Cal Maritime's Golden Bear Crew Honored For Rescue At Sea

Capt. Paul Leyda and crewmembers of the California Maritime Academy’s Training Ship Golden Bear (TSGB) have been honored with the 2008 Mary Patten Valiant Ship Award and Commendation for Bravery and Outstanding Seamanship. The honor, given by the Women’s [B][I]Propeller Club of the United States[/I][/B], was awarded in recognition of the actions of the Captain and crew in an August 2008 rescue of two fishermen adrift in a small power boat some 80 miles off the coast of Monterey, Ca.

When the single engine on the boat failed, the men managed to radio the Coast Guard. The 500 ft Golden Bear was in the area, returning home on the final leg of its four-month long Pacific training voyage with some 240 faculty, staff and students aboard. Capt. Leyda, who also heads the University’s Marine Transportation Department, was assigned skipper of Golden Bear for this segment of the training voyage.

Contacted by the Coast Guard, he immediately ordered a new course for Golden Bear and increased speed to assure arrival on the scene before dark. As it was, the small size of the stricken boat made it difficult to spot on radar and it was finally located when the fishermen were asked to fire flares to pinpoint their position.

Ship’s crew and a pair of senior cadets deployed the Golden Bear’s rescue boat which took aboard the stranded fishermen and towed their disabled craft back to the Golden Bear where it was lifted aboard. The two men and their boat were safely returned to San Francisco.

Capt. Leyda cited the crew of Golden Bear, including Chief Officer Bill Schmid - commander of the rescue boat, Deck Officer in Charge Dave Coleman, Deck Officer and rescue boat assistant commander Makala Downs, Chief Engineer Tom Mader for ship maneuvering, the deck assistance of Bosun Tom Allen, and rescue boat corps Chief Mate cadet Sam Thompson and senior deck cadet Hannah Reeves.

I was on the bridge of the Bear during this “rescue”. Its interesting to see how the story changes over time. For instance the boats engine never failed, although it was old enough where that was a viable concern, but when we got the boat aboard we saw the true nature of their “engine trouble”. They were out of gas. They were 80 mile off shore in a 17 foot center console Boston whaler with a 5 gallon tank of gas and a cooler full of beer. They almost denied our assistance at first for reasons unknown, perhaps embarrassment.

Jesus, the CMA faculty never ceases to amaze me with creating a mountain out of a mole-hill. Toot-toot your own horn.