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
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
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!