MIAMI (AP) _ A U.S. Coast Guard cutter raced toward a rudderless freighter with 24 crewmen aboard Sunday, trying to rescue the ship before Hurricane Elena struck it with its full fury.

Another cutter rescued a fishing boat foundering in the storm-tossed sea near Fort Myers and took it under tow.

The 400-foot freighter Master Charge was reported west of Tampa Bay and drifting north toward Elena's center as of 11 a.m. EDT Sunday, said Coast Guard spokesman Dan Waldschmidt.

''They've lost all steering and the seas are so rough they're just dragging anchor,'' Waldschmidt said. ''We're in radio contact and trying to get there before they go too far north.''

The Coast Guard cutter Lipan was en route to the Master Charge, which was experiencing seas of 15 to 18 feet, Waldschmidt said.

Off Fort Myers, the Coast Guard cutter Point Steel attached a tow line to the 33-foot fishing boat Sea Hermit, which had two men aboard, and headed for shore, Petty Officer Dave Keyfus said Sunday.

The Sea Hermit was spotted Saturday evening and was taking on water in 10- to 15-foot seas, the Coast Guard said. A water pump was provided and a helicopter kept watch on the vessel.