Thursday, May 12, 2011

Swamped sailors rescued off Nantucket

Cape Cod Times published this story entitled "Swamped sailors rescued off Nantucket" by Robert Gold this morning. It is not exactly a happy ending since their sail boat was irrecoverably damaged, but the two sailors on board were rescued, safe and sound. So it is nevertheless a nice freaque wave story to read:

FALMOUTH — A pair of longtime sailing buddies were enjoying their third straight day at sea Tuesday, but they were on a course to disaster.

Heinz Fragner of Austria and Manfred Jabbusch of Germany were bringing their friend's 45-foot sailboat, Eva, from the United States to Greece.

After sailing from Florida to a small town near New York City for repairs, they set off Sunday for their trans-Atlantic journey.

The weather started nicely but eventually they encountered rain and strong winds. Still, the waves weren't mammoth or overly worrisome, according to Fragner.

"They weren't necessarily rough but (they were) very long," Fragner said Wednesday evening in a telephone interview with the Times.

But one wave changed everything Tuesday, swamping the sailboat about 120 miles off Nantucket.

"It was like a monster wave," Fragner said.

The boat capsized, he said, with the mast flung out into the ocean. Their food was gone and the sailboat was taking on water. Parts of the vessel's deck were torn up, he said.

Fragner was not hurt but Jabbusch, who is in his early 70s, suffered a back injury, which made it impossible for him to stand up at first.

"The biggest problem we had was to call for help," the 66-year-old Fragner said. The GPS system and radio were damaged and no longer working.

Fragner searched the boat for a 10-year-old, handheld GPS system. He figured it was the pair's last hope. They found the device under a swath of bed sheets. Using a satellite phone, they called in their location to a German rescue station, which connected them to the Coast Guard Command Center in Boston, Fragner said.

According to the Coast Guard, the stricken mariners reported at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday that the Eva's pumps weren't working. The pair also reported winds gusting to 35 knots with 12-foot waves. The boat still had its life raft, according to the Coast Guard.

A Falcon jet and Jayhawk helicopter headed to the scene from Air Station Cape Cod. Less then two hours after the initial call, the two men were hoisted into the helicopter and taken back to the Upper Cape air station. "They were absolutely perfect," Fragner said, marveling at the Coast Guard rescue team. "It is incredible what these people are doing, so fast, so precise, just perfect."

According to Fragner, the two sailors were evaluated at Falmouth Hospital and released. Since Tuesday night, they have been resting at The Admiralty Inn & Suites.

The Austrian man said he and Jabbusch were waiting on some insurance information before hopefully flying to Germany later this week.

"It is a very bad thing to lose the boat. It will take days or weeks to understand all this. It is very sad when you lose it. Of course, life is more important," he said.

Yes, life is most definitely more important, especially when that one unexpected, unpredictable wave, that can happen to anyone, swamped their sailboat. It is gratifying to know these two mature, experienced sailors are being successfully rescued, safe and sound. That aborted trans-Atlantic journey still represents a valiant and aspiring endeavor for every one to admire -- particularly at their age group of these two sailors.

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