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In Their Own Words: The Captain Of The SV Raindancer and The Whale Collision

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  • In Their Own Words: The Captain Of The SV Raindancer and The Whale Collision

    The people on sunken boat SV Raindancer in the Pacific are safely aboard SV Rolling Stone after 10 hrs in a lifeboat.
    Great job by them and all the other yachts incl SV Far that went to the rescue.

    Most of the rescue was coordinated by whatsapp using Starlink which is a game changer when it comes to safety. At least 8 yachts, mainly World Arc rally members plus a large ship responded.

    Update from the skipper of Raindancer Rick added in photos and copied below to make easier to read.
    Update from Raindancer captain after striking whale in Pacific Ocean.

    Hey everyone, first off thanks for all the support. We are still feeling very drained by everything, but I wanted to put out a small piece of the story to answer everyone's questions all at once. So here goes.

    We were sitting in the cockpit of Raindancer, enjoying some homemade Pizza that Bianca was making from a recipe one of her friends had given her.

    It reminded us of a day we had in the Galapagos before our departure. It was a beautiful sunset, and our crew, and the crew of Southern Cross shared a memorable evening together, eating pizza, talking about how lucky we were to be sailing across the Pacific Ocean with friends and the journey that lay ahead of Us.

    Fast forward a month and there we were, the 4 of us. Myself, Alana, Bianca, and Simon. On a 3100 nautical mile passage to the Marquesas from the Galapagos, with about 1400nm left to go. Cooking up that tasty pizza. We had good winds, sunny skies, and were sailing at around 6kts. The second pizza had just come out of the oven, and I was dipping a slice into some ranch dressing when it felt like we ran into a concrete wall. I heard a loud crashing noise simultaneous with a metal clanking. I heard Alana yell, "we hit a whale" then I looked to port and saw a huge whale, and blood gushing out of the side of it as it began swimming down.

    I told everyone to check the bilges, and went down myself to check for water and collision damage. Within 5 seconds the high water bilge alarm went off, I could see water rushing in from the stern of the boat. At that point I knew the damage was very significant, and that most likely we were going to lose the boat. At that point the crew began gathering safety equipment, supplies, emergency gear, electronics, etc. and they did an extremely good job of it. I went to the back of the boat to search for the source of the water.

    At this point maybe 30 seconds have gone by since impact, and while I was searching the aft bilges, rudder, stuffing box areas, the water had already filled up above the floor. It was difficult to locate the source from the inside with the water level so high already. At this point I was nearly certain the boat was going down, and at a rapid level. I made a last attempt to plug up water intrusion from the outside. On my way out I helped bring out the Liferaft and grabbed and set off one of our EPIRBs, and made a vhf radio mayday call. I deployed the life raft and it inflated as advertised.

    I then realized that the sails were still up and the boat was still moving forward and it put a lot of tension on the painter line of the Winslow Liferaft, which had automatically deployed a sea anchor.

    Afraid that the painter would break, Bianca and I quickly put the sails away.

    While this was happening, Simon asked me, "should we launch the dinghy?" I said absolutely. Simon and Alana were launching our 10.5ft. Apex dinghy that was sitting upright and inflated on the foredeck.

    After helping Simon and Alana launch the dinghy, I put on my mask and fins on and jumped overboard with a tarp. I saw the damage instantly. There were multiple holes or "cracks". The biggest one being around the prop shaft. It seems part of the whale must have hit the shaft with a strong force and busted open the fiberglass around the shaft. It was a very awkward hole to try and plug with rags and a tarp. It had a stainless steel shaft in the middle, and the holes around it were more like caves with broken pieces of fiberglass all around and inside it. In addition to this, I also noticed 2-3 full length cracks maybe an inch in diameter along the base of the skeg where it meets the hull, and about halfway down the skeg. I made attempts to shove a tarp in the hole (s) but it kept coming out.
    I tried to wrap the tarp around the damaged area connecting of the rudder cracked and and prop shaft and tie it around itself, but the open ocean waves and swell made that difficult, and with a boat that was already 2/3 full of water at that point, I decided to forego my efforts and focus on the safety and survival of the crew.

    We started to load the dinghy up with as much supplies and emergency gear as possible. At this point we could no longer fill up water jugs as the water level was above the sink. The toe rail was inches from the water. The girls were both in the dinghy waiting for Simon and I to join them. I paused for a moment, tried to think of anything else I could be forgetting, or anything else I should do. I then took a moment to take in the scene of what was happening, a split second. I could feel my emotions wanting to rise to the foreground but I quickly shoved them back down and Simon and I stepped into the water just as emotions wanting to rise to the foreground but I quickly shoved them back down and Simon and I stepped into the water just as the toe rail went under. I then swam to the Liferaft. When I got in it, I looked back and could see the last 10ft of the mast sinking down at an unbelievable speed. Our painter line, which is designed to break before being pulled under with the boat, was still attached to the boat. Alana noticed it and shouted to cut it.. luckily I had a Leatherman knife in my pocket and cut the painter as it was coming under tension.

    The boat, and all our belongings was gone, out of sight, sinking to the bottom of one of the most remote parts of the ocean. 10,000ft down.
    We took a moment to breathe, and then began organizing and taking inventory of the items that we had managed to secure.

    The sun began to set and soon it was pitch dark. And we were floating right smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a dinghy and a Liferaft. Hopeful that we would be rescued soon. Alana and I were in the dinghy which was secured to the Liferaft by three lines, one with shock cord we had linked together from the tethers of our life vests. Flying fish kept jumping in the dinghy through the night and the wind speed increased.

    A crazy moment floating in the ocean looking up at the stars. Someone was always looking out for ships, and we were making a mayday call from our handheld radio every hour. At about 0500z on March 14th, Simon spotted the first lights. This was shortly followed by radio contact from Sailing vessel Rolling Stones. We all screamed in relief when we heard the voices of Geoff (captain of Rolling Stones) over the radio. We were damn near over the radio. We were damn near rescued, and all we had to do now was safely transfer ourselves and our little belongings onto the Leopard 45
    Catamaran. I set off a parachute flare and activated my personal AIS beacon to help them with our location.

    Once they approached, we all got into the dinghy, as we felt it would be easier to make the transfer.
    We came alongside Rolling Stones and threw over two lines.

    They brought us in and one by one we all dove forward onto their sugar scoop transom, timing the waves with every

    We were rescued.

    A huge thank you to the crew of Raindancer who made my job easy. I'm so proud of everyone for staying calm, gathering emergency equipment, and the way everything was handled. All the credit to them.

    Big thanks to my brother Roger, once I knew that he was aware of the situation, I knew we would be ok.
    Big thanks to my mom for dealing with the chaos on the home front and all the emergency phone calls from the coast guard.

    Huge thanks to Tommy Joyce from Southern Cross, and my good friend Vinny Mattiola. They were in contact with rescue boats giving them accurate information and advice. Without them the rescue would not have gone so swiftly and smooth.

    A huge thanks to the entire sailing community for coming together to aid in our rescue. The one thing I've always loved about sailing is the people. We are truly special group of people. I'm thankful to be a part of such a supportive community.

    A big thanks to the Starlink community, without Starlink, our rescue wouldn't have gone so swiftly and smoothly. Technology saved our lives.

    Perhaps the biggest thanks to our rescuers and Captain Geoff of Sailing Vessel Rolling Stones, for going out of their way to save us. Taking 4 strangers in on their home, and sailing the rest of the way together to French Polynesia.

    It's true, I'm sad to have lost my boat. It was everything to me. It was more than just what I was doing more than just my way to save us. Taking 4 strangers in on their home, and sailing the rest of the way together to French Polynesia.

    It's true, I'm sad to have lost my boat. It was everything to me. It was more than just what I was doing, more than just my home with all my belongings, it was a part of who I am. It stings about as much as losing any inanimate object can sting. But at the end of the day the most important things, by far, were rescued.

    We all have a lot to think about. Thanks to everyone for all messages and support.

    Captain Rick
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