Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Boat Hits Reef in Paradise

The loss of one's yacht on a remote reef is the stuff of nightmares for most sailors. Yet somewhere in the world on most days of the year, there is a boat lost. Sometimes the stories have good endings, sometimes they end in mysteries, always they are harrowing. This is the story of the loss of the yacht Elsewhere when her steering failed at a critical moment, and the luck that followed them to bring them safely home.

The hull's violent 'Bang!' 'Bang!' against the unforgiving reef sounded like gunshots. Tyler Johnston, 12, wanted off the sailboat. Now. The boy ran below deck to his berth and quickly stuffed his belongings into a plastic bag.

Minutes later, he and his grandparents, Matt and Judy Johnston of Antioch, sat in an inflatable raft in the South Pacific 5,000 miles from home watching the wind and surf slam their sailboat into a reef. 'The banging, it was pain to my ears,' Tyler said in the safety of his grandparents' Antioch kitchen.

The shipwreck began the Johnstons' harrowing seafaring tale, a saga of rescue by an exiled Russian media mogul, a night in luxury aboard a mega-yacht, and an arduous trip to port on a creaky freight vessel. 'We finally persuade Tyler's parents to let him come sailing with us, and look what happens,' said Judy, shaking her head in disbelief.

Matt and Judy Johnston, 64 and 63, successfully sailed the 38-foot Elsewhere thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean in the past decade, logging stops from Mexico to Ecuador to Bora Bora to Tahiti.

Their cruising days are over for now. Read on.

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