The annual AFRAS Washington DC Capitol Hill maritime lifesaving awards ceremony is Sep. 26, so we’re publishing the stories of this year’s awardees during the build-up to the event. While most awardees will accept their honors in DC, these awards were accepted on behalf of these U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarists at the organization’s annual national conference in Orlando last month.
This year’s Chairman’s Award was earned by two U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarists who came to the aid of a sail boarder in distress on the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest.
Auxiliarists Brian Rollins and Scott Robson, of Flotilla 73, were on a regatta patrol on the river to ensure the safety of participants in the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge event. During the patrol, Rollins and Robson received a report of a sail boarder in distress on a different part of the river – Rollins, the coxswain, located the distressed person struggling to pull her sail board to the Oregon shore in 5-6-foot seas.
Once on scene, they witnessed three large waves wash over and push the victim under water. As Rollins carefully maneuvered his vessel as close as possible to the victim, she reportedly called out to the Auxiliarists, “Help, don’t leave me! I need help!”
Robson was able to throw a line to the victim, despite the 20-knot sustained winds, and pulled her alongside the boat while Rollins minded his helm and throttles in the rough conditions. Once alongside, it took both men to haul the exhausted victim aboard the rescue boat, then Rollins had to quickly get back to the controls to re-start the engines and keep the vessel into the wind and waves to prevent taking a wave broadside. Rollins and Robson then returned the victim safely back to port.