A boat carrying five adults capsized on June 19 near Cleveland Ledge Lighthouse in Mattapoisett Harbor, but all five were rescued. The 21-foot, center-console vessel was not equipped with life jackets, and Mattapoisett Assistant Harbormaster P.J. Beaudoin also dealt with a language barrier while spearheading the rescue.
“They needed to get out of the water relatively quickly…. Really no language needed for that one, so our department was able to assist rather swiftly,” said Mattapoisett Harbormaster Jamie McIntosh. “We’re lucky it was a 21-footer, it’s usually a lot smaller.
“We’ve had everything from inflatable rafts out there…. People will use just about anything to get out there. They’re not aware of the dangers that Buzzards Bay has especially or are not educated about the experience of the captain, the experience of the boat, weather conditions… All of these play pivotal roles on whether you’re going to head out (to sea).”
The boat departed from Wareham for a fishing trip carrying four men and a woman; the woman and one of the men could not swim, according to Beaudoin. McIntosh called the situation “a pan-pan,” which categorizes the safety of the boat and/or passengers to be in serious jeopardy but no immediate danger. “PJ had a radio on, heard the call come in over the radio, and was able to respond with one of our deputies, John Delahanty,” said McIntosh.
Beaudoin estimated 4 to 6-foot waves on Saturday.
“It was not ideal conditions for a boat of that size.… Saturday was very rough out there,” said McIntosh. “Generally speaking, when we have an accident of that scale, Mass Environmental Police are call and they take jurisdiction over the accident. They’re the ones who do the follow-up. There has to be incident reports written…. Was there life jackets? Was there safety equipment? All these different things come into play.”
Beaudoin said a state environmental police officer was on the scene shortly after the rescue team and survivors came back to shore. The state environmental police officer interviewed all five and went with them back to Tempest Knob in Wareham.
When he pulled up to the site to lend assistance, Marion Assistant Harbormaster David Wilson marveled at the strength that Beaudoin exhibited in pulling the passengers to safety. Dartmouth-based TowboatUS took control of the capsized boat and towed it back to Wareham.
“We get a good amount of people from out of Mattapoisett, out of state, who come and use our facilities. There’s been a number of different cases, whether it’s for enforcement reasons or rescue reasons, that language can definitely be a barrier that we have to overcome,” said McIntosh, who indicated that Mattapoisett will also follow up with the passengers. “Luckily for this situation, it was kind of universal.”
Sometimes, explained McIntosh, a bystander on Ned’s Point will spot a crisis on the water and alert the authorities, and sometimes the call comes into the Police or Fire Departments via 911 or over radio.
“Especially where it’s an ‘elevated incident’ … where we’re going to require more assets, more tools, multiple boats. There’s no strict form, there’s no (standard operating procedure), anything like that for us,” said McIntosh. “We do maintain the same thing where … there’s a chain where we follow where we contact the other agencies, or there’s times where we don’t have the opportunity to and we rely on our neighboring towns to do that for us.
“It’s a lot for one person behind the helm to handle talking on the radio to the Coast Guard, control the vessel while handling your crew. So, there’s a lot of elements that go into it. Sometimes it doesn’t afford you the opportunity to go on the radio. One of our goals is to get multiple boats on the way to an incident. This particular incident came out over the radio issued by the Coast Guard.”
By Mick Colageo