Models Float, Don't They?
Imagine. You're sailing a 50 ft. Beneteau on a reach on a beautiful day in the BVIs, with a gorgeous Swan 60 just off your port side. It doesn't get any better than that. Well.. actually it does, if the Swan is carrying a boatload of beautiful models and carrying on a photo shoot while underway! Yes, the Mayday Crew is a lucky bunch (speaking for the guys now). But we never seem to shake the mayday part of our name. Yes. These poor girls were doomed the second we came within their proximity. No. The Mayday Crew didn't do anything. We've never caused anything bad to happen to anyone. Ever. We're the helpers, but never the less, fate was about to intervene... again.
The Mayday Crew had been out on the 50-footer practicing a bit of sail trimming and looking sharp doing it. We had just received our first set of crew rashguards. All matching of course. It was actually kind of a goof.. we've never been the uniform types.. so wearing these was a bit of tongue in cheek. One of the Mayday Crew guys was heading below decks to get back into his regular deck-ware (a well worn in Willy T's t-shirt) when he heard it. Over the radio... crackled but close. "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!" He stuck his head out of the companionway and asked, "Did you guys hear that?" "Hear what?" was the reply. The Soca music was jamming (maybe too loud)!
So he asked one of the girls on the crew to come below and listen with him. The girls have far superior eyes and ears than the mere mortal guys on board. She leaned into the radio; "Mayday! Mayday!" She heard it too. Clear as day.
All this happened within a few seconds. Then they both looked over to the Swan sailing off our port side a few hundred yards away.
The Swan with all the models aboard had collided with a fishing boat being used as a support vessel for the photo shoot. That boat carried the photographers, makeup artists, and primping models. It was sinking fast, with lots of people on board! Mayday indeed!
Sails dropped and motor on. There was debris everywhere. The Mayday Crew headed in to do what they could to assist in the rescue.
As we neared we could see that the fishing boat was nearly completely under water. Only the bow remained pointing to the sky. Then that too disappeared into the briny blue. Boy, did it sink quickly! We slowed as we reached the scene. A few of the guys from our crew jumped into the dinghy to assist. Other powerboats in the area that heard the mayday call were now of scene as well. Boats began plucking people out of the water followed by whatever gear we could find floating in the debris. After about ten minutes we had all hands accounted for. Truth be told one of the hands was short the tip of a finger though! The injured were sped away to the hospital aboard the responding powerboats and the stunned got aboard the Swan. Even in a rocky situation the Swan kept her grace. Now to figure out how it all happened. We had seen the fishing boat cruising in ultra close proximity to the sailboat. Really close. It turned out that the fishing boat was too close. So close they came together. But, the Swan had only a black mark on her port side near the bow as evidence of her exciting afternoon. Not to mention she kept her crew on board safely while she watched the over-zealous fishing boat Captain strike her and sink to the bottom (the boat, not the Captain). Quite a lady.
We talked with the other rescuers... all hands were indeed accounted for. It was good work all around! An impromptu team effort.
With the situation under control, we said our goodbyes as we turned back into the wind and prepared to raise our sails and pick up where we left off...
So.. what actually happened?
Between what we saw and what those onboard the photo shoot boats reported, heres what we pieced together. The fishing boat was approaching the sailboat from the stern. They came up along side the sailboat on her leeward side to take the "shot." Then the fishing boat pulled in a little closer, too close. A gust of wind came up and pushing the sailboat and creating a bit of leeway. This pressed the Swan into the fishing boat (about 40 or so feet in length). The rear transom of the fishing boat was pushed under water by the port side of the sailboat roughly 10 feet behind the tip of her bow. The transom of the fishing boat filled quickly with water and sank her stern first in nearly 90 feet of water. Everything was over very fast. Including the rescue. So quick in fact that we all had secured the area and set back out underway before we heard anything from the Coast Guard. Everything happened fast. As luck would have it, all of us responding to scene had plenty of experience on the water and in rescue situations and had no trouble coordinating our efforts together. The Coast Guard was informed of all the details, as they should be.
That afternoon we had the best bacon cheeseburger in our collective lives at the Cooper Island Beach Club for lunch. No really, you have to try their burger. But don't try to order it at dinner (not on the menu at dinner time) You will thank us. Tell them the Mayday Crew sent you!
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