As the crew of the Corps of Engineers dredge Currituck returned from a project site on Bennet’s Creek in Suffolk Virginia September 16 it came across a signal flare and took action to save a man’s life.
As the dredge moved toward the Monitor Merrimack Memorial Bridge Tunnel three crew members saw a red flare spiral off to the west.
“At the time we didn’t know how far the flare was from the vessel but we continued toward the area” said Currituck Captain Robert Mason.
According to Mason a deckhand shone a search light while Mason radioed the Coast Guard. In the narrow beam of the ship’s search light deckhand Skip Conway spotted a small rubber raft in the water. Mason steered the Currituck toward the raft and pulled alongside it. Inside the raft the crew found a man soaked and shivering in the 64-degree night. The crew brought the man and the raft aboard at about 12:20 a.m. more than two hours after his ordeal began.
“Other than cold he appeared to be fine” Mason said.
Mason said the crew gave the man some spare clothing and brought him to the engine room the warmest place on the vessel.
The man said he was cruising from one marina to another when his boat lost power in the middle of the James River.
“He launched the raft and tried to make his way back to the marina but was overcome by the currents” Mason said.
The man was safely transported back to the Norfolk District’s headquarters building where his wife met him.