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By Robert Means - Remlik, Virginia - USA

I was out sailing on the Rappahannock, the wind was blowing about 10 to 13 and I got out to buoy 6 and it kicked up to 20 with stronger gust. I hove to and put a reef in the main. I headed for Urbanna harbor to visit with a friend on his boat, when I noticed a Hobie Cat sailing off Rose Gill Beach. It didn't look like they were very experienced. I kept my eye on them as they headed out across the river which is over a mile wide. I took my eye off them for a moment as I tended my own boat and when I looked back I couldn't see the blue sail. Although they were a good distance from me, I could tell the hull was turned turtle. I've sailed Hobie and Prindle cats a lot and it's no problem to right them again and sail on. Done it a hundred times, but you have to know what you’re doing. The weather had gotten worse with heavier gust and seas as I watched to see if they were righting their boat. Although it was a far distance, I didn't notice any activity, so I changed course and started heading in their direction. It took me awhile to get there, but once there I sailed around the over turned boat with three teenagers sitting on the over turned hull. I asked if they were O.K. which they said they were. Dropping my sails I started the engine then explained how to right their Hobie. They didn't have a clue and I realized with the conditions the way they were and their experience it wouldn't do any good anyway. They had no life vests, so I told them I would throw them my life preservers and for them one at a time to swim over to my boat and I'd haul them aboard. I figured I'd get on the radio first and see if anybody was close by with a power boat to help right their boat and tow it in. It looked to me as if those three teenagers were somewhat traumatized and weren't going to be much help.

What amazed me was the Coast Guard station in Hampton Roads picked up my transmission for help from my little hand held radio. That's fifty miles away from where I was and my hand held has a range of nine miles. That's also when my simple little rescue attempt turned into a major event. I had to leave the three traumatized teenagers on their over turned boat while I answered a million questions from the Coast Guard ranging from who I was, the name of my boat, weather conditions, location of the rescue, the number of people involved, names and ages, etc, etc, etc. Then they told me I was to get the victims on to my boat and hang around until their 26 footer got there which they were sending from Milford Haven. Well….. the Coast Guard had taken over my rescue and Milford Haven was 21 miles from where we were off buoy 8 on the Rappahannock River. I tried to explain to them everything was under control that they didn't need to launch the 26 footer, but they would have none of it. I was now under their control, so we were all going to be there awhile.

I finally got around to throwing my life preservers and getting the teens on my boat one at a time. The long haired one looked in pretty bad shape; they were all cold and shaken up a bit. I passed out towels and gave them water and snacks asked about their condition as we circled their boat waiting for the Coast Guard. I then informed them that the Coast Guard was coming and if they had any drugs on them they better throw them in the drink. They began emptying their pockets of paraphernalia. One of them was really pissed because he had to throw his friends $80 hash pipe, which he borrowed over the side.

The 26 footer showed up about 45 minutes later as I watched them power into Urbanna harbor which was a mile away from where we were, and then I got a call from Milford Haven asking if their boat had got there yet. I told them yes, but they were lost and went into Urbanna Harbor and we were across the river at Buoy 8. The radio operator told me he would inform the crew where we were and get back to me.

A few minutes later he got back on the radio and told me they would be there in a few minutes as I watch them race out of Urbanna and come our way. When they got there I asked them what they wanted to do, that we needed to right the boat and tow it in. They told me to stand by on channel 21 alpha which I did, realizing we were still going to be there awhile.

After awhile the 26 footer called me on the radio asking me more questions about the rescued, numbers, ages, names and if that was all of them which I complied to, then another ten minute wait. Then they told me they wanted to come along side to get further information. I told them under these heavy weather conditions I would have to go slowly to maintain steerage, which they could come up along side which they agreed to. Coming up alongside they began to ask the teens again names, ages, addresses, phone numbers. Then they asked me what my plans to salvage the boat were. I looked at the teens realizing again they were going to be no help so told the Coast Guard my plan was to call my buddy Chat at Best Boat yard to come out and assist, which I had planned to do an hour ago. Then they informed me to go ahead with my plan.

Of course Chat didn't answer his phone, so I called another friend whose boat was not available. I then called the best Boat yard office got a hold of Henry, told him of the situation and if he could go up to Chat's shop and have Chat call me. Ten minutes later Chat's called once again. I had to explain everything to him and he said he'd be there as soon as he could. I then informed the CG that everything was O.K. and Chat was on his way. They then asked me how long it would take for Chat to get there and I said about 20 to 30 minutes. They then informed me they were going to go ahead and head back to their base and to have a good day, I replied with "it doesn’t get any better than this".

Chat showed up with Henry 20 minutes later. He told us he'd salvage the boat and haul it into Best Boat yard and the teens could pick it up there later. Go ahead and take the boys on in to get out of the weather. Leaving everything in good hands, I had one of the boys call to be picked up at Urbanna yachting center. I dropped them off and we shook hands with a hearty thank you. Pulling away from the Urbanna Yachting Center dock, I made my way out of Urbanna Harbor the five miles to La Grange Creek where I secured my boat on my mooring and got home late for dinner.

To be honest, I don't know what would of happened to those teens if I hadn't come along as they were wet and cold hanging on to an overturned boat with no other boats on the river soon to be dark. I guess they would have drifted to the other shore which would of taken hours. With their mast hanging down 24 feet they still would have been a good distantance from the shore and one of them confessed to me he didn't swim so well. If they did make it to the other shore alive, which is sparsely populated, they had no way of communicating because they lost their only cell phone when they went over. They'd have no way to have someone come pick them up, that's if they weren't dead yet from hypothermia.

Ah! To be young again!

*****

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