US Coast Guard, Good Samaritan ship assist distressed yacht off Puerto Rico

The Danish-flagged sailing vessel Zoma (Photo: US Coast Guard/Ricardo Castrodad)

US Coast Guard air and surface units assisted a distressed sailing vessel that was taking on water with eight people onboard in the Caribbean Sea, approximately 80 nautical miles south of Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, on Monday, February 22.

The 14-metre Danish-flagged sailing vessel Zoma and all its passengers consisting of five Danish and three French nationals, including two minors, made it to safe harbour on the morning (local time) of Monday in Ponce, Puerto Rico, under the escort of the US Coast Guard fast response cutter Joseph Tezanos.

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a distress VHF-FM radio communication from Zoma at 09:53 on Monday transmitted on Channel 16. The master of the yacht reported the vessel was taking on water at a rate of over 30 litres per minute.

Coast Guard watchstanders directed the launch of an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen and diverted Joseph Tezanos to rendezvous with Zoma and provide rescue assistance. Watchstanders also transmitted an Emergency Group Calling communication to nearby vessel traffic capable of assisting.

The Liberian-flagged tanker Horizon Theano responded to the calling and escorted Zoma while coast guard units arrived on scene.

Upon rendezvous with Zoma, the coast guard helicopter crew lowered their rescue swimmer and a dewatering pump to the sailing vessel. The rescue swimmer initiated pumping operations and worked with the vessel master, using rigid life jackets to inflatable paddleboards, to help contain the flooding.

Shortly thereafter, Joseph Tezanos arrived and, with the assistance of the cutter’s small boat, transferred a damage control team and an additional dewatering pump aboard Zoma.

As dewatering efforts continued, Joseph Tezanos‘ crew embarked four passengers from the sailing vessel.

The damage control team worked on patching up a 0.3- by 0.6-metre hole on Zoma‘s starboard side, which was reportedly caused by the vessel’s anchor. The accomplished patchwork and dewatering efforts by the coast guard and yacht crews helped stabilise the sailing vessel.

Joseph Tezanos safely escorted Zoma to the Club Nautico in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday morning, where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers assisted the survivors with humanitarian entry into the United States for the vessel to complete repairs.

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