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Vietnamese fishermen consider this beloved coast guard member their ‘lifebuoy’

A beloved coast guard official in the southern sea waters of Vietnam has been awarded the nickname ‘the lifebuoy’ by fishermen for his wholehearted participation in rescue missions at sea.

Major Pham Trong Cau, 42, vice head of rescue ship BP 19-11-01
Major Pham Trong Cau, 42, vice head of rescue ship BP 19-11-01

He is Major Pham Trong Cau, 42, vice head of rescue ship BP 19-11-01, of the second flotilla in the provincial coast guard unit of the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau.

Many fishermen call him their ‘savior’ or ‘lifebuoy’ for giving them the secure feelings of protection when they face danger at sea.

With over 20 years of service in the rescue job, Cau and his comrades have helped save hundreds of people in distress, mostly fishermen, at sea due to sudden changes in weather and climate.

Cau said he knows he must forget what he has achieved to focus on upcoming rescue missions that may come up suddenly, with tens of lives reliant to his team in those situations.

“After safely docking my ship at port, I recognized something abnormal upon looking up at the sky and the movement of surface of the sea then.

“Experience over many years of going out to sea made me feel insecure,” Cau recalled about the night before a tornado occurred and threw tens of fishermen into stormy seawaters in total darkness not long ago.

He silently visited his ship to check equipment and food again before returning to sleep.

While almost asleep, Cau was alarmed to hear that hundreds of fishermen at sea were at risk because of a strong, sudden tornado.

It was around ten kilometers off Hon Khoai Island, or 25 kilometers from the mainland.

Cau and his team boarded their ship immediately, and he recalled that he could imagine the situation fishermen were facing thanks to his decades of hands-on experience on the southernmost seawater area.

“It happened at midnight when they were sound asleep.

“It’s hard to predict a tornado,” said Cau, adding that this was during the northeastern monsoon, which often brings winds of up to 74kph and 5.5 meter-high sea waves.

Fishermen at that time were using fish traps – a kind of fishing net fixed to big pillars offshore at narrow points which fish travel through. They stay in huts built on top of the pillars and above their fishing nets.

At a height of ten meters or more above the nets to resist rising tides, fishermen were thrown into rough seas by sudden tornados.

Their lifebuoys are often empty plastic cans, used to float on the surface.

Cau said he knows the sea area like the back of his hand and can remember where there are shoals, whirlpools, alluvial grounds and changes in sea currents at different times and during different weather.

After nearly two hours of ‘climbing’ over high waves, his rescue ship arrived at the right area.

He rescued 40 people within around 20 hours, and fishing ships saved another 20.

Luckily, no one was hurt in the accident offshore.

Captain Do Van Chinh, who was once Cau’s teammate and is now vice head of the Rach Goc coast guard unit in Ngoc Hien District, admitted that, “Cau has mastered the Ca Mau seawaters and this helps him make precise decisions.”

With over 20 years at sea in total, Cau has covered the waters of Hon Khoai Island for 15 of these years.

The four square-kilometer island is uninhabited, except for coastguard, rangers and meteorological officials.

“Within those 15 years, I was almost always far from home and could only visit my family a few times a year,” Cau said. “I spent six lunar New Year (Tet) holidays in a row on the island.”

“I still can’t forget accidents at sea that I obsessed over for weeks after that,” he added.

“I often see hands rising up h

A beloved coast guard official in the southern sea waters of Vietnam has been awarded the nickname ‘the lifebuoy’ by fishermen for his wholehearted participation in rescue missions at sea.

He is Major Pham Trong Cau, 42, vice head of rescue ship BP 19-11-01, of the second flotilla in the provincial coast guard unit of the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau.

Many fishermen call him their ‘savior’ or ‘lifebuoy’ for giving them the secure feelings of protection when they face danger at sea.

With over 20 years of service in the rescue job, Cau and his comrades have helped save hundreds of people in distress, mostly fishermen, at sea due to sudden changes in weather and climate.

Cau said he knows he must forget what he has achieved to focus on upcoming rescue missions that may come up suddenly, with tens of lives reliant on his team in those situations.

“After safely docking my ship at the port, I recognized something abnormal upon looking up at the sky and the movement of the surface of the sea then.

“Experience over many years of going out to sea made me feel insecure,” Cau recalled the night before a fierce storm occurred and threw tens of fishermen into stormy sea water in total darkness not long ago.

He silently visited his ship to check equipment and food again before returning to sleep.

While almost asleep, Cau was alarmed to hear that hundreds of fishermen at sea were at risk because of a strong, sudden storm.

It was around ten kilometers off Hon Khoai Island, or 25 kilometers from the mainland.

Cau and his team boarded their ship immediately, and he recounted that he could imagine the situation the fishermen were facing thanks to his decades of hands-on experience in the southernmost seawater area.

“It happened at midnight when they were sound asleep.

“It’s hard to predict a violent storm,” Cau said, adding that this was during the northeastern monsoon, which often brings winds of up to 74kph and 5.5 meter-high sea waves.

The fishermen at that time were using fish traps – a kind of fishing net fixed to big pillars offshore at narrow points which fish travel through. They stayed in huts built on top of the pillars and above their fishing nets.

At a height of ten meters or more above the nets to resist rising tides, the fishermen were thrown into rough seas by sudden strong storms.

Their lifebuoys are often empty plastic cans, used to float on the surface.

Cau said he knows the sea area like the back of his hand and can remember where there are shoals, whirlpools, alluvial grounds and changes in sea currents at different times and in different weather conditions.

After nearly two hours of ‘climbing’ over high waves, his rescue ship arrived at the right area.

He rescued 40 people within around 20 hours, and other fishing ships saved another 20.

Luckily, no one was hurt in the accident offshore.

Captain Do Van Chinh, who was once Cau’s teammate and is now vice head of the Rach Goc coast guard unit in Ngoc Hien District, admitted that, “Cau has mastered the Ca Mau sea waters and this helps him make precise decisions.”

With over 20 years at sea, Cau covered the waters of Hon Khoai Island for 15 of these years.

The four square-kilometer island is uninhabited, except for coast guards, rangers and meteorological officials.

“Within those 15 years, I was almost always far from home and could only visit my family a few times a year,” Cau said. “I spent six Lunar New Year [Tet] holidays in a row on the island.”

“I still can’t forget the accidents at sea that I was obsessed with for weeks after that,” he added.

“I often see hands rising up high to call for help from me in my sleep.

“I was sometimes helpless, leaving dozens of victims dead.”

Recently, Cau has been transferred to cover rescue missions in the waters of Song Doc Town in Ca Mau’s Tran Van Thoi District, which thousands of ships frequent every month and often has bad weather from July to November.

“We are proud of Cau,” said Captain Trinh Van Khoan, chief of the second rescue flotilla in Ca Mau.

igh to call for help from me in my sleep.

“I was sometimes helpless, leaving dozens of victims dead.”

Recently, Cau has been transferred to cover rescue missions in the waters of Song Doc Town in Ca Mau’s Tran Van Thoi District, which thousands of ships frequent every month and often has bad weather from July to November.

“We are proud of Cau,” confirmed Captain Trinh Van Khoan, chief of the second rescue flotilla in Ca Mau.