Sailboat crew rescued in Pacific after whale sinks ship

Rick Rodriguez and his three friends were 13 days into their three-week crossing from the Galapagos to French Polynesia on his 44-foot sailboat, Raindancer, when disaster struck on March 13. Rodriguez was on watch, and the crew were eating lunch around 1:30 p.m. when they heard a loud bang. In an interview with The Washington Post, Rodriguez explained that the ship had good winds and was sailing at around 6 knots when the back half of the boat lifted violently upward and to starboard. The ship had hit a whale, and the Raindancer began to sink.

Rodriguez immediately texted his friend and fellow sailor, Tommy Joyce, telling him that they were in serious trouble and to tell as many boats as he could. The crew managed to escape onto a lifeboat and a dinghy, and the sinking took just 15 minutes. They were adrift for 10 hours, floating about nine miles, before a civilian ship rescued them from the Pacific Ocean. The rescue was a seamless predawn maneuver, thanks to a combination of experience, technology, and luck, and the crew was unharmed.

Rodriguez pointed out that the story that inspired Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” happened in the same region. The ship Essex was also heading west from the Galapagos when it was rammed by a sperm whale in 1820; leaving the captain and some crew to endure roughly three months and resort to cannibalism before being rescued. According to Kate Wilson, a spokeswoman for the International Whaling Commission, there have been about 1,200 reports of whales and boats colliding since a worldwide database launched in 2007. Collisions that cause significant damage are rare, the U.S. Coast Guard said, noting the last rescue attributed to damage from a whale was the sinking of a 120-foot J-Boat in 2009 off Baja California, with that crew rescued by Coast Guard helicopter.

1 comment
  1. Dougal Robertson and family spent 37 days adrift due to being sunk by whales in the same area. Read his book Survive the Savage Sea. Good book.

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