Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty: Crew of F/V Cape Ferret

Written by Lt. j.g. Katie Braynard

This image is of fishing vessel Betty C engulfed in smoke and flames 230 miles from Jarvis Island, Nov. 29, 2014. All 21 crewmembers aboard Betty C abandoned ship and were rescued because of an emergency position-indicating radio beacon. U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo by Francisco Javier Perez.

This image is of fishing vessel Betty C engulfed in smoke and flames 230 miles from Jarvis Island, Nov. 29, 2014. All 21 crewmembers aboard Betty C abandoned ship and were rescued because of an emergency position-indicating radio beacon. U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo by Francisco Javier Perez.

With more than 140 million square miles of the Earth’s surface covered by water, it’s no surprise that the Coast Guard stations scattered throughout the nation remain on high alert to answer calls for help.

But sometimes, search and rescue cases happen so far off shore, the Coast Guard relies on another important maritime partner to assist: good Samaritans.

Good Samaritans are crucial force multipliers for the U.S. Coast Guard. With a single radio call, the Coast Guard can alert hundreds of vessels of a potential rescue case, requesting they keep a sharp lookout and, in some cases, respond to help those in peril.

That’s exactly what the crew of the F/V Cape Ferret did when they learned of another fishing vessel in need of help off the coast of Hawaii.

In November 2014, the crew of F/V Betty C awoke to find their vessel nearly engulfed in flames. After their attempts to extinguish the flames proved ineffective, the captain gave a singular order that no mariner ever wants to hear: Abandon ship.

The crew huddled into their small rescue skiff, watching their vessel, and home while at sea, smolder and burn. Two hundred and thirty miles south of Jarvis Island, Hawaii, it seemed unlikely for a quick rescue.

But little did they know that their EPIRB had given their position to the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu, allowing the Coast Guard to both pinpoint their location and the location of a nearby vessel to call for possible assistance.

That vessel was the F/V Cape Ferret.

John Cabral, captain of the F/V Cape Ferret at the time of the rescue, is awarded a Meritorious Public Service award for his role in the rescue of the crew of Betty C. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

John Cabral, captain of the F/V Cape Ferret at the time of the rescue, is awarded a Meritorious Public Service award for his role in the rescue of the crew of Betty C. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“There was not any thought to it,” said John Cabral, captain of the F/V Cape Ferret. “First we got a call from the boat itself, and they said they had a fire and asked if we could come that way. Then the Coast Guard called us right after.”

It was 1:30 a.m. when the call came to Cabral from his navigator, and Cabral didn’t hesitate. He immediately told his navigator to head towards the position given by the Betty C. For Cabral, it wasn’t even a decision that needed to be made.

“There’s no thought,” Cabral added. “One of your fellow seamen is out here, and he needs help – you just go.”

Cabral and his crew diverted from their planned route – heading 75 miles out of their way directly to the Betty C to render any assistance they could.

When Cabral and his crew reached Betty C, they found the crew in their skiff, frighteningly near their engulfed vessel. Cabral talked them through moving further away from the fire and, once they were a safe distance, maneuvered his vessel to bring the displaced crew aboard.

Once the 21 crewmen from the Betty C were safely aboard, Cabral called the Coast Guard to inform them of the situation, and resumed his trip to American Samoa, where he had been headed before diverting to assist.

“I didn’t do anything heroic,” Cabral said. “If I had to do something heroic, I probably would. It’s my fishermen, my friends – if they need help, then at all costs, help.”

And while Cabral may feel like it was nothing heroic, it’s actions like these in the early morning hours that can make the difference between lives saved and lives lost for the Coast Guard.

Citation given to the F/V Cape Ferret for their role in the rescue of the cre of Betty C.

Citation given to the F/V Cape Ferret for their role in the rescue of the cre of Betty C.

To each and every mariner who has rendered assistance at sea, or acted as a good Samaritan, thank you for your courage and bravery to assist those in need!

Do you know someone who embodies the Coast Guard Core Values of Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty? Please submit your nominations using the “Submit Ideas” link on the right.

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