Navy will raise patrol boat; radio report shows fire boat captain knew he hit buoy

A 34-foot Navy boat ran aground at the Charleston harbor south jetty Saturday. It has since sunk.

The captain of Charleston’s fire boat knew he’d struck a harbor buoy while racing to the scene of a Navy boat stuck on the Charleston jetty late Saturday, audio recordings of marine radio conversations indicate.

“Dispatch, we’re putting out a Mayday at this time,” the captain says. “We struck a buoy. We’re taking on water on our bow.”

After the strike, the unidentified captain later reported the steering “is all over the place. I got no control on it.”

The comments are contained in audiotapes supplied by Charleston County’s Consolidated 911 Dispatch. The Post and Courier obtained the tapes through the Freedom of Information Act.

Charleston officials confirmed late in the day on Monday that a buoy strike caused the damage that put a gash in the side of the $850,000 boat. The slice measured less than three feet in length, Fire Chief Karen Brack said.

The channel marker was green buoy 25, set in the water between Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter.

Meanwhile, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Charity Hardison said Tuesday that “all reasonable efforts” are being made to raise and remove its 34-foot Dauntless patrol boat, which hit the harbor’s south jetty in the dark Saturday.

Salvage experts are doing an assessment, she said, making sure the boat is secure. The goal is to refloat the boat as soon as possible. Officials anticipate some sort of crane will be needed.

The extent of the damage from striking the rocks and sinking below the waterline a day later is undetermined.

“All indications are that the integrity of the fuel tank is sound, and additional measures are underway to further secure the fuel tanks,” Hardison said.

The rescue mission was launched late Saturday after the Navy boat, which was on a long-distance training mission out of Florida, hit the jetty in the dark. Six people were injured.

The sailors are members of the Coastal Riverine Squadron 10 from Jacksonville, Fla.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.

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