Wind Farm transport vessel answers ‘mayday’ call

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 7:15pm

The Atlantic Pioneer has been a familiar sight on Block Island waters for several years now, zipping back and forth between the island, the mainland and the Wind Farm as it carries wind farm employees to and from the turbines.

Its routine was disrupted on Friday, Sept. 4, when at 10:30 a.m. a mayday call went out on VHF Channel 16 from a 34-foot charter fishing vessel that was taking on water. The vessel, Wound Up, had six passengers and one crew member on board, according to a timeline provided by Rhode Island Fast Ferry, owners of the Atlantic Pioneer.

The Wound Up was about three-quarters of a mile from turbine number five. The Coast Guard responds to the mayday call saying it is dispatching vessels to the area and “requests assistance from nearby vessels.”

The Atlantic Pioneer happened to be at the Wind Farm making an equipment drop when the call came in. Capt. Chris Anderson and one other crew member, Mate Tom Patton, were on board. “Captain Anderson responds to mayday call, immediately proceeds to Wound Up to aid vessel in distress,” according to the timeline. The equipment drop is put on hold.

As they made their way to Wound Up, Anderson and Patton discussed two possible scenarios: passengers from Wound Up would have to transferred to the Atlantic Pioneer, or Mate Patton would have to board the distressed vessel and either stop the flow of water the boat was taking on, or deploy an emergency bilge pump. They would also do “health and wellbeing checks of those onboard,” according to the timeline.

As they speed toward the Wound Up, “Atlantic Pioneer Mate Tom Patton, under direction of Captain Anderson, readies emergency equipment on deck of Atlantic Pioneer to prepare for multiple possible scenarios when vessel arrives on site — throwable life rings, [man overboard] equipment, emergency submersible bilge pump, additional life jackets, fenders, line.”

All this took place in less than five minutes.

At 10:35 a.m. the Atlantic Pioneer arrives at the Wound Up. The passengers and crew member on the fishing boat put their life jackets on and a well-being check is made. Two minutes later the source of the water ingress is discovered to be in the main engine compartment. Capt. Anderson directs the vessel to shut off the engine and secure the compartment. Bilge pumps on Wound Up “dewater the vessel,” according to the timeline.

At 10:40 a.m., Capt. Anderson contacts the Coast Guard that the vessel is secure and will stand-by for further instructions. At 11:05 a.m. the Coast Guard releases the Atlantic Pioneer from the scene, and it returns to normal duty at the Wind Farm.