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Ship rescues four Tampa sailors from Tropical Storm Sally in Gulf of Mexico

A Coast Guard helicopter had to abort Sunday’s rescue mission because of the then-tropical storm. Then a container vessel showed up.

TAMPA — A container ship on Sunday rescued four bay area sailors from a sailboat being swamped in rough Gulf of Mexico waters fueled by Tropical Storm Sally, according to the Coast Guard.

The “COSCO Malaysia,” an 1,100-foot container ship, rescued the crew of “Yes Dear,” which had sailed from the Davis Island Yacht Club. The rescue took place just after 11 a.m. about 68 miles west of Clearwater, said Coast Guard spokesman Erik Villa.

The “Yes Dear” was apparently taking on water. A Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was sent from Air Station Clearwater with rescue swimmers to attempt to save the sailors, Villa said. But the wind and waves were too rough for the helicopter to mount a rescue attempt.

“When they arrived on scene they lowered the rescue swimmer with a water pump in order to assist ... But they weren’t able to because of the sea and the weather,” said Villa.

Fortunately the COSCO Malaysia, which is registered in Hong Kong and operated by China Ocean Shipping Company Shipping Lines, was en route to Port Tampa Bay from Mobile, Ala. The container ship rescued the four sailors and took them to the port in downtown Tampa. The crew disembarked at Port Tampa Bay and suffered no injuries, the Coast Guard spokesman said.

“We are thankful the COSCO Malaysia and her crew were able to save the sailors and bring them to safety," said Port Tampa Bay President and CEO Paul Anderson in a statement. "Mariners saving fellow mariners ... this has been going on for millenniums and is part of what a mariner is called upon to do.”

Tropical Storm Sally was producing maximum sustained winds of 60 mph at the time of the rescue, according to the National Hurricane Center. Its center was 220 miles west of St. Petersburg when the “COSCO Malaysia” rescued the sailors. Sally strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane when it reached the Alabama-Florida line early Wednesday and caused widespread flooding.

The crew of the “Yes Dear” could not be reached for comment Wednesday.