Five G's

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Five G's (#) (-2006), commercial fishing boat out of Santa Barbara harbor that sank off the coast of Santa Cruz Island. Two fishermen were drowned, and a third, Clifton Kent, was rescued.

In the News~

July 11, 2006 [LAT]: “Debris field off Santa Cruz Island yields survivor. Two commercial fishermen died and a third was rescued after their boat sank near Santa Cruz Island off the Santa Barbara coast early today, the U.S. Coast Guard reported. Clifton Kent, a 45-year-old Santa Barbara resident and skipper of the 5G's, managed to swim more than a mile through the chilly waters and was rescued near the Painted Caves area on the island's north shore. Two crew members were found dead amid the debris scattered over the water at 8:45 a.m., when another boat, the Peace from Ventura Harbor, spotted an oil slick. That vessel notified the U.S. Coast Guard and dispatched a dinghy to rescue Kent, who was airlifted to a hospital, where he was treated and released. The identities of the deceased were not released and the cause of the investigation is under investigation. Mike McCorkle moors his boats next to the 5G's in Santa Barbara Harbor and has fished off the Southern California coast for 50 years. He said Kent was probably saved by luck and his powerful swimming ability. "He can swim all day when he's diving for urchins, so he;s a very strong swimmer," McCorkle said. "Fishing is a dangerous occupation, but something weird happened out there because he was an experienced fisherman." Kent could not be reached for comment. About 100 commercial fishing boats operate out of Santa Barbara Harbor, and this time of year many of them target halibut and white sea bass for restaurants in the Los Angeles area. Many boats use nets and operate at night at least a mile from the northern islands that constitute Channel Islands National Park. The boat sank about two miles from shore, said John Bridley, waterfront director for the Santa Barbara Harbor. The Coast Guard said the stricken vessel issued no radio transmissions for help. Fishermen reported no unusual conditions: 2- to 4-foot swells, light winds and visibility of about three-quarters of a mile in the Santa Barbara Channel on Tuesday morning. "Something had to have happened pretty quickly in order for that boat to go down and not get out a call, but that's conjecture," Bridley said. Petty Officer Prentice Danner of the Coast Guard said boating mishaps involving anglers are rare off Southern California. There were no fatalities last year and three fishermen died in 2004. "It's unusual for a large boat like this, engaged in fishing, to sink and have people die," Danner said. The Coast Guard and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department are conducting an investigation.”

The following is a letter written by Clifton Kent, the skipper of the 5 G'S commercial fishing boat that sank off the coast of Santa Cruz Island Monday night. (spelling errors corrected)

The boat left S.B. Harbor 5:15 [p.m.]. Everything was fine when we arrived at the Island. We started to set the net about 9:00 at Arch Rock approximately 1-1/2 miles out. At the time of setting the net everything seemed to be alright. Then Mike called out — there was a little water on the deck. I came out on deck to see about the water. At this point I know something was wrong, I told Mike "let's get the net in quick." About this time we took 2 waves over the stern, the boat turned to port. It flooded the whole boat in seconds. Seconds later the boat turned over. We instantly grabbed 5 fishing balls and wrapped them together. We could not see the boat floating at all. The three of us got together and talked and we decided we had 2 choices: 1.) To swim to Gary Burk's boat the Titan which was up and out to sea, or 2.) Get together and try to swim to the island about 1-1/2 miles off. We all decided to swim to the island. About 45 minutes into the swim Mike had a problem. The current was very strong and waves were braking over us. We tried for 20 minutes to revive him and keep swimming at the same time. We realized that Mike had passed, and decided to clip him to 2 buoys, and we had to keep swimming. 2 hours later Joe gave up. He was "exhausted & cold." I tried towing him and begged him to try and swim. It came to a point I had to make a decision. I could no further help to Joe. I unclipped my buoy and asked Joe to swim with me. I had to make this choice, I had family at home. I didn't know if I could make it at this point. I was afraid of missing this whole island about 2:00 am. I finaly got to the island. I could not get up on the island. I had to swim approximately 1/4 to 1/2 mile to find a spot to climb up on. We were all good friends and I will miss them. End Story

July 13, 2006 [LAT]: “Divers Search for Clues in Boat Sinking. Divers with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department searched Wednesday for clues to why a fishing boat sank quickly near Santa Cruz Island, killing two crew members. Meanwhile, the Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Coast Guard continued their joint investigation. The coroner's office, which is part of the Sheriff's Department, said the victims were Michael Caligiuri, 48, of Santa Barbara and Joseph Breck, 45, of Lompoc. Sheriff's spokesman Erik Raney said Caligiuri died immediately while Breck attempted to swim away from the 36-foot vessel but was unable to reach shore. Clifton Kent, 43, of Santa Barbara, the skipper of the steel fishing vessel the Five G's, made it to the island and spent Monday night in a cave-like outcropping on the northern end of Santa Cruz. Kent was rescued the next morning when a passing diving vessel, the Peace, out of Ventura Harbor, spotted debris, an oil slick and what looked like two bodies in the water. As Peace crew members surveyed the scene, they spotted Kent waving his arms.”

July 27, 2006 [LAT]: “Santa Cruz Island — The Coast Guard is investigating the sinking of a 36-foot steel commercial fishing vessel, Five G's of Santa Barbara, that claimed two lives July 11 near Santa Cruz Island, about 20 miles off the coast of Ventura County. "We received a call at 8:45 a.m. from the dive vessel Peace reporting they had seen an oil sheen, debris and possibly two deceased persons in the water," Lt. J. G. Peter Jacquelin said. "They also reported seeing a person on the beach near the debris field waving at them." " Peace sent a dinghy to recover the survivor from the rocky coastline and brought the person back to the vessel," Jacquelin said. Officials from the dive vessel Peace would not comment on the matter. In response to the call, a Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter picked up the survivor and vessel operator, Clifton Kent, 43, of Santa Barbara, and transported him to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, where he was treated and released. The same day, the Coast Guard sent its 47-foot Motor Life Boat to recover two bodies from the debris, which were turned over to the Ventura County Coroner's office. The deceased were identified as Michael Caligiuri, 48, of Santa Barbara and Joseph Breck, 45, of Lompoc. According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department interview with Kent, as reported in the Los Angeles Times July 13, the three anglers began pulling nets through the water to catch sea bass at about 8 p.m. July 10, when, without warning, the boat's stern began to drag. The engine compartment began to flood as waves started washing over the stern of the boat, and Five G's was completely submerged within a minute. Kent was able to swim safely to shore and spent the night under a sea cave outcropping. Caligiuri died immediately, while Breck attempted to swim away from the vessel but was unable to reach shore. The sheriff's department is treating the deaths as accidental. "The vessel and debris field were found about 1.5 miles northeast of Chinese Harbor on the north side of Santa Cruz Island," Jacquelin said. "When Coast Guard personnel arrived, it was completely submerged." The Coast Guard was able to recover 160 gallons of fuel from the vessel, which was resting in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. We believe we recovered all of the fuel with little or no pollution to the surrounding waters," Jacquelin said. Jacquelin explained that when a boat owner has no resources to recover his vessel, the Coast Guard, and in this case, the sanctuary, have funds to take care of pollution clean up, recovery and disposition of the vessel. On July 14, Five G's was towed off her resting place on the beach at Chinese Harbor where she was laying on her side. The vessel Danny C was on scene with divers to begin salvage operations. Also on scene were representatives from the sanctuary to observe the operation. "The vessel has since been towed to Santa Barbara Harbor, where Coast Guard Marine Safety Division investigators are looking into the cause of the incident, as well as the crewmen's deaths," Jacquelin said.”