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Stories from Harbor PatrolWaterfront

Harbor Patrol wide shot Short stories associated with marine law enforcement and emergency response in the Santa Barbara Waterfront.
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Harbor Patrol Conducts Rare Island Assist

May 23, 2015 

At 1:00 p.m. on May 23rd, Harbor Patrol received a call from the wife of a prospective kidney transplant recipient who had been on the “waiting list” for some time. She had been contacted by health officials who said a kidney from a deceased donor was waiting for him, but quick action was necessary to ensure he would be available in time for the transplant.

No problem, right? Well, the recipient was at the Channel Islands, and the Coast Guard and Harbor Patrol could not reach him by radio or cell phone. But there was still hope. Like all boaters should do, he had filed a “float plan” with his wife, who said he had sailed to Frys Harbor at Santa Cruz Island.

At 2:30 p.m., Harbor Patrol headed for the island aboard Patrol Boat #2 (PB #2), bucking heavy seas and 20-knot west winds along the way. Instead of heading directly for Frys, officers aimed for an area west of Frys, so they could check nearby small coves and anchorages in case the vessel had relocated. Meanwhile, the National Park Service began checking anchorages from the east end of the island working west.

Shortly after 3:30 p.m., Harbor Patrol arrived at Frys, and voila, there stood the “intended target” aboard a sailboat, looking somewhat astonished at a Harbor Patrol boat 25 miles from Santa Barbara Harbor. It was, in fact, one of the rare times—possibly the only time—Harbor Patrol has responded to Santa Cruz Island. Informed that his number was up and that Patrol would escort him back to Santa Barbara, he quickly packed a few essentials, climbed aboard PB #2, and the party of three—Officers Jan Martinez, Anthony Lombardi, and the prospective recipient—headed for the mainland. They arrived back at Santa Barbara Harbor at 4:45 p.m., and the recipient reported that he was safely in his room at a Los Angeles-area transplant center shortly before 6:00 p.m. He called Harbor Patrol the next day to say, “Thanks,” and to relay the news that he had received his new kidney.

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Catamaran Fire at Santa Barbara Harbor

February 11, 2015 

At about 9:30 p.m. on January 27th, Harbor Patrol Officers Erik Engebretson and Ryan Kelly were notified of a fire aboard the 32’ catamaran Wizard of Bristol berthed at a Marina 2 side-tie. After notifying the City Dispatch Center, Officer Engebretson responded on Patrol Boat 3 (PB #3), while Officer Kelly staged on Patrol Boat 2 (PB #2) for Engine 6 firefighters.

When PB #3 arrived on scene, the catamaran’s center cockpit was fully involved with fire. Officer Engebretson used a bow monitor to quickly attack the fire and protect neighboring boats from flames, heat and embers. Officer Kelly arrived within minutes with firefighters who extended fire-hose lines from standpipes on PB #2. The burning fiberglass-composite hull, canvas and sail materials, as well as the vessel’s design, made the fire difficult to extinguish, but that mission was completed within about ten minutes. Harbor Patrol and firefighters secured the vessel, deployed a containment boom and assisted fire investigators. Teamwork and training insured the fire did not spread to neighboring vessels or docks.

Photo courtesy of Peter Hartmann/Noozhawk

Harbor Patrol Rescues Two after Boat Sinks Nine Miles Offshore

October 27, 2014 

During the evening hours of October 25, 2014 Officers Karl Halamicek and Larry Nufer responded to a report from USCG of a 26’ motor vessel that was sinking nine miles southwest of Santa Barbara Harbor with two passengers aboard. Officers quickly got underway on Patrol Boat #2 (PB#2) and entered into the GPS the last known coordinates of the sinking vessel.

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Harbor Patrol Responds to Vessel Reported Sinking at County Line

September 24, 2014 

During the evening hours of September 24, 2014 Officers Erik Engebretson and Larry Nufer heard a MAYDAY call from the 45’ M/V Mesmerize that departed Santa Barbara Harbor about an hour earlier. The vessel’s operator reported they were sinking with six passengers aboard in a location approximately half way between Santa Barbara and Ventura Harbor.

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Kayaker Saved After Joint Rescue Effort Near Santa Barbara

July 15, 2013 

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The Coast Guard and the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol worked together to rescue a man who was attempting to kayak from Santa Cruz Island to Santa Barbara, Thursday night.

The kayaker used his cell phone to call the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol for help, stating that he was disoriented and could see four nearby oil platforms. The harbor patrol relayed the call for help to the Coast Guard Command Center in San Pedro, Calif.

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Harbor Patrol Officers Receive Prestigious Award

April 16, 2013 
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.
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Anyone Can Lead A Horse to Water, But Few Can Tow One to Shore

May 15, 2012 

At about 6:40 p.m. on May 15th I was dispatched on Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol Rescue Boat #1 to Summerland Beach (Loon Point), approximately 5 miles east of Santa Barbara Harbor, to assist Carpentaria-Summerland Fire and State Parks with a water rescue of a “show horse.”

Photo courtesy of Paul Noury.

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Harbor Patrol Apprehends Burglar

June 30, 2011 
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)

Bomb Scare Aboard the Land Shark

August 3, 2010 

At 3:05 p.m. on Tuesday, August 3rd, report of a bomb scare aboard the Land Shark was forwarded to Harbor Patrol and City Police. While at sea aboard the Land Shark, an individual reportedly threatened passengers with a pair of scissors and claimed another passenger had a bomb in his backpack. Harbor Patrol Officers aboard Patrol Boat #3 came alongside the Land Shark as it approached the Launch Ramp. One Officer was transferred onto the Land Shark while both boats were underway. The Officer proceeded to the back of the craft, where he detained and handcuffed the suspect as Police units arrived at the Launch Ramp Parking Lot.

After Land Shark passengers were safely escorted off the craft, the area was cordoned off and PD debriefed passengers and first responders. Police officers also secured the subject’s belongings, in which they found no bomb, but confiscated illegal drugs (hallucinogenic mushrooms) and several knives, including a shaving-style straight edge. The subject was taken to jail and booked on a range of serious charges. The Launch Ramp Parking Lot and docks reopened to vessel and pedestrian traffic at 3:45 p.m.

Staff wishes to acknowledge the professionalism of both Harbor Patrol and City Police in their response to this dangerous incident. In addition, Harbor Operations Division staff will conduct a thorough de-brief of our response, a “lessons learned” session to best understand and fine-tune how we react to unusual, dangerous events like these.

Harbor Patrol Rescue

April 21, 2010 

At 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21st, Harbor Patrol received a report of an overturned skiff about two miles off Summerland. Officer Erik Engebretson and Crew Billy Larsen responded to the location, where a man already suffering mild hypothermia was drifting, awash, in stiff winds, his engine having failed. Known to Harbor Patrol from previous contacts in the East Beach Anchorage, the victim began seizing. Harbor Patrol warmed him and rushed him to the east side of Stearns Wharf, where medics and City Firefighters met him and sent him by ambulance to Cottage Hospital. The victim subsequently recovered from the accident. Key to the rescue was the reporting party, who was parked at the beach near Hammonds Reef checking the surf when he spotted the emergency. He never lost sight of the victim, guiding Harbor Patrol to the rescue point. Without his assistance, the victim would have been difficult to locate and save. This incident, like many in the past, demonstrates that cooperation between trained Harbor Patrol Officers and an alert, educated public often yields life-saving results.

Harbor Patrol Officer Commandeers Oilfield Crew Boat to Safety

February 1, 2010 

At 5:05 p.m. on February 1st, Harbor Patrol received a report that the captain of the 95’ oilfield crew-boat Alan T had suffered a seizure and needed assistance. Officers responded aboard Patrol Boat #3 to the Alan T two miles off Santa Barbara. Officer Nufer boarded the vessel, where he stabilized the patient, took command of the craft and safely navigated it back to Santa Barbara Harbor. An ambulance transported the patient to Cottage Hospital. This successful outcome reflects Harbor Patrol’s broad array of required training, exemplified by the boat-to-boat personnel transfer, medical response and maneuvering a 95' (triple-propeller) oilfield crew boat back to port.

Harbor Patrol Sgt. Ed Stetson Featured by SB'S TOP COPS

February 4, 2008 

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.
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Suspicious Boat Fire in Santa Barbara

January 7, 2008 
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)

Harbor Resident Helps Save a Life

October 22, 2007 
Paul Noury, a Marina 1 live-aboard on O finger, was asleep at 5:30 a.m. on October 22nd when he heard a muffled call, sort of a moan, of someone in distress. A conscientious citizen and Harbor Watch participant, Paul had a “gut feeling” there was a problem. He got up, grabbed his cell phone and listened for distress sounds as he walked to the end of Marina 1.
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Small-Boat Sailors Rescued at Sea

July 21, 2007 
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

June 4, 2007 
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

February 1, 2006 

As a day in the life, Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol Officers 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 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 Officers 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)

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Harbor Patrol Officer Saves a Life

October 1, 2005 
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

April 1, 2005 

Harbor Patrol Officers 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 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 Harbor Patrol Officers on a job well done.

Officers Receive the California Boating Safety Officer of the Year Award

April 1, 2005 

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.

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Last Updated: Jun 14, 2017
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