Rescue at sea leads to big payoff for Maine man

SEARSPORT, Maine — Nearly 20 years ago, Capt. Skip Strong responded to a distress call from an ocean-going tugboat that was in trouble off the coast of Florida during Tropical Storm Gordon.

As it turned out, his decision to help the five men aboard the distressed vessel had some big ramifications, made headlines and led to a major settlement in a court case.

Strong, who now lives in Southwest Harbor, will be speaking about the 1994 rescue at sea Thursday night at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport.

“If someone’s in trouble out on the water, you go out and see if you can give them a hand,” he said Wednesday. “We were going out there to see if we could help these five guys on a tugboat who seemed to be having a pretty bad night.”

Strong, who was 32 then and who had graduated from Maine Maritime Academy in Castine about 10 years earlier, was captain of the Cherry Valley, an oil tanker trying to outrun the tropical storm. But he couldn’t ignore the call for help from the tugboat, which had lost 75 percent of its engine power and was struggling in heavy winds and seas that were as tall as 25 feet.

“The barge they were towing had a lot of sail area. They were getting dragged to the coast of Florida, right by a shoal area,” said Strong, who today is one of four owners of Penobscot Bay and River Pilots.

Click here to read the full story by Abigail Curtis at the Bangor Daily News

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