Association for Rescue at Sea
Anne E. Skelton, Treasurer
341 East Argonne Drive
Kirkwood, MO  63122
Phone:  (314) 822-3454




The Association for Rescue at Sea, Inc. (AFRAS) will hold its annual awards ceremony and reception on 16 October 2013.  The event will take place on Capitol Hill in Washington, D. C. and will be co-hosted by the Honorable Howard Coble, co-chairman, U.S. Congressional Coast Guard Caucus.  AFRAS will award the Gold Medal and the Amver (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System) plaque for outstanding rescues made in 2012.  The Gold Medal and a cash prize will be presented to Robert D. Emley, Aviation Survival Technician Second Class, US Coast Guard and the Amver plaque will go to the Captain and crew of M/V HORIZON RELIANCE.

AFRAS Vice Admiral Thomas R. Sargent GOLD MEDAL
(Presented annually to an enlisted member of the United States Coast Guard for an act of extraordinary bravery during a rescue at sea.)
Aviation Survival Technician Second Class Robert D. Emley will receive the prestigious AFRAS Gold Medal for his heroic life-saving actions on 25 May 2012 while serving as Rescue Swimmer aboard Coast Guard Helicopter CG6044.

The helicopter launched in response to a night distress call from the 55-foot fishing vessel ST JOSEPH, located six nautical miles east of Kayak Island in Prince William Sound, Alaska.  Seas above 30 feet and howling winds in excess of 30 knots had broken the vessel’s rudder, leaving only bow thrusters to keep the vessel upright and into approaching waves.

The crew of CG6044 launched from Aviation Support Facility Cordova and flew through gusty, turbulent conditions, and navigated below 300-foot ceilings with less than one mile visibility to reach the disabled vessel.  Petty Officer Emley assisted the pilots to locate and establish communications with the vessel, which had lost generator power and ability to maintain steerageway.

With the F/V ST JOSEPH in danger of capsizing in the towering seas, the crew prepared to deliver Petty Officer Emley directly to the vessel to hoist all five crewmembers.  Thwarted by wildly swinging deck rigging, the aircrew reassessed the situation and directed the five crewmembers to don survival suits and enter the water one at a time for recovery to the helicopter.

Emley deployed from the helicopter, quickly located the first two crewmembers, and hoisted them to safety; he then re-entered the water to hoist a third crewmember.  While preparing the third survivor for hoisting, a killer whale surfaced approximately 20 feet behind him.  After being alerted to the presence of dangerous marine life and told emphatically by the survivors that a pod of killer whales had been trailing the vessel for some time, Petty Officer Emley re-entered the water without hesitation and meticulously executed the remaining two hoists in the face of significantly increased danger.

After recovering all five crewmembers aboard the helicopter, and while proceeding to the nearest hospital, Petty Officer Emley stabilized a severely injured survivor who was having trouble breathing because of a punctured lung.

Petty Officer Emley’s courage, judgment, and devotion to duty are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.


(Recognizes an extraordinary contribution of seamen in ships at sea to the safety of their fellow mariners.)

AFRAS will present its Amver plaque to the captain and crew of M/V HORIZON RELIANCE, a United States flagged container ship managed by Horizon Lines LLC for taking part in two rescues in 2012 which resulted in saving 3 Canadians and an 81-year old American sailor.

On 8 February 2012, the 38-foot sailboat LIAHONA contacted the Coast Guard Cutter Kiska when their sailboat became disabled.  The crew reported damage to their top forestay and engine, eventually losing their mast in the 40 knot winds and 20-foot seas.

Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu, using an Amver surface picture (SURPIC), contacted the 893 foot container ship and asked them to divert to assist the crew of LIAHONA.  HORIZON RELIANCE was 149 miles away from the sailboat’s location.

At approximately 2:00 a.m., Captain James Kelleher and the crew of the container ship reached the vessel.  As they approached, a swell caused the sailboat to capsize and sink, throwing all three passengers in the sea.  The crew of HORIZON RELIANCE lowered a ladder, rescuing the first Canadian sailor, but the others, a 32 year old man and a 9 year old boy, drifted away.  Because they were wearing lifejackets with strobe lights attached, the rescuers were able to keep them in sight and eventually bring them aboard safely.

On 12 June 2012, the crew of HORIZON RELIANCE received word of a possible medical evacuation from a sailboat 1,100 miles east north east of Oahu.  The container ship was again identified by the Coast Guard using an Amver Surface Picture.  Captain Barry Costanzi, master of the HORIZON RELIANCE diverted and with the help of his crew, brought the 81 year old sailor aboard by deploying the gangway in the 8-10 foot seas.  The sailor had suffered a stroke on 10 June and was partially paralyzed and unable to speak. The crew of HORIZON RELIANCE provided medical treatment and kept him comfortable until returning to Honolulu the following day.

The Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System (Amver), sponsored by the United States Coast Guard, is a unique, computer-based, and voluntary global ship reporting system used worldwide by search and rescue authorities to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea. AFRAS commends the expert actions of both Captains and the crew of HORIZON RELIANCE for their role in these dramatic rescues.


The Association for Rescue at Sea (AFRAS) is a non-profit foundation with charitable status, which supports services concerned with saving lives at sea.