During my 3/c summer assignment at USCG Station Port Canaveral, I assisted in the first Search and Rescue mission (SAR) of my Coast Guard career. On May 12, 2012, after a long day of volunteering at a Palm Bay Veteran’s function, I was pretty beat and had put my feet up to watch a movie. Before I could hit the play button, the SAR alarm sounded, and I startled up from the couch. My heart raced as I listened to the announcement on the pipe: “male in cardiac arrest onboard Disney Fantasy”
So I might have over exaggerated a bit when I kicked the door open and sprinted to the watch office, but it was really hard to bottle the sudden rush of adrenaline. I slipped in quietly with the rest of the crew as the two watch-standers, an enlisted personnel and 3/c Leigha Steinbeck, communicated on the radio with the ship’s captain. I crossed my fingers, hoping for the opportunity to help, and waited for further instructions. Moments passed before the NCOOD pointed a finger at me and told me to grab a PFD (‘lifejacket’ for y’all landlubbers).
The sun was beginning to set as I jogged to the locker and grabbed my PFD, along with four extras for the victim’s family. We were told that we would possibly be bringing his children. This was concerning because we did not want them to get seasick in the survival compartment on the 45’ patrol boat. Within about ten minutes of the initial alarm, we were on the water, making our way through the port toward the ocean. Fortunately, the cruise ship, which was roughly 13 miles out, had turned around and was making its way toward us. At one point we were put on standby as it was debated whether we should send a helicopter instead. The decision was eventually turned down and we continued on.
Once we were clear of the no-wake zone our coxswain hit the gas and we barreled into the open sea, lights-a-flashing. We bounced over four to six foot swells, catching some wicked air, racing toward the Fantasy. Meanwhile, the ship’s captain maintained communications, giving us frequent updates of the victim’s condition. I stared in awe at the colossal structure that steered toward us, as if it were going to mow over us without hesitation. I felt like an ant next to a boot. We took a wide turn and pulled alongside the Fantasy’s port side. Forward of us, toward the bow, a hatch opened in the ship’s hull right next to the waterline.
The 'Other Side of the Fence' Part II (Continued)
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