“So the way it went was we heard a distress call from them on the VHF radio, and it was loud and clear. And usually when we hear those, they’re far away, and it’s garbled, and you can barely hear them. But we kind of had an idea that this one was close by, and they were able to pass their position to the Coast Guard. But then apparently they took a wave through their windshield, and it soaked their VHF, and that was the last anybody heard from them on the radio,” he said.

Related news: New ferry boats in Washington at least four years away

The captain’s familiarity with the area proved vital in quickly locating the boat.

“The position they gave, we saw that that was kind of down by Bird rock out by Rosario Strait. So, our plan was to kind of head south to see if we could see them. Just as we got to the north end of James Island, we could see there was a boat approaching us, and that turned out to be them. Communications was a little difficult, because they didn’t have a radio and it was really windy. And we had to yell to them. And we did a big round turn. So we put them in our lee, we were blocking the wind for them. And then we launched a rescue boat,” he said.

And we’re able to ferry four of them over to our boat. And they were, you know, a little bit cut up from the broken glass and they were completely soaked. So our engineering crew was able to provide some warm, dry clothes for them, they cranked up the heat in the cabin, and our galley crew without being asked, they hopped to it and got some hot water bottles and hot drinks for them. And so we were able to take care of them and the mate who, you know, you can kind of think of as like a co pilot, he was down there assessing them for for injuries and hypothermia and so on. And then we also had a medical doctor who was just a passenger on board and a trauma nurse. And on our crew, we have a paramedic, retired paramedic, so we’re we’re able to take care of them pretty well. So that’s kind of how that went,” he continued.

Was this your first rescue operation?

“I guess so. It’s not the first time we’ve launched a rescue boat to check on somebody. But certainly at ferries, we’re pulling people out of the water all the time,” Landau said.

As Landau told us, the high wind conditions added to the difficulty of the rescue.

“So launching a rescue boat is just about the most dangerous thing that we do at ferries, putting a boat over the side with people in it. I’m very reluctant to operate the propulsion controls while we’re in that kind of transitionary state. We managed okay, but it was so windy that the Samish was being blown sideways, but the crew is so experienced that they were able to manage it,” he said.

He added that Washington State Ferry crews are trained for spontaneous missions.

“We drill weekly on fire, abandoned ship and rescue drill. So we do this every week. And we take it very seriously,” he said.

You can read more of Nate Connors’ stories here. Follow Nate on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and the KIRO Newsradio traffic team here for more traffic updates

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