Rescue: The SNSM, the Gendarmerie nautical brigade and a freighter rescue two boaters in difficulty on their boat


Long hours of research but a successful operation! Last Thursday, at the start of the evening, the mechanic and two other volunteer members of the SNSM sea rescue station in Saint-Martin were carrying out weekly checks on the boats when, at 18 p.m., a Spanish-speaking person came to tell them that two of her neighbors are at sea and broken down a few nautical miles from Plum Bay and need assistance to get back to shore.

They then alert the CROSS-AG (Regional Operational Center for Surveillance and Rescue of the Antilles-Guyana), and also inform three gendarmes of the nautical brigade, who are with them. The latter is therefore responsible for going to do a search in the area at 18:55 p.m. with the Dolent, on the basis of the telephone and geographical coordinates noted by the person, while the three members of the SNSM join their colleagues at the station, where their weekly meeting begins at 19 p.m.

Telephone contact was established between the Dolent and the boat in difficulty, which transmitted a new position west of St. Martin. At 19:28 p.m., the Dolent was in the zone at the position indicated. But the boat cannot be found and can no longer be reached, either by telephone or by VHF. The CROSS then sends a research framework to the nautical brigade and asks Météo France to establish a “Mottley drift scheme” which calculates the potential drift of the boat, according to the speed of the wind and the currents. A PAN PAN message is also broadcast on the VHF and a container ship en route to Philipsburg diverts to reach the search area. At 20:45 p.m., the boat still not having been located, the CROSS requisitioned the SNSM of Saint-Martin to go to the area, too. A leak having been discovered on the oil sump of the launch SNS 129 in the evening, the SNSM was then forced to leave with the semi-rigid Rescue Star which left the Fort Louis marina at 21 p.m., with five crew members on board, for proceed to the search area assigned by the CROSS. Arriving in the area, the Rescue Star transmits to the CROSS its observations concerning the current and the wind at its current position, specifying that, if the boat in difficulty has been adrift for several hours, it would certainly be more to the North-West of the position. given. At 21 p.m. the container ship reported to the CROSS that it had visualized “flash lights”, some 58 nautical miles northwest of their position, and it diverted towards these light signals. An hour later, the container ship is next to a 5 meter long boat, with two passengers on board, safe and sound, who confirm that they are indeed the ones in difficulty. The CROSS then asks the SNSM to join them to tow the broken down boat; but it is not possible to do this towing operation with the Rescue Star. And the SNS 9 launch is temporarily non-operational. The weather conditions being difficult and the boat more than 129 miles from the coast, the Rescue star would not have enough fuel autonomy to carry out this operation either because, at a speed of 20-2 knots under tow, it would take 3 to 8 hours to return. The container ship then decides to tow the broken down boat. And, at 10:23 p.m., the CROSS gave freedom of maneuver to the Dolent and the Rescue Star at 05:23 p.m. which returned to Saint-Martin. The Dolent docked at 05:23 p.m., after nearly 40 hours of searching, and the Rescue Star, at midnight, after 6 hours at sea. The container ship finally arrived at 3:5 a.m. in Philipsburg Bay where the Coast Guard came to take over of the trailer and the convoy finally docked at 30:6 a.m., after a long and eventful night.

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