Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rescue After 76 Days At Sea Pg 31

When you take hope away from people, you have stolen from them the most valuable asset any person can have.  Some people agree, the only one who has a right to take or give life is the almighty.  However, we as humans, have the power to encourage hope.  Should we?

Napoleon Solo

Steven Callahan left El Hierro in the Canary Islands on January 29th, 1982 en route to Antigua.  Callahan says he thinks he hit a whale in the middle of the night.  Whatever it was, the impact ripped a huge hole in his boat.  

The boat was loaded with extra flotation, so it did not sink.  After moving to the life raft, Callahan was able to retrieve things from his boat, including a sleeping bag and rescue bag, before being parted from the boat in heavy weather.   

For the next 76 days, "Callahan survived by 'learning to live like an aquatic caveman.' He ate primarily mahi-mahi as well as triggerfish, which he speared, along with flying fish, barnacles, and birds that he captured. The sea life was all part of an ecosystem that evolved and followed him for 1,800 nautical miles (3,300 km) across the ocean. He collected drinking water from two solar stills and various jury-rigged devices for collecting rainwater, which together produced on average just over a pint of water per day."

Callahan said he had a "View of Heaven from a seat in hell."

Rose Noelle

The story of the Rose Noelle is an inspiration for all sailors, especially those in the Pacific near New Zealand. 

 Joehn Glennie and his brother sold their motor bikes to purchase the plans to a multi-hull sailboat.  The brothers spent two years building the boat using their meager wages to fund the venture.  With little knowledge, the brothers took off in Highlight, for a seven year learn-as-you-go adventure. 

"No income, no insurance and no knowledge of sailing was no deterrent. Nor were the storms...Over the ensuing years we covered something like 30,000 nautical miles in “Highlight,” working only long enough to make enough money to buy stores so we could head for the horizon once again." said Glennie.

The boat was eventually sold and a new boat built.

We finally sold “Highlight” in Marina Del Rey, CA and flew back to Sydney, Australia, where I designed and built a new 40 foot boat which I named “Rose-Noelle.” It was named after Rose-Noelle, a Tahitian beauty queen who died in a Pan Am jet that crashed on take off from Tahiti. She was on her way to meet me.

Glennie sailed his new boat from Australia to New Zealand.  There, he picked up a crew consisting of  two New Zealanders and an American.  Glennie did not know his new crew mates well.  The four would soon detest each other as they battled for their lives.

The Rose Noelle

Rick Hellreigal, a 31 year old former policeman and outward-bound instructor, Jim Nalepka, a US citizen, Phil Hoffman,  42,  and Joehn Glennie left New Zealand in the summer of 1989.  June is the start of the winter season for New Zealand.  On June 4th, 1989, a 60 foot wall of water flipped the Rose Noelle.  The sailors were trapped in the floating boat.  It took a day to hack through the upturned hull so the crew could use the bottom of the boat as their new deck.

"Imagine what would happen if you turned your house upside down," Glennie wrote.  "
When Rose-Noelle capsized we lost the fresh water we had in our tanks. It just drained out of the breather pipes. We also lost most of the food. Electronics like the Sat Nav and radar don't work when they're full of water.

The crew put cupboard doors just beneath the cockpit sole to make berths.  They only had 18 of headroom to sleep.  Because there was not enough room to sleep on their backs, they had to sleep "spoon style".  They had to shift positions from time to time because the person on the outside got very cold.  Every time someone turned over they all had to turn over.

Interior of Rose Noelle

Glennie made the best of his situation.  Long passages on his former yacht, Highlight, had taught him how to escape the mental nightmare.  He said he could not explain it to the crew, because they would not understand.  He had an overwhelming sense everything would be all right.

Editor note:  I had that same sense of well-being during my own personal nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico.

"You can't tell someone you know how to drive a car,", Glennie wrote.  You can't tell someone everything will work out.  Who would believe you?

"Our water supply gone, we lived on 4 ounces of Coca Cola and 7-Up with two teaspoons of cold uncooked rice a day for three months, by which time the boat had turned into a floating reef to which mollusks attached themselves, and they in turn attracted hungry kingfish, which became manna from heaven for three starving men. We gaffed them on good days, ate them raw, or marinated in vinegar (my favorite), and dried what we didn't immediately eat."

The yacht drifted to places no one would have dreamed.  That included the rescue authorities who threw in the towel and pronounced the crew "lost at sea".  It was 119 days later the men washed up onto a tiny beach on Great Barrier Island.  Had they washed up 1000 yards in either direction, they would have drowned as the boat broke up on the rocks because there were only cliffs and ocean.  

All that remains of Rose Noelle after 3 days on the rocks

The next day the crew climbed the cliff and broke into a cabin.  The following media storm may have changed their lives.

No one knows what happened to the yacht Nina.  What we do know is no flotsam or wreckage was found.  The crew survived the storm she sailed into on June 3rd, 2013.  We know this because of the message Evi Nemeth sent on June 4th, 2013, 24 years to the day a massive wave capsized the Rose Noelle.

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