Petty Officer Jordan Hess was Officer of the Day and took charge of the mission. Working with Seaman Renee Gaspar in the communications room, he contacted the Vermont State Police. Together they managed to triangulate on the cell phone signal and get a rough position on the sailboat, somewhere north of Juniper Island. Minutes later, the cell phone connection died. Hess sent out the station’s RB-S—a 25-foot rigid inflatable rescue boat with an enclosed cabin and a pair of 225-horsepower Honda engines—to start a search pattern with boats from the Vermont State Police and the Colchester Police Department. But conditions were dangerously rough. Seaman Andrew Barresi, one of the crew on the RB-S, noted a 25-to-30-knot wind and five-foot waves. They could easily pass within 50 feet of the capsized hull and never see it. With sunset approaching, Hess called for a helicopter from the New York State Police.
A Federal Presence for a Federal Waterway Senior Chief Dan Murray, current commander at the Burlington Coast Guard Station, says that over the years a number of people have asked him, “What in the heck is the Coast Guard doing on Lake Champlain? It’s 200 miles inland—there’s no coast there.” True enough, but Lake Champlain is the border between two states, neither of which has full jurisdiction over its shoreline. This makes the lake a federal waterway that also extends into Canada. The foreign border, good neighbors notwithstanding, requires a federal presence. There has been a Coast Guard Station in Burlington since 1948, originally to maintain the aids to navigation. But there’s the length of the lake, the depth and width of its waters, its changeable weather, and the number of people who venture out on it in all seasons—sometimes ill prepared. Today, the Coast Guard
Published on Jun 19, 2014
Read about the Burlington Coast Guard Station, the South Village, Lake Champlain and more in the Summer 2014 edition of Best of Burlington.