Saba played mayor role in Sea Rescue

The Harlequin in Saba’s harbour. Photo: Government of Saba

THE BOTTOM- In response to a press release that the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard issued on Tuesday, December 14 about the sea rescue close to Saba, Island Governor Jonathan Johnson added that Saba played a major role in bringing the yacht, with on board 27 persons, to safety.

On Tuesday morning before 5:00 a.m., Island Governor Johnson received a telephone call from Head of the Coast Guard Support Station St. Maarten Jocelyn Levenstone informing him of a yacht in distress and the need to open the airport. The small, overcrowded boat Harlequin was adrift at sea with a malfunctioning motor and was quickly making water on the rough ocean.

According to Johnson, immediate contact was made with the airport and harbor officials on Saba.  The harbor officials informed the Island Governor that the Saba fishing boat Navigator and a cruise ship were on scene. Johnson gave much credit to the incredible work that was done by Captain Ryan Hassell of the Navigator and the Saban emergency services that day.

Saban shore

While the Coast Guard’s cutter Poema was on its way, the Navigator started to pull the sinking ship. With his knowledge and expertise he was able to bring the boat safely to Saban shore, saving 27 lives including a baby. The cruise ship and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter escorted the rescue mission.

On Saba, the Harbor Office, Marechaussee, Douane, Police, Ambulance and Public Safety departments were all informed that an attempt would be made to bring the yacht to Saba and gathered in the harbor. Once the sinking boat safely reached Fort Bay at 9:30 a.m., emergency and border services worked closely together to handle the situation.

All passengers and their belonging were searched and documented by Douane and Marechaussee. Those passengers with medical needs were quickly checked by the ambulance crew and all passengers were fully checked for signs of a COVID-19 infection. Police and Marechaussee ensured the safety of all involved and invested the situation. This way the passengers could be easily transferred to the Coast Guard when the Poema arrived at the Fort Bay harbor at noon. Thoughtful Sabans even brought a bag full of baby necessities to ensure the baby girl had everything it needed on her onwards journey.


The French authorities are responsible for coordinating rescue at sea. However, it can take some time before the Coast Guard arrives and the search is sometimes hindered by a language barrier. “We are thankful for the fishermen and harbor officials on Saba that have the knowledge and experience to deal with such incidents,” stated Johnson, who thanked all those on Saba who assisted with the rescue. “Sabans come from a strong sea heritage and will assist those at sea when needed as Sabans have been sustained by the sea for generations,” he said. 

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