Captain Alex Aalberg of TowBoatU.S. Mystic in Groton, CT received a Meritorious Service Award for a rescue in Fishers Island Sound last summer. Aalberg and five other captains of the on-water recreational boat-towing service were honored by their peers at a ceremony held at the annual BoatU.S. Towing Conference in Arlington, VA in January.
On a blustery afternoon in July, with waves from two to three feet and thunderstorms chasing down the Sound, the 72-year-old captain of a 14-foot catboat decided to amend his trip, opting instead for a shorter, presumably safer, ½-mile run out to a nearby lighthouse and back. Also aboard were his adult son, daughter-in-law and 9- and 10-year-old grandchildren.
The boat made it out to the light, but while maneuvering to turn around and head for shore, a sudden gust, a sheet tangled in a cleat, and rough water conspired to capsize the boat, spilling three generations of sailors into the Sound. With everyone wearing life jackets except the captain – who was briefly caught under the sail and rigging – all stayed afloat and grabbed a hold of the swamped vessel. The son called for help with a handheld VHF radio.
Dodging storms one mile to the east, Captain Aalberg saw the overturned boat and adjusted course. Upon arrival he quickly picked up the two children, who along with one adult had become separated from the boat. Joining Aalberg in the recovery was Capt. David Henry, on another TowBoatU.S. Mystic response vessel, and an East Lyme Police boat, who arrived on scene and safely recovered the adults. “It all happened in less than five or ten minutes,” said the catboat skipper, who was particularly impressed with the skill of the captains who were able to rescue the group without causing any injury to those in the water. “I couldn’t believe what they did with their boats.”
TowBoatUS Mystic has a fleet of three 27-foot Almar rigid hull inflatables with 225 hp Honda engines, operated by highly skilled captains, 24/7 throughout the year. For more information, log onto towboatusmystic.com.