During the night of October 6, 2016 the sailboat GRACE was en route to San Francisco when it was overcome by an approaching storm. As Station Grays Harbor’s primary responding crew was dispatched on another search and rescue case, BMC Brant Soderlund, BMC Jeremy Culican, MK1 Kevin Trapp and BM2 Jacob Hylkema were recalled to the Station while off-duty. Demonstrating exceptional responsiveness, INVINCIBLE was dispatched in 14-16 foot seas with winds gusting to 55 knots. While anxiously awaiting assistance, the sailboat sustained damage and was unable to steer or maintain heading. Displaying exceptional ingenuity, the crew devised a plan to have the solo sailor onboard S/V GRACE don an immersion suit and abandon ship using a life ring from the INVINCIBLE with tending lines attached.
Moving swiftly into action, the INVINCIBLE crew passed over a strobe light and the life ring with a heaving line. Exhausted and disoriented, the sailor entered the water without removing the heaving line from the life ring and his legs quickly became wrapped in the line that had entangled itself in the sailing vessel’s rigging.
Immediately recognizing the situation, BM2 Hylkema selflessly volunteered to go to the man’s aid. With little time to spare, he yelled to BMC Soderlund “I need to go” and the coxswain maneuvered INVINCIBLE closer to the drowning man. Hylkema entered the water without hesitation and swam over 150 feet through the breaking seas without gear or tending line. BMC Soderlund closed the distance while BMC Culican and MK1 Trapp tended lines as waves continued to crash over the people in the water and the deck of the INVINCIBLE. Possessing minimal rescue swimmer training, BM2 Hylkema swam to the man in the water and used a knife to cut him free. He then courageously held the exhausted man above water as BMC Culican and MK1 Trapp pulled them back to the boat.
“The brave men and women of the United States Coast Guard are always ready to put themselves in harm’s way to protect those in need,” said Susan Ludwig, president, Coast Guard Foundation. “The courageous actions of the crew of the INVINCIBLE are proof that the outcome of this particular event could easily have turned into tragedy.”
The below video was produced by the PNW Coast Guard Foundation and presented Wednesday September 13th to the crew of the 52-foot motor lifeboat INVINCIBLE: