Coast Guard Story
“I try to give as much of a long-range forecast as possible,” Hilgenberg said.
He uses a 150-watt transceiver and two satellite dishes to gather weather information to compile a forecast that coincides with the positions of vessels that are maintaining radio contact with him.
“Micro-forecasting,” said Hilgenberg.
His services have grown over the years, and he now communicates with an average of 50 vessels per day, seven days a week, from his home in Burlington, Ontario. “It can peak to 80 in prime season,” he said.
“My work area is a room, that used to be the utility room, near the furnace,” he said. “Nice and warm in the cold winter months.”
Starting at 11 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, Hilgenberg downloads basic weather information and uses that data to compile his forecasts, and plots suggested safe course tracks for the sailing and merchant vessels with which he is communicating.
The vessels begin checking in at approximately 4 p.m. (3 p.m. in the winter months), and Hilgenberg spends the next four hours broadcasting his suggested courses, finishing his day at about 8 p.m.
“I’ve worked with weather patterns for many years,” said Hilgenberg. His detailed and accurate forecasts have earned the trust of mariners throughout the world. Hilgenberg not only provides weather information for sailors, but also has assisted the U.S. Coast Guard with search and rescue cases and has become a familiar name to Coast Guard SAR coordinators.
“We know him simply as Herb,” said Lt. Heather Waddington, Coast Guard Atlantic Area SAR controller in Portsmouth, Va.
“I first heard about him when I was looking for the overdue sailing vessel Moorings back in ’96,” Waddington said. “He called directly to us and said he had communications with the vessel and passed information to the vessel for us.”
“He has been able to establish communications with vessels when we could not. Many mariners know of him and rely on him for weather broadcasts. He is extremely valuable to us,” said Waddington.
That value was evident on Dec. 20, 1994.
The 45-foot sailboat Evangeline C departed Bermuda en route to the Virgin Islands with a storm approaching the area, according to Hilgenberg.
He advised the owner to make the journey only if Evangeline C could sail 150 miles per day to stay ahead of the storm. The man departed, saying he would be traveling at least 150 miles per day, but only put 80 miles between the Evangeline C and Bermuda after the first day at sea.
“(At that point) I suggested he turn around because he was going to run into gale conditions,” said Hilgenberg. But Evangeline C continued on its journey.
Dec. 26, the owner of the Tuppence, a 46-foot sailboat sailing off the Bermuda coast, contacted Hilgenberg saying he heard a Pan Pan, a signal indicating an urgent need for assistance, but the signal was weak.
Hilgenberg took action and contacted the Evangeline C.
The owner reported a ripped main sail, an inoperable motor, and said he could not steer because of a broken rudder shaft or drive socket, according to Hilgenberg.
“I contacted Rescue Coordination Center Bermuda. They said, ‘Call the U.S. Coast Guard’” said Hilgenberg.
“Herb is one of a kind and a tremendous help in solving offshore cases,” said Waddington.
May 30, 1997, Hilgenberg was recognized in a letter from Lt. Cmdr. Melissa Wall, Seventh Coast Guard District Chief of Search and Rescue in Miami, Fla., for his efforts in rescuing the sailing vessel Osprey off the coast of South Carolina.
He was able to gather information on the distressed Osprey’s location from radio communications relayed through the sailing vessel Ariel. The information assisted RCC Miami to dispatch a Coast Guard C-130 to the location of the Osprey in severe weather conditions.
Hilgenberg also established a radio frequency for Coast Guard Group Charleston, S.C., SAR coordinators to stay in contact with the Ariel. The Osprey was eventually towed to safe harbor in the Cape Fear River May 29, 1997, according to Wall.
“The professionalism (Hilgenberg) demonstrated is commendable and demonstrates the finest traditions of assisting mariners in distress,” said Wall.
And, more recently, Hilgenberg reported to Coast Guard SAR coordinators in Portsmouth, Va., that the 45-foot sailing vessel Victory had sheared its rudder and was experiencing rough sea conditions 258 nautical miles northwest of Bermuda Oct. 29.
“He gathered all the pertinent information he knew we would need,” said Davis. Hilgenberg relayed the vessel’s identification number for its 406 megahertz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, name and type of vessel, communications capabilities, and what type of survival gear was on board.
A Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., C-130 crew flew to the scene and maintained radio contact with Victorythroughout the night and were relieved by a second C-130 crew Oct. 30, according to Davis.
The passengers on board the sailing vessel constructed a make shift rudder and completed their journey to Bermuda Oct. 31 under their own power, according to a Coast Guard report.
Hilgenberg provides an invaluable service to sailors and merchant mariners, and is always ready to lend a helping ear to Coast Guard SAR coordinators.
He continues to monitor weather conditions around the globe and has learned from his brush with the elements in November 1982, and from assisting other vessels in distress.
“Don’t leave a safe port without having a reliable five-day forecast,” said Hilgenberg.
The database is protected by copyright ©hestories.info 2017