Tasman Sea Nearly Claims More Lives
Rescued sailors finally reach shore after another dramatic ocean rescue.
The three sailors, part of a professional delivery crew were plucked from the J/111, Django and have finally reached shore after a dramatic rescue as nightfell on July 8th.
Just 170nm from the NZ coast the yacht broke its rudder shaft, in 50kts winds and 5 mtr / 16 ft seas. At the time and ccording to Predictwind.com the winds at Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand were gusting to 85kts and averaging over 60kts at the peak of the storm around noon on Tuesday, local time. Winds in the area in which the yacht was abandoned were reported at 50kts with seas in excess of 5metres / 16ft.
Crew member securing lines to warship Otago
The crew made a Mayday call which was picked up by the New Zealand based Rescue Co-Ordination Centre who tasked, two vessels to divert about 90nm to the location of the yacht.
One was a bulk carrier, and fortunately the other was a Royal NZ Navy patrol vessel, HMNZS Otago (“MNZ”).
HMNZS Otago – New Zealand Defence Force
MNZ spokesman Neville Blakemore told Radio New Zealand there were ‘extremely high seas’, at the time with waves reaching 5m/16ft. Mr Blakemore went onto to say that It was very difficult for the yacht to come alongside the Otago.
After some discussion we determined that the best bet was to get the folks on the yacht to get into their life raft, which would be connected by a rope to the warship Otago and the crew of the warship would then pulled them over to safety. That said, just as they got close to NZ warship the warship rolled violently, due to the sea conditions and as such, the crew thought that they were going to get crushed so cut the rope and floated clear. Luckily one of the sailors dived in to the icy cold water and attached another rope. There is no doubt that this was a quite risky manoeuvre but it worked out in the end.
Life raft deployed.
Lieutenant Wasley was ‘the best looking man I’ve seen for a while’, said Ms Hielkema, laughing as she described seeing him reach their lifer aft last night. ‘It was fantastic to see the face of someone who looked very capable of saving us,’ she said. Despite the trio on board the sinlnig yacht being very well prepared, they were glad to be rescued when the Otago arrived around two hours earlier than expected.
Crew of Otago look on as stricken yacht flounders.
Importantly they had grab bags with all their essentials – including Milo bars and lollies/candy and were wearing wet-weather gear and lifejackets. Apparently they passed their time waiting to be rescued by briefing each other on what they should do in different types of rescue situations Ms Hielkema said.
The plan was to stay in the yacht, which was now letting in water, for as long as we could, before being advised by the Navy to move into their life raft. ‘It’s a tiny inflatable bouncy castle in 60 knots of breeze, so it’s not really an ideal situation,’ she (Ms Hielkema) went onto say.
The yacht was abandoned about 300 miles North of Auckland, on her way home from Fiji. At approx 11:00am NZ Time this morning, in winds averaging over 50 knots and seas over 5 mts / 16 ft.
It appears that the rudder stock snapped between the two bearings, leaving the rudder swinging underneath the boat, trying to rip itself free. The crew are safe and well, albeit very relieved and a bit shaken and I suspect that the reality of the situation may not have set it yet for them.
Django sailing proudly in her former life. Now lost forever!
All responded exceptionally well, and did everything they could have done in the most seamanlike manner. The boat was still floating when they transferred onto the frigate, and the rudder had not yet sheared off. But with large cracks appearing around the area of the bottom bearings at the time of rescue and more gales and big seas forecast, one doesn’t expect she will last too much longer!
Again, another lesson in being prepared for anything, always! Perhaps if they had some concrete/cement with them the vessel may have been saved!