Mega-Yacht Rescues Distressed ARC Crew
The skipper of Mirabella V, David Dawes, of Newport, R.I., reports on the successful rescue of the three-person crew of Compromise, a 32-foot sloop taking part in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers.
you receive a Mayday by satellite, you always wonder if you are the
closest. We plotted ourselves as 160 miles from the scene but going
generally that direction. We informed Falmouth Coast Guard of our
position and what sort of vessel we were. FCG asked us to divert, which
we happily did. We did expect to be released from this within a few
hours when a better asset checked in and made itself available. But
alas, nothing came up, so we carried on.
Next day we got an
updated position from FCG. The yacht had moved significantly as they
wrongly thought we were doing 16-18 knots and didn't think their speed
mattered. They then hove to and we started our second engine and
increased speed to 13 knots with a jib out. At this stage, we realized
that is was in fact going to be us doing the rescuing and made
I calculated that we could get to them an hour before dark. A nighttime transfer was doable but that much harder.
By the time we reached them, I had permission to evacuate them from FCG, and agreed to take all three crew aboard MV.
We ran through several ideas for getting Compromise back to safety,
because we were in fact only 300 miles from Cape Verde Islands. I had
crew eager to sail her there and claim her as a "prize", then fly to
Antigua to meet us. We eventually rejected all these ideas.
came upon the yacht at dusk. VHF contact began at about 8 miles and
radar contact was made at only 4 miles, a distance that surprised all
of us on the bridge who rely heavily on radar for detecting small
vessels at night. As we approached and circled them, I broke out the
red ensign and blew the horn. I was so pleased to find them before dark
that I felt like the Calvary riding in.
I discussed the
situation with Sophie Quinney, a 30 YO doctor who was a friend of the
captain and monitoring his condition onboard the yacht. She said they
were prepared to abandon, he was in good enough shape to participate
and they were getting ready. I instructed them on how I wanted to do it
by their liferaft, so much safer than using our fast rescue boat. I
didn't want to risk my crew and it is just another aspect that can go
Light was falling and I dearly wanted to wrap this up.
Our crew had previously been briefed and was ready. We had lines ready,
man overboard gear and a rescue swimmer, and medical aid prepped. I
have to admit the toughest part of it as captain was seeing the crew
leave the safety of their yacht and climb into the liferaft. The second
they let the line go, they relinquished control of their situation to
me, and it was a moment of transfer of responsibility that was not lost
on me. Every second until the final person came over our rail was
We circled in the falling light until the raft drifted
away from the yacht so I could approach it. Seas were rough but not
breaking. Wind was about 25 knots. I approached head to wind and
stopped MV with the raft abeam the cap shrouds. We threw lines across,
hauled them to us and they began disembarking up the rope pilot ladder.
I lost control of the bow in the wind and we started to drift down on
the raft but its design allowed it to bounce along to leeward of us and
we dropped the rope ladder right into it.
I had agreed to take
some bags of belongings off, within reason as long as it didn't
compromise their safety. Well bag after bag came over the rail. I
should be charging excess baggage! But this boat was this man's home
for a few years and you can't begrudge him bringing personal stuff.
were relieved when all were aboard. It looked easy to me to climb up.
Sophie told me later that looking up the towering topsides of MV
from the raft was the most terrifying thing she had seen. I blew the
ship's horn to show everyone my relief and thanks for a job well done.
Nothing went wrong, I am hoping it's thanks to good planning.
decision to abandon the yacht adrift in the ocean was not an easy one,
given the potential hazard it presents. I could not ask this man to
sink his home in front of us. She seemed to be coping well and there is
that glimmer of hope that she may survive whatever is in store for her.
I reckon she will be around for months. I asked the crew to leave a
note on the chart table to say they had abandoned to safety and not
perished. One could imagine a rescuer coming aboard and left for days
to wonder what happened to the crew.
We left a masthead light on and put her astern of us in the dark.
new shipmates are real characters and having a boat ride to Antigua
now, not St Lucia. It is easy to criticize their captain for going
offshore with his condition. He will have long enough to reflect upon
that without me adding to his difficulty. I find him to be a man with a
fantastic spirit and life in him and given his situation, I just might
try to taste the same adventure as he did.
We are humbled that Mirabella V has once again been in a position to assist a fellow seafarer.
Master, Mirabella V