A yacht participating in the annual FBYC Spring Regatta struck a whale yesterday around noon and started to sink 1 nautical mile off-shore of Fish Hoek.
The yacht Bad Habit with 7 crew on board hit the whale accidentally while sailing at about 13 knots (24 km an hour). The collision caused the transom mounted rudder to be ripped off the yacht that left a hole about half a meter wide below stern deck and resulted in a sudden and massive inflow of water.
The yacht crew, commended for their good seamanship, reacted quickly by using life-jackets, sails, seat cushions, and whatever loose bits and pieces on the yacht to plug the hole. They even used their own nodies to stop the flow of water and also bailed water using buckets.
Darren Zimmerman, NSRI Simonstown station commander, said the yacht issued a Mayday distress call and NSRI Simonstown duty crew were activated by the False Bay Yacht Club (FBYC) reports about the plight of the of the 35-foot yacht at 12.15 pm . The sea rescue craft Spirit Of Safmarine III and Spirit Of Surfski II was launched and the FBYC dispatched their marker boats.
“Sea conditions were a 2 meter swell and 25 knot South Easterly,” Zimmerman said. One of the marker boats, an SA Navy Harbour Patrol Boat, reached the yacht first and rafted the boat to the yacht to act as buoyancy so as to keep the yacht to stay afloat. The yacht was taken under tow by the NSRI with the crew on board who continued efforts to plug the hole and bail out water.
Shore crew were requested meanwhile to bring extra water pumps and a 44 gallon drum to the dock while the FBYC prepared a carry lift and hoist.
Zimmerman also said the yacht tow was made difficult with the yacht rudder missing, causing inability to steer the yacht that was moving about wildly under tow. The sea drogue, from the sea rescue craft was deployed to assist the yacht to stay in line under tow.
On arrival at Simonstown harbour water pumps were used to continue to extricate water from the boat and the drum was positioned on the bow of the yacht. It was filled with water to weight the front of the yacht down and help keep the yacht stern out of the water. The FBYC carry lift then hoisted the yacht out of the water.
Three of the yacht crew were found to have sustained injuries during the ordeal. A woman was treated for hypothermia and near drowning symptoms. The woman appeared to have swallowed water while stemming the inflow of water through the hole in the yacht). She was treated for soft tissue injuries, bruising, to both of her knees and she was been transported to hospital by ambulance in a stable condition.
A man was treated for a laceration to his lip which appears to have been caused by the tow-line but it was a minor injury. The remaining four crew, all men, were uninjured.
Edited by St Francis Chronicle