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Mark Howe
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Username: unclemark

Post Number: 712
Registered: 08-2003
Posted on Monday, May 12, 2014 - 02:47 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

This was just sent to me by Kris Fricke in our Saddleback class. Kris has done 2 cruises with Ric to the islands, the last one including some gale conditions. Very good description of what happened as well as the chaos that naturally occurs under those conditions.

Captain Howe,
As you may have noticed, it was blowing two red flags on Sunday, with whitecaps all around and all that goes with it. I was on a 35' or so boat belonging to a Monique who said you may know her? fiftyish, red hair? On this vessel (the "Dawn Treader") we also had experienced sailor of tallships and otherwise Ryon Root, two more people of some degree of boating experience, my friend Anna aboard a vessel for the first time (busy puking over stern at time of rescue) and her young son Vincent (slept through it all).

So after sailing about some we were making our way in, Monique was concerned that her old sails wouldn't hold up to the wind we were experiencing. So we were motoring upwind to the harbor entrance with the main up, Ryon was at the wheel singing some ribald shanty, when we saw what appeared to be a paddleboarder standing on his board -- which immediately seemed odd outside the harbor in these conditions. We quickly confirmed he was waving his hands trying to get someone's attention, so we headed that way. We of course assumed some dumb paddleboarder left the harbor and needed to be picked up. We doused the main as we came up on him to give us more motoring maneuverability. When we finally got within hailing distance though we heard him yelling something at us that just curdled the blood -- "my mom is in the water somewhere over there! my mom is in the water!!" you could hear absolute terror in his voice.

As we came abreast of him, presumably to come upwind and down to him, he leapt off his boat to us (which by now we could see wasn't a paddleboard but a small 10' sunfish with its sail in the water). As I saw him jump in (no lifejacket), I was sure he'd just made his last bad decision. I shouted at the others to toss the throwable at this point. Astoundingly, he quickly swam the 20-30' between our vessels, against the whitecaps, to our moving vessel! That's the power of sheer terror I guess. He tried to grab our side and I swear it was like a scene from a movie, it was probably his only chance and he couldn't quite make it. I hit the deck and with one arm around a stanchion, with one hand reached out and.. just got his fingers! But that was enough to get my other hand on his arm and from there we got him up. He of course immediately started frantically babbling at us that his mother was in the water and we needed to get her. We immediately started steaming that way and I went below to call it in on the radio.

So I picked up the receiver and called in "may day may day this is Dawn Treader just outside of Dana Point Marina there is a woman in the water out here" ... and realized I wasn't hearing anything on the radio and didn't appear to be transmitting. I'd find out later when things calmed down I needed to take a panel off the radio to see all the knobs, but in the heat of the moment I just had a receiver that wasn't transmitting and no buttons in sight. So I pulled out my cell and called 911. They were right on it; as soon as I informed them I was a vessel outside Dana Point marina they transferred me to harbor patrol, who seemed to have a slightly harder time wrapping their mind around the fact I wasn't in the marina.

It took a scary few minutes but we finally spotted our next MOB. As we'd find out later, their vessel had capsized, they had had only one lifevest with them (shakes head), and his mom had started to drift away from the boat so he'd swam to her and given her the lifevest ... which I'm sure saved her life, notwithstanding he'd endangered it himself in the first place, but swimming back to his boat and standing on it was probably for the best because we'd have never seen them both in the water.

We approached and re threw the throwable (unless we were dragging it all along, lord if I know). I also remember I kept bringing lifejackets on deck as I was trained to "throw everything that floats at them" and someone else kept throwing them back below I guess to make room. I also told someone else to get towels ready.

We ended up circling her what felt like twenty times. MOB drill under sail sure worked better! She was very lucid and responsive. Finally just as two red vessel assist boats and the sheriff boat pulled up around us with sirens blaring we made a throw with the throwable that she got a hand on. As she was being pulled, realizing I had a free moment, I tried to whip out my phone and get a photo of her being pulled in, knowing you'd all appreciate it (grin), but she was on by the time I'd fumbled my phone out and onto camera mode.

She showed classic signs of hypothermia, ie didn't feel cold, wasn't shivering. I'm told her toes were blue. We gave her some towels and a change of clothes and told her to go below and get out of her wet clothes. Talking about it afterwards we were all a bit irked that she apparently declined to do this. Her son had been given similar directions and we were quite alarmed to find that what he had in fact done was put the clothes we provided him on OVER his wet clothes!! So our "note to self for future rescues" was to be really stern about the importance of getting out of your cold wet clothes.

We then served them hot tea, which I vaguely recall I think you're not actually supposed to do, but being as it was only a vague recollection and I wasn't in charge here I didn't suggest otherwise. It didn't kill them on any account.

The only photo I got out of it was of vessel assist coming in some half hour later with their boat in tow. So yeah, that was that. Pretty intense, trying to find a MOB in two-red-flag weather in cold water, whose been in awhile already. Gets the adrenaline going and wakes you right up.

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