A pair of tourist boat operators came to the assistance of a boat that had stalled due to engine trouble and was beginning to take on water on Saturday. Alerted by the police, the Blue Horizon and Trouble took turns towing the boat, an 18-foot Striper with five adults and one child on board.

Mike Nelson, captain of the pontoon boat Blue Horizon, said he was alerted to the boat in distress by the presence of the police helicopter overhead. He saw the helicopter and noticed the boat bobbing up and down and decided to try to help.

“It’s one of those things,” Mr. Nelson said of helping out a fellow boater. “You don’t hesitate. You don’t stop to think about it. You just do it.… It could be my turn next.”

The rescue was in North Sound between Stingray City and SafeHaven. Police responded to a call from a person aboard the distressed vessel. The Blue Horizon, at that point, was nearby.

Mr. Nelson said he began towing the boat before developing mechanical trouble of his own, and then he hailed Trouble by shining the light of a cellphone across the water. Trouble came in to take on the towing responsibilities, and they hauled the boat toward the West Bay Yacht Club.

A police boat caught up to the towing tourist boat near the yacht club channel and proceeded to ensure that none of the passengers on the distressed boat needed medical attention.

“I was on my way back in from a party trip and I saw them shining a phone light,” said Justin Rankine of Trouble. “I went over there and assisted. They said their boat engine shut out. They had no power.”

Mr. Nelson said his boat had a gearbox issue, necessitating the handoff to Trouble, and he said he was not sure if that was due to misfortune or to the extra strain of towing the boat. This type of rescue at sea happens quite routinely among the small community of boaters, said Mr. Nelson.

“It happens a lot,” he said when reached by phone on Tuesday. “The problem in Cayman is that there is no accountability or standards set for recreational boats, so people go out with all sorts of weird and wonderful things you’re not prepared for. They run out of fuel. People are going to get themselves in situations at some point. It’s a fact of life. When you see someone needs help, you help them out.”

Joint Marine Unit officers were mobilized from the Marine Base, and the Port Authority was notified and sent VHF hails to vessels in the area near the boat. The police helicopter arrived quickly, and shortly thereafter the rescue began in earnest with Blue Horizon and Trouble sharing the duties, police said.

“We would like to acknowledge the quick response of boat captain Mike Nelson of Blue Horizon and boat captain Justin Rankine of Trouble to the area, and thank them for the assistance they rendered,” said Chief Inspector Brad Ebanks, head of Specialist Support Operations. “Both of these vessels are commercial tourist vessels that were engaged in charters at the time with paying patrons, but their captains did not hesitate to help others in need even though this put them off schedule. They demonstrated that the safety of life at sea is paramount and is a shared responsibility.”

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  1. I applaud the two Captains Nelson and Rankine for their seamanship responsibility . Every boater / Captain should take note of their act of kindness for other boaters . We should always remember that the next one that might need help on the water , could be me .

    It’s not a good feeling being broken down on the ocean and see help pass you by . I have been there and had that happen to me . Sometime ago me and two others were on a 35ft sail boat ketch rigged about 60 miles from Cayman , we lost our main mast , we turned around and headed to Cayman with a straight drive engine , then we lost our rudder , now we’re completely broken down , we seen ships pass us by , we called for help but no response , we shoot of flares no response , then the other two started to panic and I said let’s not panic let’s put our heads together and think of how we can make a rudder to steer this boat back to Cayman , then I asked the Captain if we had nails on board he found the nails then we took two of the closet doors and nailed them to the missen mast boome and tied that to the stern of the boat and steered us back to George town harbour .

  2. Note its law, by international maritime law. All vessel must assist other vessel. The captain can be prosecuted, if fail to assist.
    The Cayman Islands Government is failing the maritime community by not having a boater operators license or safety at sea certified program in place. If it was mandatory for boat owners to do a safety at sea course, boaters would know what to do during an emergency. Not left to improvise for help or survival, change life vest PFD law to mandatory wearing of vest when boat is not at anchor or moored. Known fact people can’t swim forever hence drowning however life vest PFDs has proving to save lives. I wonder why legislation has not made changes knowing the amount of lives has gone, leaving family’s in direst. Guess making our community safe does not win votes.

    • Part 2, of the above story. When we got back to George town harbour the owner sold the boat to Adrian Briggs . Then about 6. Years later I bought the boat from Adrian for Charter boat for sailing and snorkeling trips . When ever I got my passengers on board I always made sure to teach them about everything , including how to sail , and one of the things in my instructions that I made sure to get across , is while sailing to make sure to sit on the weather side of boat while sailing , because I knew that after my trip they could go sailing on their own and be safe . But I didn’t know that those sailing instructions would pay off for me like how it did . One day I had two trips scheduled for the day on the morning trip I started of with good wind for sailing , but on my way back the wind went to a calm , so had to use auxiliary engine I still put up all the sails to catch what wind was there to help get back on time for next trip , when we got about 100 yards from the beach a freak whirlwind came and broke the main mast again the second time , and no one was injured because they were all on the windward side of the sails like how they were instructed .