From the Chinook Observer
SEATTLE — The Coast Guard announced Wednesday that the Association for Rescue at Sea has selected Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Hylkema, a boatswain’s mate at Station Grays Harbor, to receive the 2016 AFRAS Gold Medal for a rescue offshore the Long Beach Peninsula.
The AFRAS Gold Medal is awarded annually to a Coast Guard enlisted member who exhibited exceptional courage and heroism during a rescue at sea.
Hylkema is cited for extraordinary heroism on the night of Oct. 6, 2016, while serving as a crewmember aboard the 52-foot Motor Lifeboat Invincible, during the rescue of the master of the sailing vessel Grace.
The Grace was transiting from Tacoma to San Francisco when it was caught in a storm off Long Beach. “Considering weather conditions and structurally weak deck, it was decided to have the master wear an immersion suit, anchor the vessel, then evacuate into the water to be pulled to safety,” the Coast Guard said in a press release. “Unfortunately, the master’s legs became wrapped in the heaving line, with only a life ring keeping the master’s head above water.”
Hylkema volunteered to deploy as a surface swimmer. He battled 18- to 20-foot breaking seas and swam more than 150 feet to the master in order to cut him free. Hylkema remained in the water as the MLB crew recovered the barely coherent master first.
“I’m honored daily to work with some of the finest men and women in the Coast Guard, and I am extremely proud of Hylkema’s heroism to freely give of himself in such a way as to bring honor to his family, those he serves with, and the Coast Guard,” said Chief Warrant Officer Cheston Evans, commanding officer, Station Grays Harbor.
The award will be presented to Hylkema at a ceremony held at the Rayburn Congressional Office Building, Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26.
The motor life boat used in this rescue is one of four in the Coast Guard, with each being more than 50 years old. “These unique vessels are all located in the Pacific Northwest and each is known for its exceptional sea-keeping and rescue capabilities that far exceed that of the newer vessels when facing breaking surf and hurricane force winds,” the Coast Guard said. The four vessels are named Invincible, Triumph, Victory and Intrepid and are stationed in Grays Harbor, Cape Disappointment, Yaquina Bay and Coos Bay. They are the only Coast Guard vessels smaller than 65-feet in length that have official names.