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Old 18-02-2008, 12:04   #1
Kai Nui

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Have you ever rescued another boat?

On another thread ELEVEN brought up an interesting question. How many cruisers have rescued other boats? There is not a sailing book I have read that does not include an account of at least a minor rescue involving provideing a spare part, to major rescues like picking up crew from a sinking vessel.
A few ground rule here:
1) It needs to be a serious situation. I am not talking about towing your neighbor into the slip.
2) Tell your story.
3) Was this a rescue of another cruising boat? Or was it some other type of sea rescue such as part of a race commitee, or saving people who were washed out to sea.
4) Only stories that involve your boat.

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Old 18-02-2008, 12:56   #2
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I haven't rescued another boat but I have been rescued by a cruising boat. Here is the situation. We were having engine problems on a delivery from Cabo to SD. The wind was blowing from 25 to 35 knots. It was only 80 miles to SD. I had an inexperienced crew. I decided to keep sailing instead of stopping at Isla San Martin.As we neared the top of the island the wind shifted and was carrying us straight offshore. From there I made the decision to sail back and anchor behind San Martin for the night. Bad decision. As the sunset I had a hard time visually telling where we were. It seemd that we were really close to the mainland. so we headed toward the island. I should have stopped the boat and started sailing back toward open water. Instead I started sailing closer to the island. From there I ran into the reef at the tip of the island. The boat was stuck on its side on a sand patch inside the reef. Some local fishermen helped us off the boat and put us up for the night.

I patched a hole in the hull with some underwater puddy and set an anchor and waited for the tide to come in. We hung a bunch of things off the boom to heel the boat over more. As the tide came in we couldn't get the boat off. I talked to the owner on SSB and he suggested that we tie a few barrels to the keel. We did this and still couldn't get it over the rocks. Finally a crusier in a big ketch came by. with him pulling on the bow and me grinding on a wench we kept trying. Close but still wouldn't come off. Finally one of my crew stood on the low side of the boat. I kept grinding and the ketch had smoke coming out of its exhaust. But I felt the boat moving. A wave picked us up a little and I cranked a little harder on the winch I was using as a windlass. The rode was tight as a banjo string. I waited for another wave and then cranked for all I was worth on the winch. The line snapped but the ketch started moving forward. I flet the keel hit a couple of rocks but we were floating again. Checked the boat for leaks. No water coming in. A rescue boat had been dispatched from SD to save us. They were surprised to see the boat floating. I never did catch the name of the boat that rescued us. But I owe him a big thanks. I hope this qualifies Kai Nui.

Fair Winds,


Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
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Old 18-02-2008, 13:06   #3
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That wench must have been sore after all that grinding.
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Old 18-02-2008, 13:27   #4
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On Christmas Day this year we had the experience which follows. The report written by the Admiral (Entlie on this forum) is from our web site Cruise 4 Reports

A couple of pictures are at PhotoBahamaSouth

Our waypoint to cross onto the Great Bahama Bank was a series of rocks named Hen & Chickens. We usually try to get on the Bank before dark, but that was not to be on this trip. About 15 miles from our waypoint, George spotted a disabled boat in the water with the passengers waving a yellow shirt on a fishing pole. Turned out to be a low-end cigarette style boat, with 2, 225 hp outboard engines. They were Spanish speaking (a little English), completely out of fuel (gas), had a marine radio but no antenna, and because they spoke Spanish didn’t understand the radio transmissions. There were four men on board. We complied with the law of the sea, which is not to leave people stranded. Hopefully someone would do the same for us.
George originally thought these people were from Bimini and had run out of fuel. He gave them a gallon of water and sold them 5 gallons of gas to maybe run on one engine and get back to Bimini (about 20 miles away), but they didn’t want to go to Bimini – said they were from Miami (Cubano?). Another guy appeared from the hatch in the bow of the boat. They wanted us to tow them but we refused. They didn’t have Sea Tow insurance, but offered to pay if they could get towed. We called Sea Tow, but there were problems with that and we ended up standing by this boat (by which time two women had emerged from the bow), for about 2 hours until a Coast Guard helicopter arrived. We couldn’t decipher the Coast Guard on the radio – their transmissions were booming loud but full of static, so we were helped immensely by “Ricky J” who relayed for us from his station on South Bimini. We talked to the Coast Guard helicopter on the radio fine, however, and once they arrived we hot-footed it out of there toward Hen & Chickens.
We think they had drifted for hours before we saw them – and during the process we were drifting north at about 2 knots. We only told them “help” was coming but not that it would be the Coast Guard, because we suspect there could have been some illegals on board. We had no intention of letting them on our boat, and from the get-go transmitted their boat description and boat registration numbers on the radio to the Coast Guard. (The Coast Guard could hear us fine). I can say that I would have been pretty scared having a helicopter prop-washing over me for a considerable time – it was still there as we moved out of sight – and they said a CG cutter was on the way. Sea Tow called us later for a boat description – sounded like they were going to let the boat drift through the night and pick it up the next day. Not something a cruiser likes to think about – encountering an empty boat out there.
She took my address and my name
Put my credit to shame
Sunspot Baby, sure had a real good time
Bob Seger
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Old 18-02-2008, 13:28   #5
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A short tow is just a point of view on things going bad.

We actually have towed quite a few boats while in the Caribe. One off St Martin. We were motoring as the wind had been dead coming from Statia and heading to Philipsburg. Were about 5 miles out of the harbor entrance when my wife noticed a sailboat waving a life jacket. So we went over to check. They were a couple of Germans delivering their boat to St Marten to put up for sale and had been adrift for 4 days with no wind and no engine coming out of Margarita. Their batteries had died days ago and they had no radio contact. Many boats had gone by without any response even when trying to signal. The direction they were drifting was passing then by the island. They were hoping that they would drift close enough to get an anchor down and then row for help. But without the wind there was little chance.

We rigged up a tow line and spent a slow couple hours bringing them in to the bay. When they were satisfied the dropped the lines and dropped the anchor. Moved up nearer to the shore and dropped anchor and prepared to go into clear. We didn’t want anything other than hopes that someone would do the same. Well they came by dinghy to thank us. They hadn’t showered and they were ripe but very friendly. We chatted for quite a while and met up with them several times over the next couple of weeks and had a great time.

The moral is to really look around when sailing. I had noticed the boat but my wife noticed them waving the life jacket.
Captain Bil formerly of sv Makai -- KI4TMM
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Old 18-02-2008, 14:21   #6
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I kinda did and it's a long story even the short version.

Back in the 90s I was on my way to Antigua via Bermuda. The first leg was very rough. A terrible storm came through (we were just ahead of it) but it really screwed up a lot of boats and I think IRRC it was the storm that took Mike Plant on his way to the UK.

So the boats limped into St Georges. Two of them were from ME, Gentle Presence and Owl. Both wood and both old boats . GP has a an elderly married couple on board and a few cats. They lost one in the storm and were exhausted when they came in. Owl was a married couple and they were beat too.

We waited for a weather window for the nect leg and spent time helping others with repairs. Geez I was really worried about GP and so told them that we would all leave together and keep in close touch on a radio sched.

Herb said the window was here and Will siad he wanted to wait for some pump and told us to go ahead sail slow and he and Owl would be right along. We began out sched and had a glorious sail. I was with a GF and a pair of kittens. It was wonderful. But day after day GP and Owl remained and now we were too far ahead. We kept our sched and finally arrived in English Harbor. But what do we hear? The two of them run into very rough weather. They are in VHF contact and I am in contact with CP on the SSB.

We contunue the sched to every 3 hours. WOW I was up all night in paradise and these guys were in hell.

Owl began taking on water. He was hand pumping and I called Herb on a land line and he called the Coast Guard. The sent out planes to drop pumps. Owl stood by in VHF but not visual range. Owl's auto pilot died and he and his wife had to hand steer through the storm.

The coasties did something like 6 separate flights and none of the pumps were retrieved by Owl. On the 7th flight they told him he had to ditch the boat.He bed for one last pump. They dropped it and it hit the mast and knocked off the VHF antenna, But he got the pump and had all the gas from the other drops so he started the pump going and they limped 400 miles to English Harbor with GP close by.

When they were to arrive in the early AM I arranged for a quickie haul out from the Slipway and a bunch of yatchies to go out and help them in.

We got them in safely and anchored and Owl's crew passed out with the pumps still running. GP crew had their legs swollen from standing or something I have no idea what, but they just wanted to rest.

The next morning we got a diver to inspect Owl and it turned out to be that the caulking came out and the dam wood hull was leaking.

I didn't do very much, many others did and risked their lives, Herb Hilgenberg of SouthBound II was the com link and he deserves a lot of credit.

Mind your weather mates. Your life may depend on it.
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Old 18-02-2008, 14:23   #7
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In 1980 we were less than a day off of the Straits of Juan de Fuca coming from Hawaii when we saw a boat waving at us. They were at the end of a long voyage (too long ago to remember how far, how long), dead engine, dead electricity, sails and rigging in poor shape or damaged. We started towing them, and called the coast guard. They eventually came out and towed them in at a much better speed than we could achieve.

My fun story is in Okisollo channel B.C. as a power boat comes planing down the channel out of the fog. Sees us and whips around and comes up to us. Hands up a laminated place mat chart and asks us where they are and where the nearest gas station is. They started to leave then came back and asked us which way east and west was.

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Old 18-02-2008, 14:44   #8
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That is exactly what I meant. Keep em coming.
I have a few, but most are already posted here. Helping our friend get his commercial boat off the rocks, to mention one.
Of course the perception of danger is also a factor. That can go either way. A couple of friends were out on a small 25' sloop. They left Monterey headed back to Moss Landing. As they were trying to leave, the outboard decided it only liked reverse, so they motored back wards out of the harbor. After a couple hours, the wind dies down, and then the motor decided it didn't like reverse either, so they were stuck adrift. They called the yacht club just to let people know where they were, then called me. They planned to sit it out and wait for wind, but it was at a time of year that would likely be calm all night, and most of the morning. They were too close to shore for my comfort, so we put away the projects, and motored out to tow them in. At this point, it was dark, no moon, and light fog. They had no battery left, GPS had died, and the only light left on board was one of the shake lights. I had them take a bearing on the local landmark, and set a reciprocal and headed to them. 3 miles out I was within 50' of them (Love it when a plan comes together). By this time, the Coast guard was also monitoring their status. They hate it when a stranded vessel can not give a location. We hooked up my lines, and towed them in. Our friend who was crew on the boat commented later about the shake light. Something to the effect of not having his wrist that tired since he was a teenager
They felt safe where they were, and perceived an acceptable amount of risk, however, no wind came up for the next 2 days, and even their cell phones died by the time we got a line to them. I believe they were in allot worse situation than they thought.
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Old 18-02-2008, 15:53   #9
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Mine is kind of a ‘who knows’ story. About a dozen years or so ago, my wife and I were in Daniel’s Bay in the Marquesas. It was long enough ago that Daniel, a wonderful man, was still around. Having heard of this man from practically my boyhood it was an honor to shake his hand and be welcomed to his amazing little corner of the world. We had a great stay there.
We finally left around noon one day to begin our next passage to Papeete. It was a little sloppy, but not bad, as we got the sails up. My wife mentioned a new noseeum bite she had found, to which I replied, ‘That should give you something to talk about all the way to Tahiti,’ a remark I have been reminded of several hundred times ever since. In any case, we noticed at a distance of perhaps half a mile, a small dinghy a hundred yards at most away from the rocks. The shoreline was entirely sheer there, with no beaches or reef. A woman aboard was waving an oar to attract our attention. We quickly started the engine, dropped the main, and furled the jib. By the time we got to them the sound of the waves bashing the wall of rock was very loud. The dinghy had a mother and father, a small girl, a baby and a goat aboard. We got them a tow line and were able to get them out of harms way. They were relatives of Daniel, as I recall, and had come from the other side of the island bringing the goat to have as a bbq for some sort of celebratory event, when their outboard quit. I don’t speak Polynesian, but I gathered that displeasure with the lack of a back up plan was being delivered one earful at a time by mama. They begged us to stay for the feast, but once a passage has begun it is hard to not keep going. As a poor, meat loving cruiser, it was doubly hard not to stay as well. We got them back in the bay and had a friend of ours still anchored there, tow them the rest of the way to the beach in his dinghy. My friend would be hailed as a hero on the beach that night at the party, I was just sure.
I would call this a ‘who knows’ rescue because they might have somehow avoided the rocks, might have been ‘lucky’ enough to have been swept out to sea to have been found by another boat and survived without our stumbling upon them, but I wouldn’t have liked the odds if it was me. On the other hand it occurs to me now; their boat sinking would have been the only chance of survival for that goat.
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Old 18-02-2008, 21:53   #10
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I read a story in a magazine some years back where a ferro cement (Hartley rorc 39)was returning to NZ after a pacific cruise when they were diverted to the scene of a freighter which was sinking,when they arrived the ship had already sunk and they took onboard the entire crew of 13 from the lifeboats and delivered them to NZ a few days later.Has anyone else ever heard of a yacht crew rescuing a ships crew?
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Old 18-02-2008, 22:13   #11
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I didn't get to do the actual Rescue in the end. But we were on Standby for a possible rescue. A 40' power vessel put out a call. He was aground on rocks in a remote area Called Greville Harbour on D'Urville Island and the tide was falling. The sea was pounding the hull and was doing some serious damage. We were about to transit French Pass that you had to get the tide right for and our window of opportunity was closing. The couple on the Launch were quite old and there was a lot of confusion with radio calls going to people that were not sure if they could or couldn't help, Maritime Radio not getting all of the Story and actually having the boat placed in another location compleatly. The Rocks this guy was on was called "The Boulder Bank". Problem is, some miles away in Nelson, the is also "The Boulder bank. The radio channel was covering the same area, so you could imagine the confusion. Eventually we entered the discussion on the Radio and Kinda took charge of everything, relaying all the correct info to Maritime Radio whom did a great job of then arranging a salvage operator to go to the boats assistance. Till this was arranged, we stayed on standby to go to their assistance if needed. However, they had managed to get the boat tied with lines to support her and the tide had dropped leaving it stranded, but at least not being hammerd by the sea. We made the tide and the boat was towed when the tide came in and was hauled for extensive repairs.

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Old 19-02-2008, 00:25   #12
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There has been a few times over 30 years working and living on the sea.

Just to clarify, I make a distinct difference between rescuing a “boat” and their Crew with the latter always being the priority.

Commercially when on my early days running harbour tugs, pilot boats then offshore salvage tugs, we were in the business of saving boats (at a price) the crew were always a freebee (lol). The technical side of salvage is quite involved to get into here but the key is to let tides and ballast do the work for you and spend the time stabilizing the stricken vessel before you start the tow. (So many of them sink on the way back)

Quite a few dramatic stories of saving lives from a burning tanker, stranded sailors on an island in Alaska, crew off a stricken freighter near Cairo and unfortunately some unsuccessful ones when we reached them too late.

As Wheels mentioned, communication in a SAR is the critical element and something we take for granted in developed countries. Another point is that keeping a good look-out is not only to keep yourself safe, but to perhaps save someone else out there.

On Super yachts, we seem to have to deal with rescue operations quite often when cruising 3rd world countries. Overloaded and sinking wooden ferries or fish boats always seem to expire near us and if you call the local coast guard…. Silence!

I remember in the aftermath of a Typhoon we were sailing to an alternate port to pick up our guests (The choppers were still not flying). In the middle of a pass, big seas still running, we spotted two fishermen clinging to their upturned boat. A local Ro-Ro ferry making heavy weather of it trying to get to port almost ran them over, I called: (No answer) Coast Guard: (No Answer) so we stopped and manoeuvred so that a strong swimmer in rescue gear could take a line over to them.

They had been in the water for 28hrs clinging to their boat and when we carried them inside this palatial Super yacht I think they were convinced they had died and gone to heaven!

Anyway, we all chipped in and gave them enough money to buy a new outboard and get back to their island in time for their own memorial service.
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Old 19-02-2008, 01:08   #13
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A few months ago I was anchored off Sicily and noticed a 40 foot yacht dragging, their dingy was gone and there was no sign of life on board. I motored over in my dingy and after lots of yelling determined that indeed no one was home. It was about a nautical mile to the rocks so I wasnít too concerned, but with no sign of the owners and the yacht picking up speed as we dragged into deeper water, there seemed little option but to climb on board. I was concerned that the owners would return and assume I was steeling their yacht particularly as I can only speak a few words of Italian, but I felt strongly if it was my yacht I would want someone to save it. It was a very weird feeling climbing down into the cabin of someone elseís yacht uninvited.It should have been easy from there, but things got more complicated. I found the engine start isolation switch buried in the starboard rear cabin, but the engine would not turn over (I later discovered the owners had installed on isolation switch on the negative side as well and this was in the port rear cabin). The anchor was still down but I couldnít find the windlass controls (I later discovered it was manual). I knew we were in about 40m of water at this stage, so the anchor was probably barley touching the bottom. As the main was firmly lased down the only option was to sail into open water on the jib alone, but the sailing angle was tight and with the anchor chain still dangling from the front I was not sure how the boat would respond. Depths shallow very rapidly in this part of the world and with little extra anchor scope available to let out I felt the chance of the anchor catching before we hit the beach was remote, particularly as we now were traveling a quite a pace.So do I raise the jib and risk the possibility I could not turn the bow around in time? The rocks were getting close now and I didnít relish the thought of hitting them going downwind with the jib up. Precious seconds were wasted trying to discover how to unlock the tiller, but I decided if I was quick I could still sail out of danger. Fortunately the roller furling jib was straightforward, the bow swung around and I felt an immense wave of relief as we were heading for open water. I think I was more relieved that if it had been my own boat in danger.The owners had gone into the local town, but had seen my clumsy effort at a rescue from shore, so they didnít think I was steeling their yacht. There dingy didnít have an outboard and was parked a mile or so from town, so they were helpless watching me try to rescue their boat, but naturally very grateful. I felt better when they explained in perfect English that they didnít give me much chance of a rescue because of the quirky nature of their yacht.

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Old 19-02-2008, 02:59   #14
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Following my experiences trying (& failing) to rescue an owner-absent power boat during the un-named “storm of the century” (March 12– March 15, 1993, winds in excess of 80 knots, and seas up to 60 feet) at Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthra, I took to leaving a key in the cockpit ignition switch.

The boat was seen to be dragging anchor, and several locals & I got aboard, only to find her locked up tight. By the time I got the engine started (pliers on starter), she was stern ashore. At this point we used a truck to pull her further up the beach, to prevent pounding.

This was the same storm that convinced me to keep a set of swim goggles at the helm.

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Old 19-02-2008, 05:33   #15
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I normally leave the key in the ignition switch and ready to fire up the engine. If I leave for a long time I will take it and toss it into the coaming pocket next to the engine switch and controls. I leave it accessible for the event that the engine needs to be started to move the boat in an "emergency"... by anyone who can help!

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