63m Utopia IV rescues stranded vessel off the coast of Florida

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63m Utopia IV rescues stranded vessel off the coast of Florida

5 July 2023 • Written by Holly Overton

The crew of the 63-metre Rossinavi yacht Utopia IV has been involved in the rescue of a stranded vessel and its two occupants 65 miles off the coast of Florida.

Utopia IV was on a delivery trip from Miami to New York when the watchkeeper spotted something unusual around six hours into their journey north in the early hours of 28 June. 

"The chief officer on watch around 1.30am noticed some odd lights in the distance," explained captain Jeffrey Wierzba. "It wasn't on any charts and didn't look like it was a passing ship. He woke me and we made a decision to turn towards the lights to have a better look. The closer we got we realised it was them [two stranded men] with a flashlight trying to punch out SOS." 

As Utopia IV approached the vessel, which was a six-metre fishing boat, one of the two occupants on board set off a flare and confirmed that they were in need of rescue. The two men, believed to be in their fifties, had left Fort Pierce earlier that day for a fishing trip in Freeport, Bahamas when their single outboard engine failed. The Gulf Stream took them into the Atlantic and they had been adrift for a day when Utopia IV found them floating 65 miles off Cape Canaveral.

The fishing boat had a small handheld radio but was unsuccessful in making contact with the coast guard or with any passing ships that may have been in range. Utopia IV relayed a distress signal to the coast guard over Channel 16 initially but eventually called directly following communication difficulties. "We had Starlink and called the Miami Coastguard directly. We were able to communicate over the phone which was significantly easier," said Wierzba.

Utopia IV was unable to tow the vessel because of its jet drives so the two men were forced to abandon their boat and swim to the side boarding platform where they could be hauled aboard. "They were hesitant because they have plenty of food and plenty of water. They had been adrift just for one day. They hadn't really got desperate, they were just relieved to now be in contact with someone."

Once on board, the two men were offered dry clothes and the crew made up beds for them. Utopia IV headed towards Cape Canaveral where a Port Canaveral Coast Guard cutter met with the boat and took the two men ashore. The abandoned vessel was left adrift and the coast guard issued a hazard warning alerting boaters in the area.

"I was really proud of my crew and how we handled the situation. They stayed calm, they stayed professional and we were able to communicate well with the crew. We all knew where we needed to be, what safety gear we were going to wear and what process we were going to use," added Wierzba.

More about this yacht

Rossinavi   63 m •  2018

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