Conditions off Maine’s mid-coast were not good the night of Nov. 14. No one knew that better than the four crewmen of the Aaron & Melissa II as they tried to deal with threatening seas, escalating winds and rising water levels inside the 76-foot steel dragger.
For a while the Aaron & Melissa II’s pumps had been keeping up with the water. Then it was obvious they needed help and the call went out to the Coast Guard Sector Northern New England at 7:45 a.m. on Wednesday. “They called only when the situation was getting out of hand. They were getting hit pretty hard,” says Petty Officer Nicole Groll with the Coast Guard’s Boston public affairs office.
The Coast Guard first dispatched an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft from Air Station Cape Cod to locate the Aaron & Melissa II, finding her about 60 miles off Rockland, Maine, in 20-foot seas and 30-knot winds.
Once located, the Coast Guard sent out a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter. When it arrived over the Aaron & Melissa II, the crew had gotten into survival suits and was in a life raft. “They had donned survival suits, had their life raft and had an EPIRB with them,” says Groll. “They did everything necessary to make sure we could find them.”
In those wind and sea conditions it wasn’t a simple matter getting the crew up into the helicopter. A Coast Guard safety swimmer had to drop into the sea and work with each crewman to get them hoisted into the helicopter.
The helicopter landed at Brunswick Executive Airport in Brunswick, Maine, where the crew was taken by emergency medical service to Brunswick’s Mid Coast Hospital. The fishermen were reported to be in good condition.
The accident investigation “is ongoing now,” says Groll. “As soon as we made sure people were good to go, the investigation was opened.”
This wasn’t the first time the Aaron & Melissa II needed the Coast Guard. This past Aug. 18 she was disabled 100 miles off Portland, Maine. She got an initial tow from the Coast Guard cutter Legare, which passed her off to the fishing vessel Fisher’s Pride that towed her to port.
The Aaron & Melissa II, which now lies in over 600 feet of water, was built at Master Marine in Bayou La Batre, Ala., in 1982, though then she was known as the Dianne Lynn. The name change didn’t take place until 2001.