East London – Two men survived heavy storms and had to abandon their yacht after it ran out of fuel and started sinking off the Eastern Cape coast, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said on Sunday.
NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said at around 01:30 on Saturday, the NSRI East London were placed on alert by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) following a VHF radio request for assistance, intercepted by Telkom Maritime Radio Services.
The nine-metre yacht, Sticky Fingers, had two crew members onboard.
Craig Rosen, 53, from Durban and Johan Joubert, 44, from Mossel Bay, were delivering the yacht from Durban to Mossel Bay for the owner.
They reported heavy weather and depleted fuel reserves, and confirmed they were under sail and safe, but requested a tow.
According to Lambinon, Rosen told them that they were already tired and had run out of fuel approximately off-shore of Port Edward.
Lambinon said they had sailed not too far from East London and then turned around and sailed with the wind which had changed to a Southerly, picking up to 30 knots and a sea swell of up to seven metres, forcing them to remain awake and to sail through the rough seas.
“They headed towards Bashee, on the Transkei coast, hoping to find calmer waters and just off-shore of Bashee Point, but for only a few minutes they found flat, calm, water before the swell picked up to seven metres with a 15-knot wind.”
The NSRI East London sea rescue craft Spirit of Lotto, crewed by coxswain Ian Reid, and crew Kevin Pirzenphal, Wynand Roets and Declan Winn, was launched at 09:30 to the sea rescue base control.
Exhaustion and hypothermia
After coordinates provided by the crew of Sticky Fingers appeared not to correspond with where we thought that they may be, the EC Government Health EMS dispatched an EMS rescue helicopter from Mthatha, Lambinon said.
The helicopter crew found them off-shore of Bashee on the Transkei Coast.
He said the sea rescue craft met with the yacht at around 13:30 in heavy weather, with a seven-metre swell and strong winds and a towline was rigged.
“With Craig and Johan remaining at the helm of their yacht, exhausted and riding out the tow effort in what were now five-metre swells breaking over the yacht, some 40 nautical miles into the tow effort and by this stage off-shore of the Kei River Mouth, their cabin hatch kept banging open and closed and Johan was sent forward to secure the hatch when he noticed that their cabin had filled with water.”
Bailing water proved fruitless and they summoned the sea rescue craft to report that their yacht was sinking.
The two men had to abandon the yacht.
“They were both taken safely aboard the sea rescue craft where they were treated for exhaustion and for early stages of hypothermia and Craig suffering a sprained ankle which was strapped,” Lambinon said.
The sea rescue craft remained at the yacht for some time, but later left. It was suspected that the yacht will sink.