When Scouts and Scouters from Troop 177 in Wyndmoor, Pa., boarded their 44-foot sailboat, Gypsy Wind, in Islamorada, Fl., to begin a week-long sailing trip at Florida National High Adventure Sea Base, they had no idea they would soon be involved in an ocean water rescue that would test their Scouting skills.
The troop left on June 25, eager to begin their sailing experience and enjoy the beautiful weather. The next day, as they were fishing about 4.5 miles off shore, Jackson, the Scout who was manning the helm, saw what appeared to be a person on a paddle board. Thea Bosca, one of the adults onboard, looked through her long-lens camera and saw a man standing up on a white object. Captain Jimmy Perry immediately fired up the engines and headed toward him. As they drew closer, they could see the man standing on a white capsized boat, frantically waving his arms and a woman in the water clinging to the craft. Mrs. Bosca waved her arms in response to let the man know the sailboat was approaching to render aid.
Immediately, the captain instructed the Scouts to pull down the sails, so the wind did not push them into the capsized vessel. He also told the Scouts to retrieve life vests and a life ring. Meanwhile, he called the Coast Guard to share the coordinates.
As the sailboat sidled near the overturned craft, the Scouts threw life vests to the frightened couple. Adult leader Charlie Affel also threw a life ring to the woman and William, another Scout, gently pulled her to safety. Once the woman was safely aboard Gypsy Wind, adult leader Kim Morris stayed with her to keep her calm and the Scouts gave her water and a warm, dry towel.
The Coast Guard arrived in time to rescue her husband. The couple was reunited once the woman was transferred from Gypsy Wind to the Coast Guard’s vessel. Before departing, the Scouts retrieved the couple’s cooler filled with fish, which had been floating nearby in the water, and returned it to them.
According to the couple, they had been in the water for about 20 minutes. After a day of fishing, they were in the process of up-anchoring when their anchor got stuck. As they slowly drove their 17-foot boat forward to release the anchor, the anchor line wrapped around the motor, immediately pulling the stern down. The man tried to pull the motor up and cut the anchor free with his fishing knife, but the waves were coming over the stern.
He quickly gave the GPS coordinates to his wife, so she could call 911 while he lit a flare. At the same time, a gust of wind caught the bimini top of the boat and tipped the craft over. His wife was still able to call 911 and report that there was a large sailboat in the area. After a few minutes, they saw the sailboat drop sails and come toward them, and they knew that help was on the way.
Troop 177’s adult leaders reported that the Scouts were cooperative and took direction well during the water rescue. One Scout, Jake, noted that he and his fellow Scouts used skills gained from merit badges including emergency preparedness, First Aid, and communication. “I’m glad we had the opportunity to have this tremendous learning experience because it helped us to enhance our skills,” he said.
The crew consisted of Scouts Jackson, William, Jacob, Jack and RJ, and adult leaders Thea Bosca, Charlie Affel and Kim Morris. Troop 177 is based at Grace Lutheran Church.
Check out more coverage of the dramatic rescue, which aired recently on NBC 10: https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Montgomery-County-Boy-Scouts-Rescue-Stranded-Couple-Off-Florida_Philadelphia-512655982.html