The Sea Education Association of Woods Hole, Massachusetts was selected by The Cruising Club of America to receive the coveted Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship for 2005. The award was presented at the Club's annual Awards Dinner in New York on January 17, 2006. Making the presentation of the award was CCA Commodore Edward S. Rowland of Hamilton, MA.
The award is made to the Sea Education Association, Captain Steve Tarrant, and the crew of the Corwith Cramer, a sailing school ship, which came upon and rescued 51 people in the Caribbean aboard a dismasted and disabled sailing boat. The 25 foot boat carrying Haitian refugees toward Jamaica had been at sea for five days without food and almost without water. The refugees, which included 35 adults and 16 children as young as babies, were brought aboard and taken to safety at Port Antonio, Jamaica.
The rescue occurred on March 9, 2005 when the 134' brigantine, Corwith Cramer, manned by 22 college students and a crew of eleven, found the distressed boat while in the fifth week of a six week voyage that began in Key West of February 9, 2005 as part of the sea component of the Association's semester-long program, SEA Semester. At the time, the students were deploying oceanographic sampling equipment in clear weather with a moderate wind blowing.
After making radio calls to the USCG and the Sea Education Association (SEA) headquarters in Woods Hole, all involved on the Corwith Cramer worked to understand the situation, evaluate the condition of the refugees, assess the various risks to all concerned and to develop a plan that all could support. Captain Steve Tarrant ordered the Cramer's rescue boat be launched and sent to the boat with water and a French speaking student, Anita Kasch, to assess the situation. They determined that they were Haitian refugees, were out of food and almost out of water, but had no injuries or sickness aboard. They also determined that they were fleeing Haiti and were seeking help since their boat was totally disabled.
The USCG advised that there was no other vessel in the area capable of making a rescue of the disabled craft. They requested that the Cramer perform the rescue and offered to be a liaison with the Jamaican Defense Forces. Various options for the rescue were discussed along with safety and health issues. In the end it was decided to bring all of the Haitians aboard, provide them with easily digestible food and water, install a temporary deck toilet, and provide them with shelter from the wind and spray on deck. After the vessel was prepared, the boarding went smoothly and the following day the refugees were turned over to Jamaican authorities at Port Antonio.
Of the rescue, Captain Steve Tarrant said, "The survivors were extremely grateful and very cooperative during their rescue. We were lucky to have been in the area and equipped to undertake this mission."
John K. Bullard, CCA member and President of SEA, said "We are thankful we could be of help in this situation and for the efforts of our outstanding captain and crew. We are also happy that our students had a chance to contribute to a successful humanitarian mission."