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Tasman Sea Rescue

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to try and rescue sailors from a stricken boat, when you’re on a 700-ft long cruise ship? When they’re not cruising their Sausalito-based Krogen motoryacht Mana, Kevin and Susan regularly work as travel guides on cruise ships. They sent us the following first-hand account of a rescue in the Tasman sea over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Horizons in the distance as the RIB bashes its way to the stricken vessel.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Rescue In the Tasman Sea: The Cruise Ship Perspective

"Kevin and I were enjoying our voyage across the Tasman Sea aboard the the 700-ft all-suite Regent Seven Seas Mariner enroute to the New Zealand fjords when our ship received a distress signal from a sailor in the ‘Roaring Forties’. Three hundred miles to the south of us, he’d lost his steering, was taking on water and had lost the use of his generator. According to the code of the sea, it’s the responsibility of the nearest ships to assist in any way possible. So Stanislas Mercier de Lacombe, the captain of Mariner, made the decision to alter course to go to the aid of the sailor in need. It just so happened that it was Stan’s first day in command of the vessel at sea!

"We plowed through heavy seas and building winds all that day and through the night, making our way south in search of the 52-ft German yacht Horizons, which was wallowing helpless in the rough ocean. Captain Stan announced that we would reach Horizons at about 5 a.m., but that he would wait until daylight to launch a rescue effort.

"Kevin and I got up early, and took binoculars and a camera to Deck 12 to look for the boat in distress. The Roaring Forties were living up to their name, as the wind was blowing 40 mph, the seas were over 20 feet, and the air temperature was in the low 50s. By that time we’d learned that the skipper in distress was Bernt Lüchtenborg, a very experienced sailor. Some organization had named him Yachtsmen of the Year in ’07, and he’s also an author, actor and philantrophist.

"What was Lüchtenborg doing in that part of the Southern Ocean? He was in the process of attempting to do consecutive non-stop solo circumnavigations, a trip that would have entailed 65,000 miles. His venture was endorsed and funded by many German sponsors. Horizons, his Glacer 52, was equipped with all the best and latest gear.

"When we finally spotted Horizons, she was several miles away, flying an orange steadying sail, and had set a drogue to try to mitigate the effects of the high seas. The boat looked mighty small as she rose and fell in the waves.

"The rescue boat launched from our ship into the roiling seas was piloted by Staff Captain Alain Mistre, who was accompanied by an engineer and bosun. All three seafarers had volunteered to risk their lives to save a fellow mariner. They were outfitted in survival suits and hard hats. After several attempts, they managed to pull alongside Horizons and assist the skipper off his beautiful yacht and onto the rescue boat. After they secured their passenger and his ditch bags, they headed back to the Mariner.

"The most dangerous part of the whole was getting the tender back onto the ship. The timing had to be exactly right for the crewmen to be able to grab the lines, hook them to the rescue craft, and be winched up — before the next big wave hit them. Passengers, crew and staff hung over the side of the ship to watch the life-and-death drama unfold. But the shackles held, and jerked the rescue boat out of the water and onto the side of the ship. Once everyone realized that the rescue was complete and nobody had been hurt, there was a thunderous ovation. The captain sounded the ship’s horn three times to salute the brave sailors on their job well done."

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