Two rival sailing organizations, each planning to travel from Hampton Roads to the Caribbean: One group shipped out ahead of schedule last weekend in a single pack to get out ahead of bad weather. The other group waited.
Most of the boats in the second group, sailing in the Salty Dawg Rally out of Hampton, left Tuesday and Wednesday after the first of two forecasted cold fronts had passed. They hoped to cross through the volatile Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras before the second cold front moved into the area Thursday.
Many of the Salty Dawgs, though, didn't make it across the strong ocean current before conditions got rough, resulting in an unusually busy night for Coast Guard rescue teams in North Carolina - and prompting some in the sailing community to question the safety of the event.
Roughly 115 boats participated in the third-annual Salty Dawg Rally. Several experienced serious problems late Thursday as they sailed into strong crosswinds and choppy seas some 200 miles off the coast of North Carolina.
Two boats lost their masts; four others had serious rudder problems. One sailor lost his footing and broke an arm. Crew members from other boats reported intense seasickness.
Here is an update from the USCG on the resues:
Here’s a breakdown of each incident provided by the U.S. Coast Guard:
Crewmembers aboard the 41-foot sailboat, Ahimsa, sent out a distress signal via a satellite tracking device, stating that they were taking on water approximately 230 miles east of Virginia Beach and were in need of assistance.
5th District watchstanders launched crews aboard a Hercules
airplane to search and a Jayhawk helicopter to perform the rescue.
Watchstanders also contacted the Navy, who diverted the USS Vella Gulf
At approximately 11 p.m., the Jayhawk crew arrived at the Vella
Gulf’s location and refuled aboard the ship. Proceeding from the Vella
Gulf, the Jayhawk hoisted four people from the Ahimsa at approximately
1:30 a.m., and took the boaters back to Air Station Elizabeth City,
where they declined medical treatment.
In a second case, crewmembers aboard the 38-foot sailboat Nyapa, sent out a distress signal via a satellite tracking device
stating that they had lost their mast and were taking on water
approximately 275 miles east of Virginia Beach and were in need of
5th District Watchstanders diverted the first Hercules crew from
the Ahimsa case to search for the Nyapa, but were unable to locate the
boat. A HC-130 crew from the air station launched at approximately 10
p.m., and utilizing new information recieved from the coordinator of the
Salty Dawg Rally, located the Nyapa and established communications.
A crewmember aboard the Nyapa stated they had 4 people aboard and
confirmed they lost their mast, but no one was injured and they were
continuing south via motors and no longer needed assistance.
In a third case, 5th District watchstanders received an alert
from an emergency position indicating radio beacon registered the
sailboat Aurora. The alert positioned the Aurora 230 miles east of
Elizabeth City, N.C.
Both Hercules crews searched the area but were unable to locate
the boat. The crew of a nearby sailboat, the Dreamreach, responded to
the Coast Guard’s radio broadcasts inquiring the after Aurora, stating
that they had been in contact with the vessel and that the Aurora was
not in distress and were heading to Bermuda.
In a fourth case, crewmembers aboard the sailboat Brave Heart,
located approximately 50 miles southeast of Ocracoke Inlet, N.C.,
contacted Sector North Carolina watchstanders, reporting a 67-year-old
man aboard had a arm injury.
Watchstanders launched a Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet crew aboard a 47-foot Motor Life Boat to attempt a medevac. Once on scene, the MLB was unable to conduct the medevac due to adverse weather conditions.
The Coast Guard Cutter Block Island was dispatched to escort the
Brave Heart into Beaufort, N.C., but was diverted to assist with another
case with a disabled sailboat. Watchstanders established a
communication schedule with the Brave Heart and planned to send a crew
from Coast Guard Station Fort Macon to escort the Brave Heart in, but
crewmembers aboard the Brave Heart stated they no longer needed Coast
In a fifth case, crewmembers aboard the 54-foot sailboat, Zulu,
located approximately 100 miles east of Oregon Inlet, N.C., contacted
Sector North Carolina watchstanders via satellite phone,
reporting that they were disabled and adrift. The Cutter Block Island
crew arrived on scene and is preparing to set up a tow to bring the Zulu
back to shore.
Be careful out there!
Read the full story here.