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Photo of the Day

July 23 - San Francisco Bay

Photo Latitude/Doña

"You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent." That stupid ditty from a toothpaste commercial kept popping into our head while cleaning the bows of Profligate during her current haulout. After 8,000 miles of ocean sloshing around her bows in the last six months, they were looking pretty nasty. Almost manila in color. Somebody told us the discoloration is actually very small marine life. We're not sure about that, but we are sure the boat looks much better when it's been cleaned off. 'Oxy acid' does the trick.

For the Want of a Pill

July 23 - Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

Don't try to tell John and Kelly Harrows how bad your ocean crossing was, because theirs was worse. Much worse. Things went so wrong for the Aussie couple that it was almost anti-climatic when their badly-damaged 47-ft ketch Fingolfin had to be set adrift while they were rushed to a hospital in the Marquesas. The good news is that thanks to the help of many people, including amateur radio operators from many parts of the world, they are both recovering.

As best we can piece the story together from several sources, Fingolfin was 680 miles north of Nuku Hiva on June 25, having left Mexico for the Marquesas some 30 days before. Usually it's about a three-week trip for a 47-footer, but the Harrows had experienced mostly light winds and the trip was taking much longer than expected. At this time the couple, who aren't amateur radio operators, managed to contact a station in Queensland to report that John had run out of the pain medication he needed to treat a medical condition. They thought he'd brought a sufficient supply, but due to the unexpected length of the trip, he'd run out. As a result, he was experiencing debilitating head pain and could no longer help with the running of the boat. With sailing not really being an option because of light winds, the fact they were down to 50 gallons of fuel was a concern.

Soon a ham operator in Texas contacted the Coast Guard in Honolulu, which diverted the Irene Logo, a Greek container ship, to rendezvous with the Fingolfin and transfer some medication. But things went from bad to worse during the transfer. The two vessels collided, injuring Kelly and badly damaging the boat - particularly the masts. Furthermore, they'd been given the wrong medication! For whatever reason, the ship continued on.

That evening a radio operator in San Diego reported getting a call from Steven aboard the vessel Windrunner, who reported that Fingolfin was requesting assistance. The information was passed on to the Coast Guard in San Diego, but there was no propagation into the Pacific, so contact with Fingolfin was temporarily cut off.

By about midnight, the propagation was good again, so radio operator John N6JRD, on his boat in the Pacific, relayed information from Fingolfin to Bob KA6LSL in Yuma, Arizona, who relayed it to another station, who relayed it to the Coast Guard in Honolulu. John and Kelly's family in Australia were also advised of the situation, as was the French Navy in Tahiti.

The news from Fingolfin was that John was still in extreme pain, dehydrated, and unable to run the vessel. An exhausted Kelly wasn't any better. She was at least as dehydrated, having been unable to keep any fluids down for three days. Plus, a serious hip and/or leg injury during the collision with the ship had left her in pain and unable to put weight on one leg. So she couldn't really run the vessel either. Nevertheless, the two of them did manage to get their ketch motoring toward the Marquesas at four knots. But even if they had enough fuel, it would take them more than four days to reach land.

A couple of hours later, a ham operator was able to patch Fingolfin through to Dr. Jim Hirschman of Miami, also a ham operator. The doctor's best diagnosis was that Kelly had probably suffered a broken leg and/or pelvis, and needed to be restrained to relieve the pain caused by the boat's motion. There was nothing that could be done for John who, it was learned for the first time, had been without his pain medication for 72 hours. Since both John and Kelly were dehydrated in addition to their other serious medical problems, it was decided they both needed to be evacuated to a hospital as quickly as possible.

A few hours later the French patrol vessel La Tapageuse advised that she was underway to Fingolfin's last known position, but wouldn't arrive for at least 30 hours. Things would become even worse on Fingolfin in the interim. A short time later, Fingolfin reported she had begun taking on water! The pumps were working, but the cause of the leak was unknown.

It was about this time that Gary aboard Amadon Light - who had been so instrumental in helping Mike Harker of Wanderlust after his rudder had broken on the way from Tahiti to Hawaii - managed to get in contact with Fingolfin. John told Gary they were being slapped around a lot. Kelly reported the spreaders had failed, and she feared that the masts would come down as they were wallowing in a sea. At least they were able to keep up with the water leaking into the boat, and if it got worse, they did have a liferaft. Both John and Kelly continued to be in bad medical shape.

On June 27, Fingolfin reported one of their masts had come down - and there were unusually bad ramifications. When the mast fell, it struck the liferaft, rendering it useless. In addition, the antenna on the broken mast was about to go overboard.

However, John and Kelly were still able to make contact with Gary. They reported having become demoralized and desperate about their situation. Gary spoke to the couple about somewhat similar experiences he'd been through, and basically gave them a pep-talk. This reportedly did a terrific job of lifting their spirits.

Then the other mast fell over! Fortunately, this was the last of the really bad news. A short time later La Tapageuse reported they had reached Fingolfin and had taken John and Kelly aboard. The badly-damaged ketch was then set adrift. The French rescue vessel reported they expected to have the couple in a hospital in Nuku Hiva 34 hours later.

On June 29, four days after initiating the distress message, John and Kelly were admitted to the Nuku Hiva hospital. On July 2, the Tahiti Rescue Coordination Center reported both John and Kelly were out of the hospital, and presumably doing much better.

There are a number of lessons to be drawn from the incident, perhaps the biggest of which is that boats are rarely lost because of one big problem, but rather because of several small ones leading to progressively bigger ones. In this case, everything started as a result of the skipper running out of a medication.

The incident also demonstrates the importance of being able to communicate with the outside world during emergencies. Thanks to the many amateur radio operators, John and Kelly were often able to have a link between themselves on the boat and shore. A satphone such as those marketed by Iridium, however, would have provided constant communication.

Canal Transits to Change?

July 23 - Panama Canal

Reports David Wilson, who is an expert on the Panama Canal, from Panama: "The Panama Canal Authority has designed and budgeted a floating wet dock to take yachts through the Canal. I will let you know when more details become available."

Karine Fauconnier Hangs on to Win Quebec to St. Malo

July 23 - St. Malo, France

Thirty-two year old Frenchwoman Karine Fauconnier and crew aboard the 60-ft trimaran Sergio Tacchini hung on to beat three other trimarans by an hour in the 2,950-mile Quebec to St. Malo Race Transatlantic Race. She covered the distance in 7 days, 21 hours, an average of over 15 knots. She missed the course record by one hour. See www.quebecsaintmalo.com for more.

Capricorn Cat Heading for San Francisco

July 23 - Pacific Ocean

Blair and Joan Grinols have left Hawaii for San Francisco after a long two-year cruise in the Pacific: "Left the Ala Wai harbor this morning at 0800. Clear skies. Winds are light, 10-15 kts. Turned left and sailed up the eastern side of the Island. Single reef in the main and about 80% of the genoa rolled out. Cookin' along at 8.5 kts. Perfect. With only one partial dagger board, the leeway is only about 6° on a close reach. Not too bad. Grib files show the winds light all the way to San Francisco."

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