Savannah research vessel helps rescue Florida fishermen

Local News

The Florida Coast Guard called on a Chatham County-based ship this week to help a boat that capsized at sea.

‘R/V Savannah,’ a boat used for research by the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography helped make a rescue on the ocean a reality.

The 92-foot-ship is a vital platform for scientists at the institute to gather data from the sea. It’s last voyage took the ship from Savannah to the Florida coast to perform a fish survey of groupers and red snappers.

But the trip took a turn around 8:30 p.m. on June 8, when the ship was called by the Coast Guard to assist with a vessel in distress just 3.5 miles away.

“We didn’t see anybody in the original location, but with our scientific computer system, it indicated that they would have been going towards the east, so I tuned my radar a little,” said Captain Raymond Sweatte who was on board the Savannah. “On the third sweep, just about, probably just a swell coming over that hull, it would come in with a faint signal.”

The captain said he followed his instruments, knowing the men were going from a bad situation into something worse.

“They were getting closer to the Gulf Stream. Once you get in the gulf Stream, then it starts transporting you rather quickly, and it would have been a lot harder to locate them,” Sweatte explained.

But R/V Savannah did find them clinging to their overturned boat in the dark. Those fishermen, Justin DeSoto and Andy Odom, were grateful for the rescue after spending five hours in the water.

And it was rewarding for Sweatte too: “Finding these guys, it made it probably my best day on the water, of being the captain on the boat.”

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