Sioux rescues stranded couple from sinking ship

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Military Sealift Command Public Affairs
MSC PAO 01-19
The rescuers and the rescued. From left: ET1(SW) Michael A. Blood, USN, who heard the first, faint radio call for help; Estelle F. Canerot; ITC(SW) Christopher R. Sedillo, USN, officer in charge of Sioux’s military department; John G. Canerot; and Capt. William M. Brown, Sioux’s master.

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Faintly, almost inaudibly, the call barely penetrated the radio’s static: “Mayday! Mayday!”ET1(SW) Michael Blood heard the call on the bridge of fleet ocean tug USNS Sioux at 11 p.m. on May 13, after a relaxing day at sea escorting fleet ocean tug USNS Navajo with ex-USS Narwhal in tow. The two Military Sealift Command ships and their charge were underway from Rodman, Panama, to San Diego.Petty Officer Blood urgently summoned the mate on watch, Third Mate Raymond Barnett, and they heard again, “Mayday!” A yacht skipper was calling for immediate help. His vessel, SV Chanticleer, had run aground just before sunset on an uncharted reef in Bahia Magdalena, Mexico, about 35 miles from Sioux’s position. She was shipping water and inexorably going down.Sioux’s master, Capt. William M. Brown, came to the bridge and secured permission to break away from the Navajo and her tow to render assistance. Sioux, with Capt. Brown at the controls, took off at top speed and arrived just inside Bahia Magdalena two-and-a-half hours later.Since Chanticleer had apparently run aground on an uncharted reef, Capt. Brown and his crew of 15 civilian mariners had to navigate Sioux very carefully indeed so as not to discover any more uncharted dangers. This was especially tricky because it was a completely dark, moonless night — just after 1 a.m. Monday morning by the time they arrived at Bahia Magdalena.

Once safely inside Bahia Magdalena, the ship launched its rigid-hull, inflatable boat to rescue survivors from Chanticleer. Flares from the stranded yacht showed her position in the dark. Chief Mate David Bradshaw, the boat officer, and Able Seaman Jerome Dauffenbach, boat coxswain, had to be particularly careful when approaching the wreck so as not to run aground themselves. RHIB crew members Engine Utilityman David S. Carroll and Ordinary Seaman Kenneth R. Gay took hand soundings underneath the boat, while Dauffenbach slowly and carefully inched his way from the north to the yacht’s port side.

Once Sioux’s RHIB was alongside the yacht, Chanticleer’s two survivors — John G. Canerot, a retired shipping executive, and Estelle F. Canerot, his wife — abandoned their sinking vessel for the safety of the RHIB, saving a pitiful few of their personal possessions.

Once again, Dauffenbach skillfully and carefully worked his boat away from the side of the doomed Chanticleer and back into open waters, then returned to the security of USNS Sioux, where the survivors boarded. Ship’s steward John M. Shafer had hot chicken soup and sandwiches ready for them.

Ship’s officers examined the Canerots and found them in excellent health, although understandably shaken by their harrowing experience.

“You haven’t lived until you’ve spent five hours on a reef listening to the grinding from below,” said Estelle Canerot of the experience.

Vice Adm. Gordon S. Holder, USN, Commander, Military Sealift Command, sent Sioux a Bravo Zulu for her crew’s performance.

“While responding to the urgent broadcast of the SV Chanticleer, you have upheld the time honored tradition of aiding mariners at sea,” said Vice Adm. Holder. “Your heads-up watch-standing and diligent response to the distress call saved the lives of two people who otherwise might have perished.”

Sioux’s crew members went out of their way to make the Canerots comfortable, safe and as much at home as possible. The Canerots gratefully received clothing, a ship’s hat for each, food and water. Third Mate Barnett willingly vacated his stateroom so the Canerots could stay together in the Sioux’s usually cramped berthing.

Once the Canerots were safely on board, Sioux headed back to sea and rejoined Navajo. While the Canerots were on board Sioux, they were able to contact their relatives via both email and satellite telephone. The U.S. Coast Guard’s Pacific Area Rescue Center kept in close contact with Capt. Brown before, during and after the rescue.

Both ships returned to San Diego the afternoon of May 16. There, the Caderots were greeted by Capt. Timothy McCully, USN, Commander, Military Sealift Command, Pacific, and examined by Captain T.M. Brennan, MC, USN, MSC Pacific Force Medical Officer. Sioux’s master and crew bid farewell to the Canerots, who departed the ship late in the afternoon in the company of their daughter.