Harbor Patrol Stories
Short stories associated with marine law enforcement and emergency medical response in the Santa Barbara Waterfront.
Harbor Patrol Apprehends Burglar
On May 20, Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol responded to a report that a vessel had been broken into and robbed. The victim said he had been gone for two days and when he returned, he discovered signs that someone had broken into and removed property from the boat, including two wetsuits, cash, jewelry and alcohol. The victim said it appeared someone had been living there while he was gone, sleeping in his bed and even wearing his clothes. Two backpacks and a wallet were left in the boat containing photo identification for the suspect(s). The victim was asked to wait on his boat for police officers and to call 9-1-1 if the subject(s) returned. Harbor Patrol Officers searched the area for the suspect(s) and contacted three persons walking across the main harbor parking lot toward Marina 3. The three individuals were identified and detained. A witness informed the victim that he saw someone aboard the boat earlier in the day and was able to identify one suspect in a line-up. That suspect claimed to be living on the boat while working for the victim, “washing all the boats in the marina and scraping barnacles off the hulls.” Another suspect later admitted to being on the boat and to leaving his backpack and laptop aboard. The victim denied knowing any of the suspects. One of the suspects was arrested for burglary and parole violations and transported to County Jail by SBPD. (May 20, 2012)
Harbor Patrol Officers Receive Prestigious Award
Harbor Patrol Officers Ryan Kelly and Ed Stetson were recognized by their colleagues in the California Boating Safety Officers Association (CBSOA) for their role in rescuing a family from a distressed vessel during a major storm on March 20th. This award is not given annually, only when marine safety officers are recognized for going above and beyond expectations to save lives.
The saga began when the Officers received a “Mayday” call from the S/V Vixen anchored 1.5 miles east of Stearns Wharf during “storm force” conditions with 30-40 knot winds and 6-8 foot seas. The vessel operator said he, his wife, two children (3 years old and 6 months old) and their dog were in distress, getting beaten up by the storm and in danger of breaking loose from their anchor.
Officers Kelly and Stetson responded aboard Patrol Boat 3. While exiting the harbor through huge seas, a large wave hit the boat and broke a window. They continued in limited visibility, rain and hazardous seas toward the Vixen. Officers observed a hand-held flare aboard a boat and headed towards it. The flare was on the 50’ tugboat Jenny, anchored near the Vixen.
Officers continued taking heavy seas over the deck and cabin and noticed PB3 operating sluggishly. They checked the bilge and found it rapidly filling with water from an unknown source (later found to be a failed deck hatch). Needing time to assess the situation, PB3 took a position in the lee of the Jenny. Officer Kelly set up and began operating a dewatering pump, while Sergeant Stetson, at the helm, notified USCG and called for additional Harbor Patrol staff. Next, the Jenny lost its anchor and was adrift, heading towards shore, but not before colliding with the Vixen. Luckily, the Vixen was not damaged by the 40-ton steel tug. Firefighters met the crew of the Jenny, which eventually beached near the Cabrillo Pavilion. Two passengers and a dog were taken off the boat unharmed.
Meanwhile, Captain Sherri Malis from the M/V Alan T (an oilfield crew boat) heard the situation unfolding on the VHF radio while tied to the City Pier. She offered the assistance of the 100’ vessel. Malis drove the Alan T to a position upwind of PB3 to lessen the storm’s impact. Officer Kelly was having problems keeping suction with the pump and had to continuously prime it, his head dangerously close to the exhaust. Kelly said he had two options; keep manually priming the pump and breathing exhaust, or stop and PB3 would sink. After a time, Kelly became too weak and light-headed to continue.
Dockside, more Harbor Patrol Officers boarded PB2 with City firefighters as deckhands. PB2 powered through heavy seas to get to PB3. Once on scene, firefighters were transferred to PB3 with additional pumps. Enough water was removed to maneuver PB3 back into the Harbor.
Officers regrouped and responded to the Vixen on PB2. The children, parents and dog were evacuated from the Vixen and transported to the harbor. A waiting ambulance rushed the family to the hospital. They all suffered only minor injuries from the storm.
Congratulations to Officers Ryan Kelly and Ed Stetson for performing to the highest tradition of the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol and marine lifesaving during this multifaceted and rapidly evolving ocean rescue. Thanks, also, to Captain Sherri Malis, City Firefighters and the USCG for their roles in making this multi agency effort a success. The CBSOA award can be viewed at the Waterfront Office counter. (June 30, 2011)
Harbor Patrol Sgt. Ed Stetson Featured by SB’S TOP COPS
When you ask Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol Sgt. Ed Stetson what attracts him to his profession, most likely he’ll tell you it’s the variety. Stetson remembers well his first month on the job, 23 years ago “During my first month of work,” he recalled, “we had a wharf fire, a major vessel collision, a drowning, numerous boat tows, some emergency medical calls and a couple of arrests “There was never one single point that I knew this was the career for me. With each call, I realized just how fortunate I was to have this job. There was excitement and variety. But Stetson, profiled by Noozhawk as one of Santa Barbara’s Top Cops, admits it’s a job he needed to carve out for himself. A job, he explains, he helped turn into a career. Prior to 1985, the average employment with the Harbor Patrol lasted about three years.
“In 1985, I successfully negotiated public safety status for the Harbor Patrol. This literally changed the position form a job to a career,” he said.
Also clear to Stetson is that while he is an armed peace officer, law enforcement is only a portion of his job. Harbor Patrol deals with most of the law-enforcement calls within the harbor district, he explains, but the patrol also depends on the Santa Barbara Police Department when needed. “In a sense we are jacks-of-all-trades,” he said about his team at the Harbor. “(We are) marine firefighters, ocean search and rescue, medics, lifeguards, Coast Guard-licensed boat captains, tow boat operators and marina managers.”
Stetson, a scuba instructor at UCSB for the past 28 years, is quick to acknowledge the importance of teamwork at the Harbor Patrol. “Every officer comes to this job with their own unique specialty. All the different specialties of each officer comes together and we form a very unique, well-balanced and strong team,” said Stetson, himself a specialist in scuba diving and marine mammal rescue. Because there is no formal academy for aspiring Harbor Patrol officers, employees are expected to attend a variety of courses on their own. To hear Stetson describe the harbor is to capture a glimpse of a life, and lifestyle, many may never know. Maintaining a safe environment in the harbor community is something he can be rightly proud of. “The harbor is a very unique area. It can almost be called a city within a city,” he said. “There are commercial fishermen working among the pleasure boaters; people who live on their boats; travelers who top off on their voyages; restaurants and businesses; tourists. "Crime is relatively low at the harbor. People are generally very good about looking after each other and their property of others," he added. "It is a little community, and people are proud of the harbor.”
Santa Barbara’s Top Cops is a collection of Noozhawk profiles featuring ten men and women who excel at protecting and serving our community. By Rebecca Carroll, Noozhawk Staff WriterPosted 02/4-13/08 | Reprinted with permission by Santa Barbara’s NOOZHAWKS.com
Suspicious Boat Fire in Santa Barbara
At 3:07 a.m. Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol and City Firefighters responded to a fully involved boat fire in Marina 1 aboard the 35’ S/V Liz’s Diamond. Harbor Patrol officers Ryan Kelly and Wendy Cummings staged an initial attack in Patrol Boat #3, using the boat’s bow monitor and hand lines attached to the vessel’s standpipe. The Fire Department, which brought four engines and a truck company to the scene, used hand lines from dockside fireboxes to help extinguish the blaze. Owing to the apparent origin of the fire—in the boat’s cockpit—and the absence of any other evident causes of the blaze, the fire remains under investigation as “suspicious.” (January 7, 2008)
Small-Boat Sailors Rescued at Sea
At about 5:00 p.m. on Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol Officers Jan Martinez and Ryan Kelly received a report of a capsized 14’ sailing vessel with two persons in the water about three miles southwest of the Harbor. To complicate the situation, visibility was down to about 200’ in dense fog, with combined seas at 3-5’. After considering set and drift the officers initiated a search pattern. After 20 minutes searching in the fog, they found the capsized vessel and pulled the two victims from the water. Several attempts were made to right the vessel, but wind, seas and the victims’ deteriorating condition required the vessel be abandoned. The victims were treated for mild hypothermia and transported safely back to the Harbor. The boat was recovered off Devereux Point, ** miles west of Santa Barbara, the next day. (July 21, 2007)
Harbor Patrol Officer Saves Choking Victim
Harbor Patrol Officers Erik Engebretson and Jan Martinez rushed to Moby Dick Restaurant on Stearns Wharf on a CODE BLUE-man not breathing. Upon arrival they found an unconscious 88-year-old slumped over a chair, making only slightly audible wheezing sounds. The man’s wife said he was choking on his meal. Officer Engebretson performed three abdominal thrusts and dislodged a 2” piece of steak from the victim’s airway. Officer Martinez administered high-flow oxygen and prepared the patient for transport. Their quick response and effective use of emergency medical training saved the man’s life. This was the second choking victim that Harbor Patrol has saved in the past two years. (June 4, 2007)
Whale Breaches -- Vessel Blind Girl and Crew Take a Big Hit
As a day in the life, Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol Officers Troy Kuhlman and Larry Nufer responded to a Mayday call from the 26-foot vessel Blind Girl, a brand new Bayliner with a crew of three, located just south of Santa Barbara Point. On Wednesday, just after sunset, vessel operator Gerald Gormley and passengers Robert and Vickey Thornburgh were whale watching when suddenly, a large whale breached and fell across the Vessel from the starboard-bow to her stern. Mr. Thornburgh was injured and disorientated when Officers Kuhlman and Nufer arrived on scene. The Officers could see the vessel’s cabin top had been ripped away and glass thrown everywhere. The pilot’s chair was pushed into a pretzel as the whale tail passed over the boat’s helm. Shaken and injured Mr. Thornberg was in the rear of the vessel when Patrol Officer Kuhlman boarded the boat to administer first aid. The unnerved victim complained of head and back pain, and a cervical-collar was immediately applied. Thornberg’s left index finger and both hands and wrists were covered in lacerations. Sterile bandages were administered, before the vessel Blind Girl and her crew were safely towed into the Santa Barbara Harbor where AMP personnel were standing by to assist in the transport to Cottage Hospital. (February 2006)
Harbor Patrol Officer Saves a Life
Harbor Patrol Officer Larry Nufer responded to Brophy Brothers’ downstairs clam bar, on a telephone report that an individual was choking. Displaying his training and calm professional demeanor, Officer Nufer applied the Heimlich maneuver to the victim, who was blue and whom other persons had tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate prior to his prompt arrival. After several vigorous applications of the maneuver, an airway was established and the victim, who had choked on a piece of gum, was revived. Without doubt, Officer Nufer saved the victim’s life. Staff salutes his exemplary efforts, which reflect a first-response capability that is central to Harbor Patrol’s mission. (October 2005)
Harbor Patrol Rescue Part of the Job
Harbor Patrol Officers Troy Kuhlman and Billy Petrini responded to a distress call from the vessel G. Angel anchored in the winter anchorage east of Stearns Wharf. In total darkness, Rev. James Benson was returning to his vessel when high waves took his dinghy under the vessel G. Angel and tossed Rev. Benson into the ocean water leaving his two dogs in the dinghy. Training and quick responses to the situation saved the lives of Rev. Benson and his two canine companions. At the scene, Patrol Officers Kuhlman and Petrini had Mrs. Benson turn on the running lights for better visibility, and throw a life-line out to the Reverend. Then the two Patrol Officers brought the Patrol Boat along-side the exhausted Rev. Benson and pulled him aboard. With Rev. Benson safe, Harbor Patrol put their focus on locating the drifting dinghy. The dogs were still inside the small craft. They were rescued and later re-united with the Benson family. On April 24th, the Mayor’s Office and Harbor Patrol Office received a letter from Rev. Benson and family thanking the City of Santa Barbara and acknowledging Patrol Officers Kuhlman and Petrini on a job well done. (April 2005)
Officers Receive California Boating Safety Officer of the Year Award
In another related rescue incident which took place in the East of Stearns Wharf anchorage, Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol Officers Rick Hubbard and Jan Martinez were recognized and awarded the California Boating Safety Officer of the Year Award by the CBSOA Board of Directors at the 32nd Annual Training Symposium in Monterey California. Hubbard and Martinez received the award in recognition of their courageous actions during a life-saving rescue in extreme sea conditions on February 21, 2005. The California Boating Safety Officers Association (CBSOA) represents over 450 officers from over 100 local, State and Federal Agencies that provide some level of boating safety and enforcement in California. Here’s their full story.
Just after midnight on February 21, Harbor Patrol Officers Jan Martinez and Rick Hubbard responded to a distress call from the sailing vessel Four Sail. The vessel had broken free of its mooring and was adrift east of Stearns Wharf during a peak storm. Weather conditions included 40-knot winds with 8 to 10-foot breaking seas and heavy rain. Officer Martinez navigated Patrol Boat #3 through the turbulent seas and approached the drifting vessel. Both officers could see the victim clinging to the bow rail. Adding to the challenge of fierce weather and violent seas, the 55-year-old male victim was disabled, with only one leg and no prosthesis. With a boat-to-boat rescue ruled out due to the horrific conditions, a swimming rescue became the last possible hope, as the victim’s boat careened toward shore. After receiving verbal guidance from the officers, the victim jumped from the doomed vessel into the sea. Hubbard threw him a life-ring before diving into the sea himself. Officer Hubbard then safely swam the victim 700 yards through high seas, a debris field of logs, bamboo and tree burls and a pounding shore-break, to the beach. The victim was taken to Cottage Hospital and released later that morning. The vessel ran aground on East Beach. Officers Martinez and Hubbard’s courageous actions and professional handling of this rescue was in the highest tradition of Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol and its emergency-response mission. (April 2005)