June 5th 2015

Crewmembers of the Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS WILLIAM MCLEAN and the Coast Guard Fifth District rescued two people aboard the sailboat SOLARUS on May 14 in open waters 50 miles southeast of Ocean City, Md. The MCLEAN, a TAKE-12 vessel, is crewed by licensed deck officers who are represented by the MM&P Federal Employees Membership Group (FEMG). The sailboat had struck an object and was taking on water through a two-foot-long crack in the hull.

The MCLEAN received a distress call from the SOLARUS around 0610 on Thursday and immediately sailed towards the small craft to render assistance, at the same time establishing contact with the Coast Guard. MCLEAN crewmembers then launched a fast rescue boat with a P100 dewatering pump aboard. The crew stopped about 100 yards from SOLARUS and the decision was made to bring the sailboat and its two-man crew alongside MCLEAN for shelter from the choppy seas and to facilitate dewatering and repair.

The fast rescue boat crew was able to dewater SOLARUS using the P100 pump, removing approximately 400 gallons of water. The deck department of the MSC ship quickly assembled the items needed to affect a temporary repair to the sailboat’s hull and lowered them down to the boat. Repairs were made to control the flooding.

Once the crack had been repaired, MCLEAN crewmembers recovered the fast rescue boat and got back underway. SOLARUS maintained station about 100 feet off MCLEAN’s port side so it was sheltered from the four-to-six foot seas and 25-knot northerly winds. MCLEAN and SOLARUS proceeded in this fashion for about two hours until they rendezvoused with the Coast Guard motor lifeboat crew. “I can’t thank the crews of USNS WILLIAM MCLEAN and the USCG enough for their rapid and complete response, which resulted in the saving of SOLARUS and our lives,” said Bill Kneller, one of the mariners rescued.

“The crew performed flawlessly and was ready to go on ‘no notice’ to help out the two mariners and their sailboat,” said MCCLEAN’s Master James White. He added that the crew of the MSC vessel had received a message of commendation from USCG District 5.

MCLEAN is one of 15 Navy Combat Logistic Force (CLF) ships that provide fuel, food, ordnance, spare parts, mail and other critical supplies enabling the MSC fleet to remain at sea, on station and combat ready for extended periods of time. All CLF ships are government-owned and crewed primarily by Civil Service mariners.