SEARSPORT - The story of an incredible ocean rescue was the topic Thursday night at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. Captain Skip Strong rehashed that historic rescue and salvage which happened almost twenty years ago.
"It was sort of the pinnacle of my career. It was taking everything I'd learned at that point in time, putting it to use. I had an excellent ship, a very good crew, and the guys in the tugboat also did everything they could," Captain Skip Strong, of the Cherry Valley oil tanker, says.
It was a combination of skill, luck and a solid crew working together that enabled the salvage of the tugboat out of a tropical storm in November of 1994.
"Five guys in a tugboat were in trouble. They needed some help, and by law you are required to go offer assistance to someone who's in trouble on the sea, up until the point where it puts your vessel, crew, or cargo at risk," Strong explains.
Despite the 20 foot waves crashing onto the deck of the cherry valley oil tanker, Strong pushed on to save the lives of those individuals onboard.
"We maneuvered around, it took us three tries, but we wound up getting some lines to the tug and barge that were drifting towards the shoal area. No one else was able to come out, we were able to do some pretty fancy maneuvering," Strong says.
However, it wasn't until the morning that they realized the barge was carrying a 150-foot liquid fuel cell for a NASA space shuttle - cargo valued at 54-million dollars.
"There's going to be a point in time where you're going to have to offer assistance, and there's going to be a point in time where you're going to need assistance. This was just our time to offer assistance to someone out there, and because of what we did and how we did it, it wound up being a pretty unique circumstance - tugboats tow tankers, tankers don't tow tugboats," Strong explains.
"It's one of those tales where you think it could be made up, but it's not, it's a real story," Liz Lodge, Executive Director of the Penobscot Marine Museum, says.
Though they did receive a salvage percentage from the rescue, Captain Strong is adamant that his main focus was saving those five souls on the tugboat that stormy day almost 20 years ago.
If you'd like to read the full story of Captain Skip Strong's incredible salvage, In Peril is the name of the book he wrote about the experience.