December 17 2019
The crew of a Coast Guard helicopter rescued four men from a liferaft Sunday morning after they were forced to abandon a sinking motoryacht, approximately 25 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
Rescued were four U.S. citizens from Boston and Florida, in their 20’s and 30’s, who were the only persons traveling aboard the 80-foot Clam Chowder, when the vessel began taking on water and started sinking.
One of the survivors severed parts of two fingers while releasing the life raft from the Clam Chowder, according to a friend of his, Brook Aquilino. Aquilino also quoted the injured man as saying that the sinking had something to do with the vessel's "toy garage."
Definitely was the toy garage," Aquilino wrote Sunday on the Port Royal Group Forum on Facebook. "What about it still unknown. My buddy’s wife is picking him up at Kennedy (airport) at 10:45 tonight. Going straight to Cornell hospital. Will try to reattach two fingers. Saved them and on ice. I will see him or talk to him tomorrow."
Since that statement, Aquilino said doctors had reattached the man's fingers and he and family are hoping that the procedure is a success.
Though described by the Coast Guard as an 80-footer, Aquilino said the vessel is actually a Marlow 76. He said the owner was not aboard.
Clam Chowder as she appeared around dawn.
At 5:22 a.m. Sunday, watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan received a VHF radio Channel 16 distress call from the Clam Chowder, reporting the vessel’s stern was mostly under water. Despite having multiple pumps energized, the crew could not keep up with the flooding. The Clam Chowder additionally reported losing power and listing to starboard at which point the captain ordered the crew to abandon the vessel.
Watchstanders directed the launch of the Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Robert Yered (WPC-1104) to search for and rescue the boaters. Watchstanders also issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast to alert marine traffic in the area. The Malta-flagged 680-feet container ship Calais Trader received the call and remained on scene during the rescue monitoring the situation and ready to provide rescue assistance.
The Coast Guard helicopter arrived on scene and located all four men safely aboard the liferaft. The Coast Guard aircrew completed multiple hoists using a rescue basket to bring the survivors safely aboard the aircraft.
“This rescue highlights the importance of having proper survival gear and the thorough preparation by the crew of the Clam Chowder,” said, Lt. Carlos Gonzalez, MH-65 Dolphin helicopter co-pilot for the case. “Having lifejackets, VHF radios and a raft helped save four lives today.”
The survivors were transported to Air Station Borinquen where they were transferred to awaiting Customs and Border Protection and emergency medical personnel.