Somira Sao describes how her family face losing their home after their Open 40 Anasazi Girl is dismasted close to Cape Horn on an eastbound circumnavigation
Short of fuel
We had lost our Sea-Me and radar units, but fortunately the antennas and comms units mounted on the transom were still intact. James and I reworked our NMEA interfacing so it would work with the Sea-Me and radar components gone from the hub. We could once again use our navigation software. We calculated that, if we motored full power at six knots, we could reach Cook Bay within 50-60 hours. We were 50lt of fuel short for this distance, not taking into consideration currents, wind on our beam, or drift.
We had a choice: let ourselves drift toward Cape Horn and then motor to the Beagle Channel, or motor now to Bahia Cook. We did not call anyone. We knew if a rescue was initiated, it was not only a sure-fire way to lose Anasazi Girl, but it would also mean expense and risking the lives of other people. We decided our best chance was to motor to Bahia Cook and make a jury rig at anchor.
As we motored and watched our fuel drop, we slowly came to terms with the fact that were not going to make it in without help. We reluctantly made a call on the satphone to the port captain’s office in Puerto Williams to inform them of our situation and see if we could hire a fishing boat to meet us close to Bahia Cook to do a fuel drop.
They said they would be in contact. It all felt somewhat anti-climactic. After a few hours, we called our close friend Andy Ball in New Zealand. We updated him on the recent events, James telling him that he thought maybe he had cracked one of his ribs cutting the rig away. We asked if he could contact New Zealand Coast Guard to assist us with communications with Puerto Williams as we were unsure whether or not they understood.
We spent a sleepless night. Very early the next morning, we made a second call to Puerto Williams, updating them with our position, and assuring them we were all OK. New Zealand Maritime had been in contact with them. James asked if they would be able to provide us with any fuel. They told us that they would not be dropping us any fuel, but said a rescue had been initiated to pick us up and a merchant vessel had been diverted to our last known position.
We couldn’t believe we had got this far and in an instant our fate had been altered. We had suddenly done what we never wished to do. We were worried about a safe transfer to a ship and wanted to try to deny the rescue. But the most important thing was the safety of our children.
Saying goodbye to Anasazi Girl
So we told them the Chilean Navy was going to help us, that they were sending a ship. We also told them this meant we were going to say goodbye to Anasazi Girl.
This was very emotional news for our two eldest. The boat was their home. We said that there was a possibility James could stay aboard and try to get the boat into port, but Tormentina was adamant we were sticking together.
James prepared the boat for the rescue, clearing everything from the deck. After very difficult comms over very patchy Iridium coverage, we got a call from the port captain’s office in Puerto Williams that was crystal clear. The man on the phone spoke perfect English and said his name was Juan Soto. James updated him with our position and told him that we were conserving fuel so that we could stay on course and get as close as possible to Cook Bay.
He told Juan that he was really worried about how we could safely get picked up by a container carrier. He said: “James, don’t worry. The merchant ship is the stand-by vessel. I am leaving Puerto Williams right now with my ship and my men, and we’re coming to get you.”
James felt better after this call. The pain in his back had settled in. When he used the head that morning, he came back saying he was urinating blood. The adrenalin of the knockdown had worn off, making him realise that trying to get in without help really wasn’t an option.
True to his word, Commandante Soto was the first to arrive with his ship, PSG-78 Piloto Sibbald, and 28 men. The plan was to rendezvous with us at first light. We saw them approaching, and the merchant vessel standing off.
Two zodiacs were launched by the Sibbald, one of which tied up alongside. In it were two crewmen, two rescue divers in wetsuits, a medic and a young officer who spoke perfect English. James told the medic that he thought he had cracked a rib, was pissing blood and very much in pain now.
I put a hand on Anasazi Girl one last time and said a silent goodbye to her, holding back tears. We watched with heavy hearts as we drove away in the zodiac.
We had prepared the kids for the pickup, wearing their helmets and lifejackets with built-in harnesses. We were able to clip them safely into a line and they got lifted up quickly. I climbed up the ladder to be greeted by smiling crewmembers, who handed Pearl over to me immediately.
Commandante Soto was a tall, fit man in his 40s, with curly salt and pepper hair. We both thanked him for risking his life and his men’s to save us. James told him that when he heard his voice over the satphone the day before, he felt instantly at ease about everything. In that instant of coming face to face with him, we felt an irreversible connection and lifelong friendship solidify. He said he had four children, and the youngest three were the same age as ours.
Soto said he believed there was just enough of a weather window that he thought he could tow Anasazi Girl in. Would she be OK towed at 15 knots?
James and I were shocked. We had fully expected the discussion to be about opening her seacocks to sink her, but we quickly agreed to sign a release for them to tow her.
Hours later, we were underway toward Bahia Cook. James was lying in a berth in the sick bay, physically finished. He was certain he had broken one or two ribs.
I felt as though we were in a dream. I had to pinch myself, as my kids and I stood on the aft deck of the Navy ship, watching our dismasted sailboat towed behind us. We were all safe, James the only one suffering very minor injuries. As if by letting the boat go, she was somehow miraculously returned to us. We were together and Anasazi Girl was coming home with us.
PS We are now in Puerto Williams, Isla Navarino living aboard and working to earn the funds for a replacement rig. Check our website for details about our mast project and how you can help: anasaziracing.blogspot.com