In a four-day operation off the coast of Oregon, three separate vessels of the US Coast Guard towed a 50ft disabled fishing vessel some 116 miles to safety.
At 1635 on July 28, the Coast Guard’s Columbia River Sector monitored a message from the 41-ton Ruby Lily that she needed assistance as her rudder was stuck. She was carrying six tons of albacore tuna and had a crew of three.
After preparations including refuelling overnight, the 110ft Coast Guard Island class cutter Orcas, built in 1989, left Astoria at 0800 on July 29 and she arrived with the Ruby Lily at 1807 and took her in tow. However, the strain of the stuck rudder caused the metal towing bridle to part.
The crew of the Orcas used a back-up double-braided nylon bridle to resume the tow but that bridle also parted when they were 93 miles from the coast.
“Due to the rudder’s position, the crew had to work out how to get the rudder amidships to effectively tow her,” said the USCG.
“There was a 600 gallon bait tank bolted over the lazarette that prevented access to work on the steering gear. The tank was unsafe to move in the sea conditions so the cutter’s crew had to wait on the scene for back-up to arrive.”
At 2300 that day, the 52ft motor life boat Victory left the USCG station in Yaquina Bay and she arrived on the scene at 0930 the following day, July 30.
The USCG said: “The crew members had to devise a plan to put the rudder of the Ruby Lily amidships.
“Two crew members from the Victory went aboard the Ruby Lily to attach the Victory to a winch that the Master of the Ruby Lily had rigged to the rudder the day before. By taking the strain on the line attached to the winch, the crew of the Victory was able to force the rudder back to amidships.”
The Victory took the Ruby Lily in tow and 13 hours later, they arrived at the Yaquina Bay Bar. There a Yaquina Bay Station 47ft motor life boat relieved the Victory and towed the Ruby Lily across the bar and moored her safely at the marina at 0145 on July 31.
Lieutenant-Commander Scott McGrew, the USCG’s 13th District search and rescue coordinator, explained that each summer, the albacore tuna fleet arrives in the waters of the Pacific Northwest, often operating more than 100 miles offshore.
“The USCG’s four 52ft motor life boats were purposebuilt for operations in the environment of the Pacific Northwest and are necessary for operations all year round,” he said.
“They have three times the range of our newer 47ft motor life boats which is essential for getting offshore to the tuna fleet in the summer and have unmatched seakeeping ability, necessary for providing direct assistance while escorting fishing vessels across breaking bars in the winter.”
The Victory was built in 1956 and is the oldest small boat actively serving in the USCG.