Originally Posted by ebaugh
I think the bigger question is how would we react to a similar situation? A small cruising vessel with 2 aboard. Certainly in our home country we would render any assistance required. But what if we are in an area of safety
is generally not considered a bad area, but what about off the coast of Venezuela
I'm doing this route
in the next year, and this was an interesting discussion this evening with no clear answer.....what do you think?
Actually we were in the same situation two years ago (a month or so after Haiti
earthquake): we (Canadian flagged), together with one other monohull
, Second Lady (US flagged), and a cat, Dreaming On (British ensign), were travelling from Big Sand Cay, T&C, to Ocean World, DR. Each boat had a couple on it. it was blowing around 30 kn with 6-8 foot steep waves.
About 1/4 of the way there we get a VHF
call from Dreaming On that they've spotted a fishing boat that looked to be in distress with two men on board. Second Lady had a gun on board, we had a sat phone. We were 2 nm away from the cat. Second Lady was 6 nm away.
So we called US Coast Guard asking their suggestion (there is a general 1-800 number that you can call). They suggested caution as it might be Haiti
citizens trying to get out of the country. At the same time they contacted PR Coast Guard to advise them of the situation. Dreaming On circled the fishermen a few times to try to find out where they're from. At the end, they decided that fishermen didn't look threatening, just very-very tired. Dreaming On picked them off their boat, tied the boat off the transoms and gave them water and food
Turns out these guys were free diving
for lobster on one of the banks north of DR (60+ feet). One of the driver, the second was the diver. Their outboard
had been having problems for the last few days and that day, when they were about 3 nm from the mothership it failed to start and didn't come back to life after. They waved and signaled to the mothership, the mothership signaled back, collected other boats and left. These guys were left stranded. Turns out later that the mothership immediately called their families telling them that these two guys died. So the small boat was picked up by the northerly current
and that's where Dreaming On found them 12 hours later.
These guys, of course, didn't have any safety equipment
on board except for red t-shirts (too expensive). Especially because the mothership was supposed to pick them up should anything have happened.
While the wife on Dreaming On was talking with the fishermen, the husband was standing by on VHF
with us and Second Lady. We were on standby with US and PR Coast Guards. We agreed for contact among all boats every 5 min.
After we received their names and phone numbers, PR Coast Guard got into contact with DR. After a fairly long conference call, identities were confirmed and everyone breathed out a bit easier. Families were called back by DR and told that, after all, their husbands and fathers were still alive.
The only thing that marred the elation at the end was that the small fishing boat that they had been at flipped and sunk with one of the waves. And the fishermen had all their diving gear
and their catch of lobsters in it. We're sure the gear
was expensive to replace.
So when we got to Ocean World, met with all the officials, Dreaming On collected a fund for these guys as well as any snorkeling/diving gear that cruisers in the marina were ready to part with. Later on Dreaming On stopped in their village to give this to their families (small kids
and wives who called them Angels). And these guys were already fishing again.
So at the end we were very happy that we had a sat phone for several reasons:
1. Immediate and direct contact with Coast Guard.
2. Immediate updates to the Coast Guard.
3. DR officials knew that we are bringing someone into port - later it turned out that it helped all of us to avoid some serious bureaucracy.
That's what the three small boats did.