The crew of the tugboat, Guard, practices man overboard drills every month. Based on what happened a mile west of the Golden Gate bridge last fall, practice made perfect.
Different ships, carrying different cargos, going different places, in all kinds of weather conditions.
When you work on a tugboat on San Francisco Bay, no two jobs are every exactly alike. It's what keeps the job fun says Perry Overton, captain of the Guard, a man with decades of experience working on the water.
Even his skills were tested, though, the morning of October 31, 2011. Having passed under the Golden Gate Bridge on his way to escort a container ship back into the Bay, Overton spotted a dark shape floating in the water roughly 100 yards off the tugboat's stern.
Overton didn't think too much of it at first. From logs, to seals, to crab buoys, there are always things floating in the water out there. The Guard kept its course and stayed on schedule. But when the container ship radioed it was running late, Overton decided to double back and check out what was in the water.
It was a man. He was alive and treading water a mile and a half out to see with the receding tide dragging him further each second. He was apparently so hypothermic he didn't react in any way when the tug pulled up near him and hailed him over a loudspeaker. The crew was going to have to act quickly to save his life.
Good thing they had practiced.
To hear the rest of the details, watch Garvin Thomas' story above.