Coast Guard suspends search for missing fishermen

A 47-foot motor lifeboat from Station Menemsha is assisting in the search for two missing fishermen from a fishing vessel that sank off Block Island. —Rich Saltzberg

Updated Jan. 2 @ 6 pm

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search for two missing fishermen from The Mistress, a 52-foot trawler out of Point Judith, R.I. The fishing vessel capsized and sank early New Year’s morning 2.5 miles southeast of Block Island.

The search was suspended Wednesday at 5:13 pm after nearly 72 hours of searching that covered 2,152 square miles, according to a Coast Guard release.

One fisherman was rescued by the Good Samaritan fishing boat Captain Bligh, Coast Guard Petty Officer Andrew Barresi told The Times. The Coast Guard deployed several vessels to search for the missing fishermen, Senior Chief Justin Longval, commander of Station Menemsha, said — two from Woods Hole, one from Newport, and a big cutter out of Boston. Additionally, a motor lifeboat crew launched from Station Menemsha at 9 am New Year’s Day, Longval said. While the waters the Mistress sank in are not normally part of Station Menemsha’s coverage area, Longval said the heavy weather certifications many Menemsha Coasties have were deemed essential because of rough seas off Block Island. A second motor lifeboat crew relieved the first early in the evening and continued the search. That crew returned to Menemsha at 10 pm, ceding the search to other Coast Guard assets, Longval said. As of Wednesday morning, Coast Guard aircraft and vessels, including a response boat from Point Judith, continued to hunt for the missing fishermen, according to Barresi.

Barresi said the seas were 10 feet and the winds 30 to 35 knots when the Mistress sent out a mayday at about 1:30 am. The first vessel on the scene was the Captain Bligh, he said. Its crew rescued the one fisherman from a life raft. The Coast Guard previously reported the crew of the Captain Bligh witnessed the Mistress overturn and sink, but it now deems that account erroneous and can verify that the Captain Bligh only communicated that the Mistress sank. Barresi said as of 3 pm New Year’s Day, the Captain Bligh remained active in the search for the missing fishermen with the rescued fisherman still aboard helping in the endeavor. Aircraft and surface vessels dispatched to the scene early that morning had to turn back due to rough water and low visibility, he said. Longval said fog was dense in the morning and made for too low of a ceiling for aircraft to be effective. Both a Jayhawk helicopter and an Ocean Sentry fixed-wing aircraft have scoured the vicinity of the sunken vessel since the fog cleared, Barresi said. The identity of the rescued fisherman and the missing fishermen have not been disclosed.

The Mistress required Coast Guard aid in January 2016 when it became “disabled due to a main engine casualty,” according to Barresi. The trawler was towed in on the hip of a response boat from Point Judith, Coast Guard photography shows.

Updated to provide new information about the search ending. -Ed.


  1. My personal thanks to these “non-essential workers” for assisting in the safe return of all of these fishermen. Your efforts are appreciated by all of us.

  2. So these coast guard guys are there , in heavy seas, looking to save some fishermen. And they are currently not being paid.. As trump said recently, “what is happening in our country is a disgrace”.
    One true statement — he should resign and end our national nightmare.

    • The coast guard has always been military since it was formed in 1915. Congress is the one thats been moving it around. They should do the right thing and put them back into the military budget.

      • red sox– I have a quote from a frequent conservative trump supporting commentator here about what he thinks about federal workers – ” Most government workers are part of the swamp so I don’t feel sorry for them” I guess that includes the coast guard.
        That really turns my stomach. Congress can move their status around, but they are real people doing heroic work. They deserve to be paid. For trump to use them as pawns for his wall lies is a disgrace– for people to defend him on this issue is disgraceful– It doesn’t matter if you think we should have a wall or not, the tactics are nothing less than extortion at the expense of hard working Americans.

  3. Don, while all true, we still must focus on the safe return of all our mariners. There is certain to be a time to illustrate the irony here.

    • Which equates to “It’s still too soon to mourn those who didn’t die in the Bowling Green Massacre.”

      When I’m offshore in rough seas and see a USCG vessel pounding through chop, I don’t want or expect those ashore to close the funding purse strings until fair weather returns. In Trump’s government closing, Coasties are not considered sufficiently essential to pay on-time. Irony is called for.

    • There is nothing that says we can’t focus on both the good work of our Coasties AND the ridiculousness of the current administration. It’s not a zero sum game, despite your efforts to make it one.

    • james– the unpaid coast guard persons are focusing on the safe return. I hope they succeed. I am focusing on why they are not getting paid.

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