It was like an excerpt from a Herman Melville book: “Vessel has sunk. They were hit by a whale.” Those words were shared across social media channels on Monday as sailors networked to send aid to the stricken crew of Raindancer (we believe a Kelly Peterson 44). Also in the shared post were the words “Not a drill.”
The post was created by Tommy Joyce, a member of Facebook’s “Starlink on Boats” group. Tommy is a friend of Raindancer‘s owner, Rick Rodriguez, and was alerting the boating community to the situation. “They hit [have] a liferaft and have Iridium on board.”
They were almost in the middle of the Pacific with no other boats in sight. But a successful rescue was coordinated through the power of social media and modern communications, including new kid on the block Starlink.
We contacted Paul Tetlow, managing director of World Cruising Club, who is operating as “rally control” for the World ARC cruising rally. He told us that upon learning of Raindancer‘s demise and the position of the crew, he contacted the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) who then assigned MRCC Peru to coordinate the rescue. But before the official rescue had been executed, a network of communications had quickly arisen, much of it via Starlink, and around eight ARC vessels diverted their course to assist Raindancer‘s crew. Along the way, ARC participants aboard S/V Far were able to keep up the communications with the lifeboat using Iridium and Starlink.
Here’s what we understand about the incident. Raindancer was “13 days into a 20-22-day, 3000nm ocean crossing,” Vinny Mattiola wrote on Facebook, when the vessel was struck by a whale, which “damaged the skeg and prop strut, and the boat was completely underwater in <15mins, forcing all four crew to abandon into the life raft.” They were approximately midway between the Galápagos and French Polynesia.
Fortunately the crew were cool-headed and quickly loaded the raft with water, provisions, and emergency communications and survival equipment, and secured Raindancer‘s dinghy alongside. Mattiola believes the crew’s Iridium GO! device, which they carried along with their SPOT tracker, was instrumental in their rescue.
Within 10 hours of Raindancer going under, her four crew were rescued and taken aboard the sailing vessel Rolling Stones. “A very quick response time,” Tetlow said. “A good achievement.” Tetlow believes Starlink adds “another layer of ability to solve problems quickly,” and that the Starlink communications probably did add to the expedience of the rescue.
According to reports, the boat’s EPIRB hadn’t worked as intended, but the US Coast Guard later confirmed that it had indeed worked, the crew just “didn’t know it.” When we learned of Raindancer‘s distress, we contacted Douglas Samp, USCG Search and Rescue Program Manager for the Pacific, and Kevin Cooper, Search and Rescue Program Manager, Hawaii, who were already coordinating rescue with MRCC Peru. Samp later explained, “There is no country in the world that has SAR resources able to respond 2400 miles offshore, so we rely upon other vessels to assist. RCC Alameda assisted MRCC Peru with a satellite broadcast to GMDSS-equipped vessels and diverted an AMVER (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue) vessel, M/V DONG-A MAIA, to assist, but the Rolling Stones got there first. BZ to your sailing community for rescuing your own.”
Mattiola concluded his post: “All crew are safe and even sent me a voice message thanking everyone involved.”
We hope to share more about this story in the next issue of Latitude 38.
*Editor’s note: Upon learning the full details of this story, the headline was changed from Sailboat Sinks After Being Rammed By Whale in South Pacific toSailboat Sinks After Collision with Whale in South Pacific.
**Trigger warning: This episode contains details of Andy’s infection. This week’s host, John Arndt, is joined by Andy Schwenk to chat about lessons from 54.5 trips between the Bay Area and Hawaii. Andy is a longtime Express 37 sailor, Bay Area marine surveyor, and Richmond Yacht Club port captain who has truly seen it all.
Hear tales from his Pacific Cup races, about his life-threatening infection, how a petroleum tanker and paratroopers may have saved his life, lessons learned from the injury, and who the best people to sail with are. This episode covers everything from the Pac Cup to the Coast Guard.
Here’s a small sample of what you will hear:
- How did Andy first get into sailing?
- What boats has he had?
- Why does he keep going back and forth to and from Hawaii?
- How do you come in first in a race?
- What happened to Andy last summer?
- How long was he in the hospital?
- What does he wish more boat owners would do?
- Short Tacks: How many miles has he sailed?
Check out the episode and show notes below for much more detail.
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This past weekend Los Angeles Yacht Club hosted the 15th annual Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup Regatta. By Sunday, the University of Hawaii had unseated defending champion and co-host California Maritime Academy and captured victory. University of Rhode Island finished second, with Maine Maritime Academy third.
California’s unusual winter weather presented wide-ranging conditions for the 10 teams that competed in this three-day intercollegiate invitational, organized by LAYC, in matched Catalina 37s provided by the Long Beach Sailing Foundation. Friday was cold and gusty; Saturday saw a long period of drizzle with light air that postponed races for nearly four hours; and Sunday broke with a light fog that cleared to a cool, brisk and breezy finale.
No one competitor dominated the event, which drew sailing teams from the top universities and academies across North America. Defending champion Cal Maritime led after Friday’s two races and was overtaken by Maine Maritime on Day Two. But by Sunday, it was Hawaii who scrapped their way to the top in four exciting races.
The participating teams came from across the US and Canada. The regatta proved challenging for Queens University from Ontario, Canada, making their POLA Harbor Cup debut, but they persevered and finished the racing with a ninth overall.
“When we heard about the Harbor Cup we were all really excited to try to do it and are happy we got the invitation,” Queens University skipper Samuel Rizk said. “It’s been a great weekend of sailing! They’re very well organized with a lot of volunteers; we were really well taken care of. And the sailing itself was really fun,” Rizk added. “Our team doesn’t own any keelboats, so we had a bit of a learning curve. But I think we learned a lot as a team and definitely want to come back.”
The closeness of the scores with tight and fiery competition, plus the big one-design keelboats, professionally run races, meals, accommodations and warm hospitality continue to make the POLA Harbor Cup a premier event on the intercollegiate circle.
FINAL OFFICIAL SCORES TOTAL:
Univ. of Hawaii 33
Univ. of Rhode Island 36
Maine Maritime 38
College of Charleston 38
US Navy 39
Cal Maritime 41
Cal Poly 41
Queens Univ. 58
Univ. of Maryland 63
For more race details go to https://scores.collegesailing.org/s23/port-la-harbor-cup/
This was not your average summer sailing charter vacation. There’s still lots of mystery surrounding the allegations, but, as reported in The Guardian and many news sources, a chartered Bavaria 50 named Andromeda was possibly used to plant the explosives that ruptured the Nord Stream gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany last September 26. The reports say six guests chartered the boat from its homeport in Rostock, Germany, for about a month on the Baltic Sea. The boat headed off to Denmark.
There are many doubts about the theory since it would have been a major challenge to pull it off from the deck of a 50-ft sailboat. The water depth where the explosion occurred was about 260 feet, making it extremely difficult to dive without a decompression chamber. It is also estimated they would have had to bring about 4,500 pounds of explosives aboard to create such a large, damaging explosion. The charter guests have not been found, but it’s said that some presented Ukrainian passports before walking down the docks dressed like “normal sailors” and provisioning the boat with groceries.
As the investigation continues, the theories include this charter’s being a “false flag” operation, possibly for Russia, and the boat’s possibly meeting up with other boats that were part of the plot. There is remaining uncertainty about what country or countries might have been involved, and questions about why a 50-ft recreational sailboat would have been used for a major act of international terrorism.
It wasn’t all that long ago that all the battles by the Vikings and others on the Baltic Sea were waged from sailing ships, but none were likely as comfortable as a Bavaria 50. It may be a while before this mystery is solved, but a month chartering aboard a Bavaria 50 in September must be one of the best ways these sailors could have served their mystery country.
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