Wednesday, October 03, 2012

TAO to the Rescue

Good morning --

You would have been proud, as I was, of the Ta' Ata Ori crew on Saturday. We were out for a leisurely sail that morning, in light winds. The usual. We goofed around a bit with the mizzen stays'l, had brunch and sort of nodded off, as the wind died around noon. (Sound familiar?)

As we headed back toward Bayview around noon, the wind picked up and slowly built to around 20 knots, from the south. I was at the helm, the rest of the crew tidying up the boat, making preparations to take the sails off and get TAO ready for the coming winter.

I noticed a small sailboat, about 1/2 mile off our port beam that seemed to be in a bit of trouble. As I watched, the boat capsized and then "turtled." (Turned completely upside down, with the mast pointed toward China.) The crew of two was in the water. (Water temp about 60 degrees)

I immediately changed course and the TAO crew went into full "rescue mode." By the time we reached the turtled boat, we had the boarding ladder down, the dinghy ready, boat hooks, life jackets and horseshoe buoys in hand and towels and warm blankets waiting. We had also used the VHF radio to alert boats in the vicinity that we were carrying out a rescue operation.

We maneuvered TAO to windward and got the shivering crew safely on board without a hitch. (They were wearing life jackets.) Father and son were sailing this boat for only the second time and things got out of hand when the wind came up so strong.

With the soggy sailors safely on board, our next thoughts were for their vessel. Louis got in our dinghy, tied a long tether line to the boat and we secured it to TAO. Now what? No way to tow a half-sunken boat with the mast in the water back to land. The wind had settled in at the 20 knot level and the waves were building steadily.

By this time, a small powerboat was idling nearby, offering assistance. Mike had the idea that they could take him back to the marina, where he would get his diving gear, come back out, dive down and attach a line to the top (now bottom) of the mast, so we could right the boat. Which is exactly what happened.

Righting the boat was quite an operation, but with much bailing, improvised hand signals and a couple of setbacks, the boat was right side up again and the waves weren't breaking over into the cockpit. She was afloat. We towed the boat back to the marina for a successful end to what turned out to be a busy day.

I have named Louis and Mike in this narrative so far, but let me emphasize how well everyone on board worked together seamlessly in an emergency situation. Gail was ready with the horseshoe buoys and boat hook, Dawn took care of the sailors once they were on board and friend Jan helped out with securing the dinghy -- plus so many other large and small actions that were critical to our success, but are now just a blur in my mind.

What a crew. I am privileged to sail with such a fine group of people, who, when it counted, "got it done."

As recent special guests aboard our beloved Ta' Ata Ori, I thought you might want to hear the story of how we wrapped up the sailing season.

Wishing you fair winds and following seas,

S/V Ta' Ata Or

Just learned that a catamaran flipped over yesterday, too. The boat was floating upside down at Bitter End Marina, but was removed before I got there. Gary MacDonald rescued the boat and occupants successfully. Gary does rescues on a regular basis without much if any credit. He’s always out there when the radio goes off.

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