A rescue mission

At 4pm, as the duty net controller, Chris began the daily High Frequency (HF) radio roll call for the Arc Fleet and immediately received an emergency message. Sailing Vessel (SV) Rain Dancer (not one of our fleet) had been hit by a whale and sunk. The crew of 4 people were in their life raft and we had their last known co-ordinates.

The message came to SV Far – one of the Arc Fleet. They were closest to a boat called Southern Cross, who had received the May Day call. Chris spoke to every vessel in our fleet to share information and work through how the fleet could help. Chris’s years of handling emergencies through the radio on aeroplanes really showed through – he was fab. Mistral was 60 miles away – the second or third nearest boat to the life raft co-ordinates. Along with 6 other Arc boats, we changed course – heading south as fast as we were able. Chris suggested the fleet speak on the radio every hour on the hour to keep everyone updated.

As we changed our sails, the wind picked up and we were able to sail at 8.5 to 9 knots (faster than engine speed) into the night in a fine reach. We were conscious that the 4 souls in the life raft had already had 2 hours in it and faced the night stranded.

SV Rolling Stone was closest (a non Arc vessel) and estimated their eta at 9.15pm. Far was next at 12.45 and us at 12.50 – 6 to 7 hours away. If there had to be a search, there were going to be several boats available. The US Coast Guard was contacted along with the Joint Rescue Control Centre and the Peruvian Navy. A cargo tanker was within 50 miles and was also asked to assist. The Star Link internet contact was invaluable. A WhatsApp group was set up for all those involved in the rescue mission. The messages came through thick and fast. A mix of information, support and emotion.

On Mistral, we continued our watch rota – Chris tried to get rest so he would be alert as we approached the last known co-ordinates. I stayed with the communications – listening out for progress. The first really positive news came through when SV Rain Dancer connected to a boat via their handheld electronic tracker – we had new co-ordinates. The tracker can also receive messages so Southern Cross was able to communicate with Rain Dancer – they knew a rescue mission was underway. I can’t imagine how much of a relief that must have been to those in the life raft. You hope the electronics are sending your position out over the air waves, but it’s an act of faith until someone is able to actually make contact.

The next big news came when Rolling Stone announced she had Rain Dancer in her sights on the AIS – it was 8.59pm. Rolling Stone was 5 miles away. At 10.13pm, SV Rolling Stone had all 4 crew safely on board – healthy and happy to be there. Thank God.

Huge relief through the Arc Fleet. Although we had not been needed on this occasion, it was clear that our support had been invaluable to Rolling Stone and others on the mission. Knowing that there are others close by to help when you are 2000 miles from anywhere is huge – it’s a privilege to be part of this amazing sailing community.

Our final task before re-setting our sails and heading west again was to ensure everyone on the fleet who was helping knew the rescue had been made. Only half the boats have Star Link, so the other half rely on VHF radio or HF radio. 2 more calls from Chris at 11pm and midnight along with an email to the fleet and we were done. I slept for a couple of hours before my watch at 4am. Another beautiful sun rise. Another day dawned. We are 1200 miles from our destination. The day promises to be a good one.

~ by Karen on Tuesday, 14 March 2023.

7 Responses to “A rescue mission”

  1. Hard to read but thank God ❤️❤️

    Sent from my iPhone


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  2. Bloody hell – what an experience. Your adventure continues! Look out for whales!
    We’re just back from a week in Zermatt.
    love to all on Mistral

  3. Wow what an experience. Well done Chris. Scary but exciting too to be part of the rescue.

  4. Very pleased that rescue mission safely completed!
    Karen a new career beckons, the description of events had me on the edge of my seat.
    I can envisage the first novel…Mistral, Adventures on the High Seas!!
    Watch out for whales!!!x

  5. Wow – this is certainly the most exciting post I have read. Well done all of you and so happy to read of the happy ending! Are you now feeling more or less confident??

  6. OMG those poor people in the life raft. Thank goodness for the support from yourselves and the other boats who changed course to help. Must be very comforting to know that the boating community swings into action so quickly when trouble strikes! Well done all of you. Hope the four people rescued are ok.

  7. Wow that is a remarkable post to read. I am so pleased there was a happy ending. You must be ready for a rest??

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