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When Sailors Launch a Rescue Mission

How much fun is it to stop and chat with fellow sailors? Without fail, this is the best way to not only share knowledge and tips about everyone’s favorite pastime, but to also hear some fun stories. The trick is knowing how to distinguish a true event from a salty tale.

At the recent Latitude 38 Crew List Party (already a week ago!) we met sailors Sean Kolk and Kate Schnippering, who told us a good little yarn that we want to share with you. And in this case we believe it to be true.

Sean and Kate were spending some time in the Pacific Northwest catching up on a little kayaking, hiking, and of course, sailing. While relaxing on a hilltop along the coast of Whidbey Island, watching the sea, the couple spotted a sailboat drifting offshore.

drifting sailboat
What would you do if you saw a sailboat adrift?
© 2021 Sean Kolk

“I called the Coast Guard, and they said they knew about it (and to call back if anything changed),” Sean told us. “I didn’t like the idea of ‘someone should do something,’ so I kayaked out to the boat.”

The 32-ft sloop had pulled its anchor, and Sean had to paddle three or four nautical miles in a three-ft swell, at around dusk. By the time he reached the boat Sean was already quite wet, and cold. He hauled himself aboard, then raised the main and pointed the boat to the nearby marina at Langley, which was still around two nm away.

sailors rescue boat
Heading to shore beneath a darkening sky.
© 2021 Sean Kolk

“I updated the Coast Guard on the way, and they put me in touch with the off-island owner. He said the boat was at anchor while he was earning money to repair the engine, while living out of his van after beating up [the coast] for three days and not making it to his destination.”

Meanwhile, Kate had made her way to the marina and organized a few locals to help bring in the sailboat. “I was singlehanded and coming into a new marina trying to communicate at dusk,” Sean continued. “Two dinghies steered us to a mooring ball behind a breakwater.”

There’s always time for a selfie, especially when there’s a magnificent sunset going on behind you.
© 2021 Sean Kolk

After tying off and taking himself and his kayak off the boat, Sean loaded the kayak onto his wife’s car and drove back to their accommodations. “The owner said he was coming to get his boat the next day, and when I came back two days later, it was gone.”

It was fortunate for the sloop owner that Sean and Kate were nearby. Being sailors themselves, the couple were quick to react and knew precisely how to bring the boat in safely.

Sean told us he has been sailing in the Bay since 2012, and both sea and whitewater kayaking since 2007. “I learned to sail on a Coronado 25, out of the Alameda Estuary with the Washed Up Yacht Club, and have been racing out of Berkeley, South Beach, and Richmond, and with Cal Sailing.

“My wife and I chartered around Europe, the Indian Ocean, and Mexico until we decided to buy our own Catalina 36 last year, and plan to sail with the Baja Ha-Ha this coming November.”

If you’re signed up for the Baja Ha-Ha, keep an eye out for this cool couple and their Catalina, Petrichor.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Monica

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