I give the Coast Guard Hell for their sledgehammer approach to media relations and their inability to manage high technology. But when push comes to shove, America’s fifth and smallest military service still delivers. Case in point: last week a Coastie ship and chopper team prevented a potential international incident with Mexico. (Thanks to Unofficial Coast Guard blog for the tip!)
It all started when the 46-foot sport-fishing boat Senor Hefe chugged out of San Diego at three in the morning … and blundered into an improperly lit, circular tuna “cage” net being towed by a Mexican commercial fishing boat. Though not seriously damaged, Senor Hefe‘s crew found itself trapped in a ring of metal bars, in international waters. “We all think were in some sort of crazy dream,” one fisherman recalled.
The Mexican fishermen were powerless to help, so the Americans radioed the Coast Guard. But before the Coasties could arrive, a Mexican Navy patrol boat appeared (pictured), its crew wielding Uzis and bad attitudes. Mexican sailors started cutting away portions of the cage, preparing to board Senor Hefe — a big no-no in international waters.
The USCG comes back on the radio and lets us know they have opened a case and have contacted the Mexican navy and have [the] 110’ Coast Guard cutter Sea Otter en route. We ask for an ETA, they say 2 hours and also say do not allow under any circumstances for Mexican officials to board our boat.
But the Mexican sailors showed every sign of doing just that. “This is turning into a international situation and we can’t do sh**,” the fisherman wrote.
So the Coast Guard sent a chopper ahead of the Sea Otter, essentially racing the Mexicans’ hacksaw. There was nothing the American fishermen could do but wait, so they pulled out their fishing rods and started hooking tuna. The HH-60 showed up just as the Mexicans cut through the cage and rushed the American boat. That’s when the chopper crew “attacked,” diving low, using the chopper’s rotors to
produce massive wind and seawater coming upwards towards the [Mexican] feds. The feds sat there until the wind really picked up and they backed off with their tails between their legs like a sick puppy. Back to the patrol boat they went. At that time the helo pilot contacted the patrol boat, and told them not to attempt to board Senor Hefe again!
(Photo: Senor Hefe)