David and Esther:
As told to me by Captain Barry Rice:
Charter captain 1978-2011
Yacht Endless Summer.
Terror-sorrow-pain-tears ended with a rainbow.
David and Esther were doing a sailing yacht vacation from Annapolis
with a friend to Bermuda when they sailed head long into a very
ugly storm. The storm was so severe that the small jib used to steer
tore, and the yacht’s inboard motor was not strong enough
to maneuver them directly into the confused waves. Then a rogue
wave hit them when the yacht was not in the right position and all
hell broke loose, the sail yacht rolled over with Ester down inside
David had his safety harness tied to part of the wheelhouse when
the wave exploded on him; Esther was down inside the yacht. The
wheelhouse section with David broke, and David remembers being dragged
down many feet below the surface of the water. He desperately struggled
to unclip himself and, every time he almost had it unclipped, his
hand was pulled away from his body. He eventually unclipped himself
and kicked for the surface.
The biggest gulp of air was his first thought. When that was done,
he looked around, being hit repeatedly in the face by white water
coming from different directions and times. The yacht was gone,
nowhere to be seen. David knew immediately that Esther was gone,
as was the yacht. Out of nowhere, the life raft popped up close
to him fully inflated. We do that with life rafts, but they are
normally tied down so well that they do not break from the yacht.
This one did and, when that happens, the raft inflates immediately.
David scrambled to get to the life raft and eventually pulled himself
clear of the raging seas. There was nothing in the life raft; everything
was gone except 2 flares. Sitting in the life raft, getting battered
this way and that, was not pleasant, but he was not in the water,
he was sitting down (sometimes).
Two days went by, and the weather subsided; no food, no water.
David made out a ship on the horizon and decided to send up one
flare. The flare lit up the sky and, by chance, the second mate
onboard the boat saw the flare. He called the Captain, who was sleeping
on the top deck: “We have to go and investigate, Captain”,
but no further flares could be seen. This was a naval ship which
had entered another territory without permission, and they were
simply heaving to, waiting for the weather to calm down. “Heave
to” means they were standing nose pointed into the storm,
just waiting for calmer waters. So this one flare posed a problem.
The Captain said: “No, let’s just wait it out without
attracting attention”, so the decision was made, not to go
and inspect where the flare came from. Just then a second flare
went up, and that is all that was needed for the Captain to realize
he had to find out exactly what was wrong.
The naval ship found David tucked into the life raft, pulled him
onboard, and stripped him naked, washed him (warm water), put a
blanked around him, then fed him and gave him some much needed hot
The Captain called a fishing boat from Bermuda, and the fishing
boat came to pick up David. By this time, sadness had set in; Esther
was gone. The naval folks had dry-cleaned his clothing, so by the
time the fishing boat arrived, he felt better clothing wise. The
fishing boat dropped David on the dock after touching base with
immigration and customs. As David walked along the dock, he saw
Esther running towards him. The first thing that his mind said was”
“This is a ghost”, but absolute happiness set in. Esther
was running towards him; they hugged the biggest hug mixed with
a few good tears.
Esther explained that she heard and felt the enormous wave collapse
onto the yacht. This was no boat charter for her here is her nightmare,
pots and pans were flying all over the place. Papers, books, pillows,
cushions and flowers were everywhere. Here was Esters washing machine
with everything tumbling with her. Just as quickly the sail yacht
righted itself,. Ester looked outside and no David anywhere, David
was gone, tears welled in her face as the magnitude of this situation
dawned on her. Her Virgin Island yacht charter was nothing like
this. The yacht rolled, sending everything inside all over the place.
When they righted, she saw David had been lost at sea and she collapsed.
Their yacht did not go down; it was floating aimlessly and had been
spotted by another vessel, which had towed them slowly into the
same marina as David had landed on.
Here is a quote from Michael Donnelley, a friend, about sailing;
it seems to sum up sailing very well.
Sailing is 95% absolute pure pleasure and 5% sheer terror.