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SV Diastole

Medical Emergency - Nov 27, 2002

On Wednesday, November 27, the sail boat "Diastole" came on to the Maritime Net frequency requesting assistance for a sick person aboard the vessel. A passenger had fallen ill with stomach cramps, and the captain was requesting Coast Guard med-evac for his passenger, and himself.

I'm a radio operator with the Coast Guard, and I placed a phone patch to the Coast Guard in Houston. They don't have HF capability at that station, so I was the only means of communication between the Diastole and the CG. We passed location information, and details about the condition of the patient.

The captain also requested the CG evacuate his dog (!), which they agreed to do.

Since seas and winds were rough on scene, the CG said they'd need time to determine what resources they could send. I gave them my number for a return call. I also established a 20 minute communications schedule with "Diastole" for safety. A few minutes later the CG called back and said a helicopter would be on scene in about 2 hours. I passed this info to the vessel, along with instructions for securing his vessel for helicopter operations.

I maintained contact with the vessel for the next 1 1/2 hours, when they informed me a Coast Guard helicopter was on scene and they were leaving their boat. Other hams, such as Willy, K1UFO, and Ed, K1LNC helped with relays as needed during the emergency if propagation faded. They also kept the frequency open to ensure clear communications.

It turns out the captain wasn't a ham (he had a marine radio license WDA7123), but he knew where he could find help in an emergency!

Bob Puharic/WF3H


This is a letter Bob received a few days later:

Dear Bob...
Hopefully you didn't delete this email thinking it was some scheme to make money or improve your "health" or find the lowest interest rate. On Wednesday, Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving, you were a VERY important part of a very traumatic day for myself ("Kat"), a friend (Eric)and my dog (Sadie). We were on a sailboat (Diastole) in the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles offshore from Port Isabelle, TX and desperately needed assistance.

We had started out from Progresso, Mexico 3 days earlier thinking we had at least a 5 day window to get to TX before the forecastedcold front moved through the Gulf. We would have made it safely but on day 3 the motor on the boat failed (cracked head gasket?) and the winds just weren't working with us. We knew we would probably have to weather part of the storm but there were too many adverse conditions...severe seasickness due to severe weather, lack of sleep and a storm that was stalled around us with no end in sight for at least 3 more days.

We made the decision to call for help and leave the boat. This is where you came into the picture. Despite all that was happening I made a mental note of your callsign so that I would be able to contact you to tell you how grateful I am for ALL you did to help us that afternoon. Your voice on our radio and the professional way in which you handled the situation gave me more peace of mind than you can imagine.

The Coast Guard rescue (air-lift) was terrifying (at least for me and Sadie!) as we had to get into the water with the rescue diver and swim to the basket in the water to be lifted into the helicopter. But it was successful. Unfortunately we had to leave a lot behind but are so grateful that we are OK.

We had an EPIRB on the boat and once we got settled on land we contacted a boat salvage company in Port Isabelle to try to retrieve the boat. Rick was hoping to go out on Saturday (the 30th) but was delayed until Sunday due to possible worsening weather. Even though the Coast Guard was still receiving the signal from the EPIRB the boat was not at that location. We didn't feel the boat was at risk of sinking and there was no debris in the water so we suspect that someone else discovered it and tossed the EPIRB overboard. All involved in helping us with this suspect that it may have been the Mex Navy. We haven't given up hope and have some people in Mex and the US trying to help us but it looks unlikely we'll ever see the boat again. If you can offer any suggestions we'd be so grateful.

Bob, thanks again for all you did to help us that day....and I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.

Sincerely, Kat Brown