Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68) conducts a fueling at sea with Nimitz-class aircraft carrier
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Eisenhower and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 are on deployment in support of Maritime Security Operations (MSO). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Jon Dasbach
By Ensign Colleen McDonald, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Public
The guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68) responded to a distress call May 20 from Amerauto, a 34-foot sailing vessel.
The vessel was slowly sinking and the four crew members were transferred to Anzio. Amerauto was 425 miles from Bermuda when they put out their distress call and 1,700 miles from their next destination of the Azores.
The vessel and its Ukrainian crew of four had been underway for five days after departing Bermuda on May 15, heading for the Azores.
Initially bridge-to-bridge communications were difficult because the Ukrainian crew spoke little English, but fortunately Anzio has three personnel on board who are fluent in Russian.
Anzio’s Navigator, Lt. j.g. Brian Gordon, Electronics Technician 2nd Class Eric Stoddard, and Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Electrical) 3rd Class Vladimir Moskovkin worked together as a team to communicate with Amerauto. They discovered that the vessel had several problems: it was taking on water, the bilge pump was inoperable because of a casualty to the generator, one crew member was ill, they only had three days of food remaining on board and they had no propane to cook their food.
Moskovkin, born in Ufa, Russia, handled the majority of the bridge-to-bridge communications.
“The crew spoke perfect Russian. It was easy for me to understand," said Moskovkin. "You could hear the desperation in their voices as they kept repeating that their situation was severe. They had no confidence in the hull of the sailboat.”
Anzio dispatched Gordon and Engineman 1st Class Gregory Fogle via small boat to assess the Amerauto’s seaworthiness. Upon arriving on board, it was clear that the crew was in distress and the vessel was in very poor condition.
“The vessel was taking on about 12 gallons of water per hour and their generator was shorted out, rendering their bilge pump useless,” said Gordon. "The only way they could get the water off their boat was by using buckets. They had no power and everything they were using was running on battery power."
The Amerauto passengers were taken on board Anzio for medical care and a hot meal. One was treated for dehydration upon arrival, and all are currently doing well. They are remaining onboard Anzio as the ship heads back towards Virginia.
The four crew members had picked the Amerauto up in the Bahamas and were sailing it back to the Ukraine via St. George, Bermuda, and the Azores. They had left St. George on May 15 and were just on sail power. Amerauto is a U.S.-flagged sailboat, registered in Newark, Delaware, and owned by a U.S.-based company.
“Throughout the course of our deployment, we have assisted four vessels in distress on the high seas. While it is an unfortunate circumstance for those individuals, I hope that this interaction has had a positive and lasting impact on the lives of those we have helped,” said Capt. Perry Bingham, Anzio’s Commanding Officer.
"In all four cases it may be the first and only interaction these mariners have with Americans, and I think we left them with a very positive impression that they will take back to their homes."
Anzio is transiting home to Norfolk after an extended eight-month deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom and maritime security operations.
Anzio is part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group
, which also includes the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, embarked Destroyer Squadron 28; guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61); and guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). The strike group deployed Oct. 3 from Norfolk.