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A true yacht charter Story

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 the yacht.

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 coffee.

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.


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