Dec. 12, 2015: Dale Sparrow, 46, a fishing boat captain, experiences chest pains at 3 a.m. while aboard the Danny Boy about 40 nautical miles southeast of Portland. He alerts the Coast Guard, which makes the rescue with an assist from a $4.3 billion Navy destroyer.

You just never know who’s going to be in the neighborhood undergoing sea trials.

Because of the Danny Boy’s deck configuration, the Coast Guard concludes it’s too dangerous to try to use a helicopter to hoist Sparrow off his boat, so it radios for help. The future USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s stealth guided-missile destroyer, answers the call and heads toward the fishing boat, jumping at the chance to work in a real-life situation.

The crew launches a 33-foot, rigid-hull inflatable boat, a type used by special forces, to bring Sparrow aboard the destroyer. The Coast Guard airlifts him from there to a hospital.

The Navy’s most technologically advanced destroyer, built at Bath Iron Works, was in the area conducting a sea trial to test various systems on the ship. The ship slipped unexpectedly into Portland Harbor on Dec. 10, surprising people on shore who saw it appear there.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

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