Currituck rescues stranded boater from James River

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District
Story by Patrick Bloodgood

Date: 09.20.2013
Posted: 09.20.2013 12:09
News ID: 113987
USACE dredge Currituck

NORFOLK, Va. – It was just before midnight when the Corps dredge Currituck’s crew, sailing back from a project site on Bennet’s Creek, saw the sky light up.<br /> <br /> As the dredge chugged toward the Monitor Merrimack Memorial Bridge Tunnel on Sept. 16, a red flare spiraled into the night sky like a fire work off to the west. <br /> <br /> But this was no fireworks show – it was a signal for help. <br /> <br /> Robert Mason, captain of the Currituck, said three of his crew members saw the flare. <br /> <br /> “At the time, we didn’t know how far the flare was from the vessel, but we continued toward the area,” he said. <br /> <br /> According to Mason, one of the deckhands began to shine a search light through the darkness to find where the flare came from, while Mason radioed the Coast Guard. <br /> <br /> In the narrow beam of the ship’s searchlight, deckhand Skip Conway spotted a small rubber raft floating in the water. <br /> <br /> Mason steered the Currituck toward the raft and pulled alongside it. <br /> <br /> Inside the raft, the crew found a man, soaked and shivering in the 64-degree night. <br /> <br /> The crew brought the man and the raft aboard at about 12:20 a.m., more than two hours after his ordeal began. <br /> <br /> “Other than cold, he appeared to be fine,” Mason said. <br /> <br /> Mason says the crew gave the man some spare clothing, and brought him to the engine room, the warmest place on the vessel. <br /> <br /> According to Masson, the man said he was cruising from one marina to another when his boat lost power in the middle of the James River.<br /> <br /> “He launched the raft and tried to make his way back to the marina, but was overcome by the currents,” Mason said. <br /> <br /> The man was safely transported back to the Norfolk District’s headquarters building, where his wife met him. <br /> <br /> Mason said the man’s experience serves as a cautionary tale for boaters. <br /> <br /> “Never leave a perfectly safe vessel, broke down or not,” Mason said. “It is shelter, it is dry and it is way safer than in a raft left to the devices of Mother Nature. The gentleman could easily have lost his life that night.”