Capt. Sheryl Dickinson, Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg Commander, held an "all hands" gathering Tuesday to honor members of the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary who went over and beyond the call of duty.
Two of those recipients were Karen Miller and John Keyes, both of Palm Harbor. These members of the Clearwater Coast Guard Auxiliary were on official Coast Guard patrol Aug. 7, 2010, with other crew members aboard Miller's boat, Broad on the Bow. While heading west out Clearwater Pass, a lookout on board the patrol boat noticed a capsized sailboat tangled in the concrete pilings and two people in the water. With seas stacking into the pass in waves, whitecaps up to 5 feet and winds blowing in excess of 15 knots, one of the victims managed to get to shore, while the other was still trying to untangle his sailboat. Miller notified Coast Guard Station Sand Key that they were going to provide assistance. There were two sheriff's boats also on scene. Despite the deteriorating conditions, Keyes was able to throw a line over to the man in the water, and he tied it off on his sailboat.
It was evident that the victim, who was not wearing a life jacket, was becoming exhausted. Keyes was able to persuade him to let deputies pick him out of the water.
Keyes then used his vast experience and knowledge of sailing vessels to significantly help with the tow and rescue. Due to the drag of the mast and other rigging as well as the challenging sea conditions, Broad on the Bow was able to travel at only 1 to 2 mph in her transit through the pass. The sailboat posed further challenges by rolling several times.
To safely transit in these conditions, Keyes assisted Miller by constantly warning of sea conditions and the status of the towed vessel. Once they got the sailboat to the beach, the owner was able to right it and return the tow lines.
While presenting the awards to Miller and Keyes, Dickinson reiterated her comments about the importance of the Coast Guard Auxiliary in assisting Sector St. Petersburg and its local Coast Guard Stations in carrying out their missions.