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Schooner captains explain situation that led to call to Coast Guard

By Stephen Betts | Jun 08, 2021
Photo by: Coast Guard Station Rockland The schooner Heritage was towed to Rockland by a Coast Guard Station Rockland motor lifeboat.

Rockland — A crew from Coast Guard Station Rockland came to the aid of a disabled schooner drifting dangerously close to a rocky ledge off Vinalhaven.

The Rockland Station said it received a request at 12:15 a.m. June 8, that the 94-foot Rockland-based schooner Heritage was disabled and dragging its anchor near Carver's Cove on the northeast shore of Vinalhaven.

Station Rockland’s 47-foot motor lifeboat quickly responded and took the vessel in tow. After navigating the vessel through the Fox Island Thorofare and across Penobscot Bay, the vessel and passengers were delivered safely to Rockland Harbor.

Captains Sean Grimes and Benjamin Welzenbach, owners and operators of the Heritage, issued a statement Wednesday

They said the Heritage left Rockland on June 7 for crew training and to test all systems. There were no paying guests on board, the captains said.

"After anchoring that evening there was an unexpected wind shift requiring us to reposition the Heritage. While the push boat was functioning without issue at the start of the trip, that night the seams at its transom were no longer watertight, causing it to flood. Our pumps were not able to keep up with the leaks leaving the schooner with no means of engine propulsion. After several hours of attempts to seal the seams and move the Heritage, we were without a means of propulsion and dragging anchors between multiple ledges at the eastern entrance to the Fox Island Thorofare," they said.

Captain Grimes hailed the local US Coast Guard with a PAN PAN standard urgency call just after midnight.

"This was not a mayday.The Coast Guard arrived on scene and offered to tow the Schooner back to its home port of Rockland. Faced with a serious situation the Heritage crew performed all their duties quickly and effectively.There were no personal injuries and the Schooner Heritage sustained no damage.The push boat issues have been resolved and we look forward to a fantastic sailing season.We would like to thank the United States Coast Guard for their swift response and all they do for mariners everywhere," the captains said.

The Coast Guard crew consisted of Coxswain: BM2 James Leclair; Engineer: Machinery Technician Petty Officer 3rd Class Trenton Hickerson; Boat Crewmember: Seaman Katherine Rizzuto; Boat Crewmember: Fireman Michael Mckeon; Seaman Luis Cruz; and Cadet Jeffrey La Dine.

(Photo by: Coast Guard Station Rockland)
(Photo by: Coast Guard Station Rockland)
(Photo by: Coast Guard Station Rockland)
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Comments (11)
Posted by: JUSTIN D FORD | Jun 11, 2021 11:10

Thanks Sam.   A military investigation?  Ha ha.  In my 4 years in the Coast Guard, we never did such a thing.  Here's what happened:  The Coast Guard released the information to the press too soon.  They called the Heritage "disabled" because whoever wrote the press release didn't understand that a historic windjammer like the Heritage is "disabled" only in the sense that it uses a yawl boat for power.  Village Soup posted the press release too soon.  They should have checked with the Heritage for comment first.  That the Coast Guard could share enough that the anchor dragged and the vessel was "disabled", but not other details. shows there was no "investigation".  And it lead for everyone to wonder.  There was much discussion about this all on FB as well.   Anyway - it's good the Heritage owners got the correct information out there - albeit a day or two late.  As I said, Village Soup news stories go out all over the world in a powerful way on the web.  The Heritage didn't need it hanging out there in a negative way as the Coast Guard and Village Soup originally published it - it would have hurt their business.

 



Posted by: SAMUEL L CLARK | Jun 09, 2021 20:03

Justin D. Ford. Didn't realize just how qualified you were to engage in conjecture and sensationalism. I, too, have spent time at sea in this area and know about the windjammers.

The article didn't have any details because there weren't any to be had at the time. None of the parties involved were going to comment until the USCG was debriefed and satisfied.

Even if The Village Soup had managed to get a statement or additional details, they would have been interfering with a military investigation.

Whereas you are able to make all kinds of implications about the competency and sobriety of the captains under the guise of "just asking questions" in the Comments section without fear of legal repercussions.

There's a statement with more details now. I hope they are enough to put your mind at ease.



Posted by: Steven D Bryant | Jun 09, 2021 16:12

It's all good my friend. Thankfully all on board are fine. Most were probably shtn bricks. Ditto on the writings. I too feel that frustration sometimes. But overall not too bad.

The real frustration for me is the court system and their penalties. Or lack there of. See the "Rodriguez" article . Take care.

 



Posted by: JUSTIN D FORD | Jun 09, 2021 15:13

Thanks Steve.  I get irritated at news stories that are void of all the information.   Village Soup is the worst at it and occasionally, I get fired up to speak up.  Sorry if it appears I went overboard (no pun intended).

 



Posted by: Steven D Bryant | Jun 09, 2021 14:42

Wow.....Justin. Hold the phone. Get down off your pedestal.  Life is too f...n short my friend. If you want to toot your own horn (or blast it as you are here) go try feeding the homeless....take meals to families in need...donate time at a local pantry. Then folks will applaud you for being a great Samaritan. As a veteran myself I appreciate your service. But don't quit being a servant. Luv u brother.



Posted by: JUSTIN D FORD | Jun 09, 2021 11:24

I get it Sam.  I guess it's better that I say first, I am a USCG Licensed captain, have sailed the waters of Penobscot Bay my whole life, used to work on these schooners (I was actually on the Heritage when it was launched back in 1983) and I served in the USCG.   I am not saying anything bad about the CG here, and in fact, may be helping the Heritage owners, cause so far, all they have is a negative story out there saying they almost ran aground and the CG had to come rescue them.  I get that it could have been windy over on that side of Vinalhaven a few hours earlier - but the weather report for the day says otherwise.  What I am saying is that it is extremely rare that any of these windjammers from Camden and Rockland to have issues.   I can't recall any time in my life where the CG has needed to be called to tow a windjammer back to port.  I have a picture of the Grace Bailey up on Pulpit Rock from back in the 70's and most people still remember the issue with the Isaac Evans sinking in the Reach back in the 80's.   But those were back in the days before GPS, before better inspections, before better weather forecasting.  Typically, these professional windjammer captains are awesome about looking at the weather, knowing where to anchor based on conditions, and are required by the Coast Guard to have systems in place for when an issue like what the CG reported, the anchor dragging, happens.  I'd go as far as saying I'd rather go to sea with a Penobscot Bay windjammer captain than any other.  They are the best!

Some of the windjammers have a 2nd small outboard boat onboard to assist for maneuvering. Did the Heritage have one that could have helped out?  Should it now?  What if the CG hadn't been available, what would the captain have done?  At the beginning of the season, the Heritage yawl boat should have been in excellent operating order.  So I am just asking these questions that everyone else should be reasonably be asking based on the lack of information in the press release - why did a professional licensed captain operating an inspected vessel anchor in a place for the night that could have been an issue with wind or anchor?  Why didn't a 2nd anchor hold?  Was a 2nd anchor used?  Why didn't the yawl boat work?  Why was there not a backup to the yawl boat?  Why did the vessel need to be towed all the way back to Rockland?  Did passengers have to don life jackets?  How close did they get to the ledge?  Was the captain tested when they reached port?  When you look online and look at the passenger vessel incidents that have happened in the US in the past two weeks, the grounding of the ferry in NY and the Tiki Vessel that crashed in Ohio - both talked about the captain's condition.  In the case of the Tiki boat, the Captain was fired because of poor decisions being made.  Captains have to be held accountable for their decisions.  I'm not saying that at all about the Heritage Captain - because we don't know anything - for all we know, he/she was helping a passenger deliver a baby or he/she was cutting a whale out of a fishing line and he/she was distracted as a result.  He/she could have been saving the queen's life for all we know.

This story leaves so much more unanswered than it tells us (which is typical of Village Soup at times).  It was almost unnecessary to report on it if it had no backbone.  It's a great "ra ra" piece for the CG - especially as it is from them - but I don't think they realized the damage they could be doing to the Heritage's future business as a result.  As a former Coastie, I can tell you this looked like a great training cruise for them - they even got the Cadet out there with them.  Calm conditions - towing practice - got to practice a night rescue.  From a training and publicity point - this was great for the Coast Guard, which is why they shared it - and I truly do love that.  They got to remind us they are ready - and thank goodness they are.   Not every port has a CG Station, Rockland is very lucky! So that is the best outcome here.  But - as a tax payer, I want to know what happened that lead a professionally operated licensed US passenger vessel, in US waters, to get into this situation in the first place - and so should the rest of the public. That's all I am saying.  Nothing bad against anyone except maybe whoever wrote this article.


 



Posted by: SAMUEL L CLARK | Jun 09, 2021 10:31

Justin D Ford  Yes, it does look like calm conditions in the pictures. At dawn, in Rockland Harbor.

The call to the Coast Guard came at 0015 from the far side of Vinalhaven (the windward side that night).

I would hesitate to make the assumption that there would be identical conditions at both locations with so much time and distance between them.

 



Posted by: JUSTIN D FORD | Jun 09, 2021 08:00

Debra - no disagreement on what the Coast Guard did - it goes without saying.  I served 4 years in the Coast Guard - so I understand that.  It's great that our tax dollars have them available as we need them.  However, Village Soup has a powerful reach on news reports online.  Already, when you 'Google' search "Schooner Heritage", this news story pops up and will for many years to come.  For the benefit of potential passengers who may want to sail her in the future, it would be good to get the full story out there - not just a press release from the Coast Guard.  The full story may help ensure a potential paying passenger still wants to sail on the Heritage versus question why they would.  I hope that is the case.

 



Posted by: Debra Damon | Jun 09, 2021 07:53

Good job Coast Guard men and women. I am glad everyone got back to Port safely. Justin Ford they did a good job getting them home the other factors can be told later



Posted by: JUSTIN D FORD | Jun 09, 2021 07:35

I wish there was more details to this story to help paint the full picture.  Clearly, this is a press release from the Coast Guard since it lists more about who the crew on the motorlife boat than the details of the professional crew on the schooner that should have been handling things better with paying passengers aboard.  The Schooner Heritage has no engine - so technically, it is 'always disabled'.  It uses a yawl boat to get it around when there is no wind.  So, was there an issue with the yawl boat?  Why was the anchor dragging?  Those are some big anchors she has - and she has two of them.  The pictures show it to be calm conditions - which is probably why it needed a tow - no wind - but again, why dragging?  Typically, in a situation where a schooner has no working yawl boat, and there is no wind, she'd hire a tow or call back to Rockland to have another schooner send a borrowed yawl boat (although I get that at that hour - a call to the CG was an easy fix).  Again, a lot of missing information here.  As a US licensed and inspected vessel with passengers onboard under the supervision of a licensed captain, I hope more details are released so that future paying passengers know what they are getting into if they go sailing with this bunch.

 

 



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jun 09, 2021 06:40

Thank you Coast Guard for rescuing the historic schooner.



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