Transpacific Kayaker Cyril Derreumaux Initiates Coast Guard Rescue
On the morning of May 31, Bay Area kayaker Cyril Derreumaux paddled out the Golden Gate on a solo journey to Honolulu, HI. The 43-year-old father of two expected to paddle 2,400 nm over 70 days, solo and unsupported. However on Saturday, June 5, the US Coast Guard Sector San Francisco watchstanders received a report at 9:42 p.m. “from a kayaker who was making a solo voyage from Sausalito to Honolulu.” Cyril was rescued on Sunday morning approximately 70 miles west of Santa Cruz.
Upon his leaving San Francisco Bay, progress had been steady, and Cyril’s InReach message on ‘Day 1’ indicated all was well. “Great day, seeing lots of whales along the route. Paddled for the entire day only stopping once for a 1/2 hour nap in the cabin. Stopping for the day to use the good conditions to deploy the sea anchor and work on a routine for the nights to come.” By the third day the swell and wind had increased and were forecast to keep increasing over the coming days. Cyril then spent a number of days on the sea anchor waiting for conditions to improve and allow him back into the seat to continue his journey. On the fifth day he wrote, “Still on anchor. Valentine is my cocoon and I feel safe even with the noisy waves crashing on me. I feel rested even if I wake up every one to two hours to check plotter.”
After three days on anchor riding out 30- to 35-knot winds with gusts to 45 knots and rough seas with troughs of 4.5 meters, during which Cyril reported, “the waves breaking on the cabin of my kayak with an impressive noise,” the kayaker’s ground crew told him they had lost his AIS signal for three hours — the GPS signal had been lost and could not be recovered. In a sudden turn of events the sea anchor now also appeared to be damaged and the kayak began behaving erratically. “In a few moments my kayak was positioned almost parallel to the axis of the waves, and I found myself violently tossed from side to side, along with all the equipment that was stored in the cabin,” Cyril reported. It quickly became clear to the solo kayaker that he could not safely enter the water to deal with the problem. “Attempts to get out to more accurately assess the condition of the sea anchor and to resolve the issue were unsuccessful and resulted in water entering my cabin.”
Throughout this time Cyril was in constant contact with his land-based support crew discussing the circumstances. “As night had just fallen, it was clear that the situation was not sustainable: inability to eat, drink, sleep, communicate easily with my team ashore.” They jointly decided to contact the US Coast Guard to explore all their options. “Being still quite close to land (60 nm) and considering the deteriorating weather conditions which could have made a rescue operation more complex and dangerous for all in the days to come, I made the very difficult decision to request an evacuation.”
In the early hours of Sunday, June 6, the USCG hoisted the tired but uninjured adventurer into a helicopter and returned to Air Station San Francisco. Coast Guard spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll said, “Recognizing that the situation was beyond his capabilities and calling for assistance allowed our crews to reach him in time for a successful rescue.”
The USCG posted this video of the rescue on their Twitter page:
#UPDATE Hoist footage of the #USCG crews rescuing kayaker 70 miles west of Santa Cruz, Sunday morning. Read more at: https://t.co/xi1z3sZPIN pic.twitter.com/j5296l1WsP
— USCGPacificSouthwest (@USCGPacificSW) June 7, 2021
Cyril and his team are now working on a plan to recover the kayak and ultimately get Cyril back onto the water and on his way to Hawaii.
Good job CG, I have been on the receiving end of your professional rescues , and I applaud you for all you do.
Manifestly Unsafe. Perhaps the kayak can be sold to defray the cost of rescue. On the other hand, someone would buy with the idea of trying this foolhardy voyage himself.
I’m all for adventure, but not when using USCG as a back up plan. I hold a 100T master and I’m a lawyer, so please, no amateur attempts to tell debate me about US CFR sec 33 177.07 or Sec 46.
Jose, while I don’t hold any Master’s license, I’m also a lawyer and I have thousands of non-solo miles in a 40 ft sailboat under me, including from Alaska to Cabo to French Polynesia and Fiji, and I’m in complete and total agreement with you. My reaction to this proposed voyage, as someone more than passingly familiar with Pacific open ocean conditions, is that it gets filed under “Not Likely to End Well.”
I’m no lawyer… But last I checked the Coast Guard is unable to charge any fee for rescue. They can only bill for documentation, inspection, and licensing. So I’m not sure why he would have to sell his kayak for a service that’s provided by tax payers.
LOL! How can we take people seriously? Good lifes experience for Coast Guard and the rescued. Living for another day. It’s another example of wisdom: you generally get it right after after you need it. (Brag line) I soloed the atlantic and South America and cruised fifteen years in a wee Cal thirty six. Had a twenty year Navy career and I occasionally do silly things like stand up surf…Speaking from 82 years of experience and seeking more wisdom. Tony
I’m all for freedom, but calling on the CG to risk their lives to rescue you is a bit selfish. I hope the stunt has an insurance policy to reimburse the CG and the taxpayers for the cost of this rescue.
From Mike Mahoney: “So, why is it no one ever writes about the immense danger this guy just put all of us ocean sailors in by just leaving his boat floating out there??? Just as Coastal cuppers start coming north. What a jerk for leaving it. The coast guard should force these guys to scuttle their boat before leaving it for someone else to plow into surfing down a wave. Unbelievable…”
It is Latitude 38’s understanding that Coast Guard rescue to all mariners is a free, humanitarian service.
We’ll quote something that Layne Carter, a Search and Rescue specialist at the Coast Guard’s Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) in Alameda, wrote for Latitude. Carter explained that people using EPIRBS and emergency beacons are constantly tracked by the Coast Guard, “so we can send rescuers to your aid. It is a free, humanitarian service that only requires you to own and properly register a beacon. There are no registration fees, no fees for a rescue, and the system is monitored 24/7 at no cost to you. It is a global effort to ensure that if you are in peril and activate this device, someone will be looking for you.”
With that said, we hope it goes without saying that we are not, not, NOT advocating for unprepared and manifestly unsafe mariners to rush to sea with the thought that they can just call the Coast Guard if there’s trouble.
Every time there’s a rescue, this discussion follows: 1) Was the person qualified? 2) Was the Coast Guard put in danger by having to rescue the person in question? 3) Should the person in question bear some, or all, of the cost of their rescue?
We hope that Layne Carter answered number 3; are the Coasties put in harm’s way on a rescue? They certainly are, but it is their job, and the Coast Guard is very good at what they do. But again, it’s unacceptable for anyone to be flippant about summoning rescuers into dangerous conditions.
On the question of whether people are qualified, we tend to go in circles. Some people believe that anyone traveling offshore needs to be thoroughly certified, as New Zealand requires mariners to be. Some people believe that the high seas should be rule- and bureaucracy-free — just make sure you don’t get into trouble.
There is always a degree of judgement that is passed on people when they’re rescued. Sometimes, the situation is pretty clear cut, but more often, none of us can say what we would do if we were in someone else’s shoes as they faced the ocean at its worst.
Oh yeah, there’s often a question number 4) Should abandoned boats be scuttled? We’ve been trying to get an answer from the Coast Guard on this point; we’ll report our findings when we do. Someone brought up the the question of Mr. Derreumaux’s kayak as dangerous debris, and all we can say is that we’re far more worried about the thousands of containers that have fallen off containers ships this year than we are about an abandoned sea kayak.
See Ed Gillet
Tim Henry and John Arndt, you two are great at what you do and I appreciate the service you provide to your readers. Just a couple of quick comments to add to the discussion if I may. My comments are my own, and come from personal experience as a SAR mission coordinator and former JRCC Alameda SAR Specialist. First, just to clarify for those who value their privacy and are concerned about the government tracking electronics etc, your SARSAT devices (EPIRBs, PLBs, and ELTs) are not visible to a satellite unless they are activated by you or immersion in the water. When that happens, your information goes directly to the appropriate U.S. Rescue Coordination Center (RCC). If you are in a foreign country, your position is given to that country but not your contact info. We are copied on all alerts in foreign SAR regions and can see all of your registration information (which is why it is extremely important to keep your registration and emergency contacts up to date). We then reach out to that particular country’s SAR authorities to ensure you are getting the help you need. As Tim mentioned above, RCCs around the world are standing by 24/7, ready to respond when a beacon is activated. One activated, we can see your location until a rescue is conducted and the beacon is deactivated.
The Coast Guard wants mariners to be safe and make smart choices on their voyage, but Mr. Norman Heaney nailed it, many of us have started a task that we just knew we could handle, only to have mother nature humble us. If we are lucky to survive, we have learned a valuable lesson and earned that wisdom we thought we already had. It is very important that we do everything in our power to be as safe as possible and have all of the required safety devices onboard. Do everything in your power to make sure you are as safe as you can be, of course, but if things go sideways I would never want you to delay notifying the Coast Guard. The sooner we know you are in trouble, or you think you may be headed that way, we want you to let us know without hesitation. The ocean is immense, dangerous, and there are limited SAR resources depending on where you are. The quicker we can get to your position, the less time you spend in the water and the quicker we can get you back to your loved ones.
Personally, I want you to be as prepared as you can be, take all the necessary precautions, get trained by experienced professions, and have all the safety and survival equipment you can. Get out there and enjoy the gift that is the oceans, rivers, and lakes as safe as you possible can. If disaster strikes, and you have done your part to be as prepared as you can be, one thing you will not have to worry about is being judged or punished by the Coast Guard for needing a rescue.
Finally, I am now in the puzzle palace, aka Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington DC. My successor at JRCC Alameda is Mr. Doug Samp. He is a long time California resident and equally passionate about serving the maritime community. Hope you will see him around here and there. He doesn’t have a big fuzzy beard like me, but he does have a perfect head of hair which is something I have not had for nearly two decades now. Doug is an avid reader of Latitude 38 and introduced me to this publication when I first started working at JRCC Alameda. He will serve you well my friends. Stay safe everyone, and thanks again John and Tim for your fantastic work.
Layne – thanks so much for your kind words and all the support you’ve given the sailing community and Latitude 38. As Tim outlined above there are endless perspectives on the value of any voyage, the particular mariners involved, the conditions and circumstances at sea and what is the appropriate response. The debate comes up when FEMA bails out people who build homes in coastal flood zones,
and maybe when someone’s barbecue causes a house fire and the town has to spend money sending fireman and fire trucks.
These are all worthy conversations. I appreciate Layne’s comments in that he recognizes we are in this together. As sailors we need to be as prepared as possible and the Coast Guard, like fireman, life guards, forest rangers and so many others are there to help when things go wrong. It isn’t the people vs. the government but each doing the best they can. Each circumstance can be debated but there are humans in government service who appreciate our desire to adventure, explore and enjoy the oceans. We should respect their service and perspective even though we might find ourselves on different sides of individual issues. Go sailing, have fun and avoid putting yourself, the Coast Guard or anyone else in danger. And don’t be surprised when mother nature or a missing cotter pin foils all your best intentions.
The question of where to draw the line between the freedom of the high seas, which we all love, and personal responsibility is hard. New Zealand draws it at one end of the spectrum and the USA/USCG draw it at the other end. Why at a minimum should there not be an inquiry done by the Coast Guard for every significant rescue? There is an inquiry done for commercial and USN incidents. If the inquiry found the “mariner” did not head the basic rules of seamanship of being a capable crew on seaworthy boat why should they not be accountable for some or all the costs of the rescue? If mariners knew there could be an accounting of their actions they might think twice or come up with a private rescue plan. I have no statistics on how many of these type of rescues due to vessels of questionable seaworthiness (include the recent rescue of “Chubby Girl” and her Skipper) here in the USA versus New Zealand. That would be a good article for Lat 38 and maybe Tim or John will take up the challenge?