Trimaran crew tells of dramatic rescue in rough seas after boat sinks
Crew members of a trimaran have described how they narrowly escaped with their lives following a dramatic rescue in rough seas off Bermuda.
The three crew members of Buddy, a 44-foot custom trimaran, had to abandon their boat to board a ten-foot inflatable dinghy in ten to 15-foot breaking waves 290 miles north-west of Bermuda.
The crew reported to Bermuda Maritime Operations that they believed their vessel had hit something in the sea before rapidly taking on water and breaking apart.
After contacting the US Coast Guard, they put out an emergency call to Vamoose, a J/133 sail boat that happened to be only 8.5 miles away from them and which came to their rescue.
A spokesman for Marops said: “I took a call from the US Coast Guard on December 4 at 8.10am. They were glad to report that there were three survivors from sailing vessel Buddy.
“The crew suspected that they hit something and reported that they were flooding with water. The boat took on a lot of water quickly and began to break apart.
“They had previously encountered Vamoose so they made a distress broadcast on VHF radio. The Vamoose was only 8.5 miles away. The crew of the Buddy evacuated into their rigid dinghy and Vamoose was soon on the scene, and recovered them from the dinghy.
“We had a photo of Buddy where it had one of the pontoons in the water and it was at a 45 degree angle with the pontoon in the water – it was a fair catastrophe.
“They got into Bermuda – one of our crew met the crew from Buddy and found them to be in good spirits considering. They are not in need of any further assistance from Bermuda Maritime Operations.
“We passed on the debrief to the US Coast Guard and they were thankful. They were glad that Vamoose was nearby and the whole thing ended well.”
The spokesman said Buddy was en route from Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to Puerto Rico when the incident occurred.
The owner of the trimaran said she had planned to retire on the boat with her husband – but would now have to start from scratch after its sinking.
Laura Shulman, said that she and her husband had spent two years outfitting Buddy and planned to spend the next ten years living on it while at sea.
She added: “Everyone was like ‘thank God, you got so lucky’, but then I think ‘did I get lucky or did I lose a boat?’”
Ms Shulman, from Massachusetts, said that she was on watch on Sunday night as Buddy sailed past Bermuda.
She said that the boat “suddenly came to a stop” around 3.30am and that she knew something was wrong.
“As soon as the boat stopped my co-captain, Ryan Finn, came whipping out of bed and we woke up our other crewmate, Tomasz.
“I said ‘Tomasz, get your life preserver on and cut the dinghy loose’.”
Ms Shulman said that they saw a four-foot long gash in the side of the hull, which quickly filled with water that acted as an anchor.
She reckoned that something sharp had torn open the boat but had no idea what.
Ms Shulman stressed that she and the rest of the crew were highly experienced sailors.
She said that Tomasz Dvorak, a close family friend, was “the best sailor a 23-year-old could be”.
She added that Ryan Finn, the ship’s captain, was a notable sailor who sailed from San Francisco to New York by himself over four months.
Ms Shulman said that she herself had been on the water since she was ten.
“I had a great crew – but it wasn’t that, there was just something out there floating that ripped open my hull.
“We were going like eight knots – not fast at all – the weather was fine.
“Something must have been just underneath the surface, we floated under it and it just sliced the hull open.”
Ms Shulman said that, despite the circumstances, she thought Bermuda was “great” and very accommodating.
“I stepped in here with no passport, so I had to go to the US Consulate the next day and get a passport.
“This island’s really well set up. I’ve never been here before – Bermuda’s a great place to get stranded.”
Ms Shulman said that she would visit Bermuda again under better circumstances. “I might even get shipwrecked out here again – I don’t think I could get here under worse circumstances.”
Ms Shulman, who is staying at the Grotto Bay Resort with her husband, who flew down after the incident, will be staying on island until Monday.
Willie Dresser, a crew member on the J/133 Vamoose, documented the experience in an article on www.sailingscuttlebutt.com.
He reported that the crew of the Buddy were Laura Shulman, Ryan Finn and Tomasz Dvorak.
Mr Finn wrote an account of the ordeal on Facebook. He said: “I was awakened at around 4am by something and came on deck to see what was happening. Boat speed had fallen to nearly zero and a quick look to leeward showed the ama [outrigger] underwater with only the deck visible.
“It was obvious that it had a big hole from a collision. Buddy began to slowly capsize over the next four hours …
“Our attempts to motor Buddy under her own power were useless as we could only make 1 knot at full throttle, and we had no steerage … after it was clear that we couldn't rescue the boat under its own power we decided to abandon ship and told Vamoose that we would like a rescue.”
As Vamoose approached, the Buddy crew managed to board their dinghy, taking with them a few essential items – passports, boat papers and some personal gear – in dry bags.
Mr Finn wrote: “Surprisingly, once drifting away, the ten-foot dinghy with three adults, 25 to 30 knots of wind and ten-foot waves, felt more secure than being on Buddy. Next thing we know the port bow of Vamoose was upon us and we boarded safely aft with all of our gear. The dinghy was left to drift away with Buddy.”
There was some difficulty boarding Vamoose but once conditions were safe they were able to board safely and with no life-threatening injuries.
Mr Finn said observers on land informed them that Buddy's tracker stopped transmitting about an hour after it was abandoned, meaning it had probably capsized.
He added: “I don’t think any of us had regrets about our decision to abandon Buddy and live to sail another day. She was a beautiful trimaran though.“
Mr Dresser wrote in his report: “The conditions were 15-foot breakers with 53 knot gusts recorded and when we came around they were too close to the sinking sailboat so we had to loop around and wait for them to drift off around six or seven boat lengths.
“Once ready, we took them at the gate on the port side and rounded over to them, so they were on leeward not getting the spray.
“We threw them a line and pulled them into the break of the lifelines at midship where Geoff, Tim, and Chris pulled all three of the Buddy crew on board.”
They set a course for Bermuda and some 29 hours after the rescue they arrived “flying the biggest spinnaker we had” and setting a boat speed record of 19.3mph.
They eventually came in through Town Cut channel in St George’s, where they met customs staff.
Once on dry land the crew of Vamoose were treated to dinner by the crew of Buddy at The White Horse Tavern.
The crew of Vamoose were due to set sail for Antigua yesterday.
“The technologies that made this rescue possible need to be noted here. Without them, we would have had to be rescued by the coastguard, in whatever capacity they chose, as opposed to sailing into Bermuda under spinnaker with some of our possessions and all of our bodies intact.
“At the helm station we had a tablet in a waterproof case. Using Navionics on the tablet, it showed Vamoose’s position on AIS [Automatic Identification System]. The AIS transmission allowed them to sail directly to our position, not wasting a minute, and in light of the likely capsize, all those minutes counted.
“Without these technologies working so well, this could have been a much more complicated and potentially tragic story. If you ever wondered if they were worth getting for your next offshore passage, the answer is a resounding YES!“