Coast Guard responds to distressed shrimper

Published 12:28 pm Friday, July 25, 2008

By Staff
62-footer lost power, begantaking on water in the Sound
Staff Writer
Amid severe thunderstorms, howling winds and choppy waters, members of the Coast Guard traversed the Pamlico Sound to answer a distress call from a shrimp boat.
The Southern Lady, a 62-foot commercial shrimping boat, lost engine power Thursday morning in the vicinity of Wysocking Bay, according to Petty Officer Brian Biefeld with the Motor Lifeboat Station at the Coast Guard Sector Field Office in Cape Hatteras. With no engine or generator power, the boat’s bilge pump shut down, Biefeld said. The pump transports water from the lowest compartment of the boat.
The station received a call from Coast Guard-Sector North Carolina at 3:22 a.m. stating that an 80-foot shrimp boat with four people aboard was taking on water, Biefeld said.
About four minutes later, the station launched a 47-foot lifeboat, which holds a water pump, to assist the shrimp boat. Before rolling the boat out of harbor, Biefeld said he grabbed a spare pump.
With Biefeld as coxswain (the person in charge of the boat, particularly steering and navigating), and petty officers Jared Ramsey and Matthew Harris and Seaman Kristen Harris on board, the boat made its way from Hatteras Island to Wysocking Bay, Biefeld said.
That translates to 17 to 23 miles per hour.
When the lifeboat arrived on scene at 4:17 a.m., Biefeld pulled the boat up beside the Southern Lady and sent Ramsey and Harris to assess the situation, Biefeld said.
The petty officers surveyed the boat, and said they found nothing out of the ordinary, Biefeld said. According to the officers, the Southern Lady’s engine room held between 10 and 12 inches of water, which is normal for a shrimp boat, Biefeld said.
John Singletary, the boat’s captain, told the officers that the boat had lost engine and generator power, and therefore the bilge pump was not operating, Biefeld said. Biefeld sent Ramsey and Harris down to the bilge to pump the water out, he said.
After the water was pumped out, the crew brought four people from the Southern Lady to the lifeboat. The crew then hooked the Southern Lady into stern tow, according to Biefeld.
Near Bluff Shoal, the lifeboat came across the vessel Captain James II. The fellow Coast Guard boat was traveling from the northern Pamlico Sound down to Morehead City, Biefeld said. The boat offered to tow the Southern Lady to Gillikan Harbor Marina on Radio Island, he said.
Biefeld and his crew took the offer, he said. Biefeld said that his lifeboat would have had to tow the boat to a site up the Neuse River.
At 9:15 a.m., Biefeld and his crew dropped tow, he said. After dropping tow, the crew again pumped out the Southern Lady’s bilge, Biefeld said.
Of the rescue Biefeld said, “It made for an interesting morning.”