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Man Overboard
Safety drills on a river crossing
July 18, 2020

n June, TownDock staff were on a routine ferry crossing from Minnesott Beach to Cherry Branch. Routine, except for the 10 minute delay and two members of the Coast Guard stationed near the bow of MV Thomas A. Baum.

Passengers wondered if the vessel were undergoing inspection. But As the ferry finally got underway, it was apparent a different drill was taking place. Halfway across the river, a bright orange life vest was flung from the ferry. A woman wearing Coast Guard blues cried out, “MAN OVERBOARD OFF PORT BOW.”

Man Overboard
Captain Matt Nelson, left, and Harold Gray, Mate, position the rescue boat to be swung over the side of the ferry so it can be lowered to the water at the beginning of the Man Overboard drill.

Crew repeated the cry. An alarm bell sounded. The captain throttled back the engine, beginning a slow sweeping turn to port. Crew scrambled to rescue boat mounted on the starboard bow, strapping on life preservers as they went.

This was not going to be a normal crossing.

Man Overboard
Gray and Davis board the rescue boat and prepare to cast off. Gray, left, secures the lines while Davis pulls the starter rope on the rescue boat engine.

The “Man Overboard” cry was first heard at 9:46a. At exactly 10:01a, a ‘victim’ was deposited on the ferry’s deck. During the 15 minute drill, the crew had donned PFDs, launched the rescue boat, started the engine, motored more than a hundred yards across the Neuse River chop, retrieved the ‘victim’ from the waves, and motored back to the waiting ferry.

Man Overboard
Some 100 yards off the port bow of MV Thomas A. Baum, the rescue boat approaches the ‘victim’.
Man Overboard
Gray passes the ‘victim’ to Captain Nelson.
Man Overboard
As the rescue boat is swung over its cradle, Glen Wade, Quality Assurance Officer and Ferry Division Maintenance Superintendent and Lt. Manning of the Coast Guard observe.

MV Thomas A. Baum arrived at Cherry Branch later than scheduled, but with all passengers, crew, and PFDs safely aboard.

Coast Guard Lt. Lisa Fanning summed up the exercise in one statement, “They did a bang up job.” Glen Wade, the Quality Assurance officer for the Ferry Division described the crew member’s performance as proficient and handled with excellent communications.

Man Overboard
The ‘victim’, resting after an ordeal in the drink.

Story & photos by Ben Casey.

Posted Saturday July 18, 2020 by Allison DeWeese

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