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A Chance Encounter

Summer Cruise

After a little research and help from eOceanic we embarked on our passage from Kilmore Quay bound for Arklow shortly after 1300 Thursday 13th of July to make the best of the tide. The crew were John Murphy, Rosie and Derek Duff; the CAI yacht Enigma is a Bavaria 34.

The weather and other circumstances had dispersed the CAI Summer Cruise South and we wanted to reach Arklow before a gale set in on Friday. Having paid close attention to John Leahy’s WhatsApp channel Cruising Weather everyone on the cruise was seeking secure places for the following days in Kinsale, Courtmacsherry, and Baltimore.

Following a great sail at fabulous speeds around Carnsore Point and along the course in our plotter we found ourselves about 9 miles North of Rosslare Harbour with almost 8 knots over ground towards Arklow. Great progress! We’d definitely get into Arklow well before sunset.

For the entire Summer Cruise we had always kept a diligent watch for pot markers and there are many. As an aside: the best are to be found around Dunmore East with flags, but others are still visible with small bright orange or white markers on the Wexford coast. There were none of the old black and blue cans found on the East coast.

Distress

In the distance we spotted a small mast which turned out to be a sailing boat with no sails raised. As we approached it didn’t appear to be moving. That was curious as it clearly wasn’t rod fishing, so we headed towards it to find a Fisher 31 motor sailor with no visible crew.

We motored up close and the owner suddenly appeared on deck and waved both hands to indicate he was in trouble. Coming close alongside, we spoke with a father and beside him his 14-year-old daughter holding her teddy! The Fisher 31 was an English yacht named Ohama bound for Kilmore Quay.

The owner explained that they were taking in water through the stern gland and had he just managed to get it under control as we arrived. The bilge pump was now holding the water level. He was enroute to Kilmore Quay but was looking for a tow to any haven as he couldn’t use the engine for fear of starting the big leak again.

I explained that I couldn’t tow him for a variety of reasons and suggested he place a Pan Pan call to Rosslare coastguard on channel 05, which he did. He had position data but no AIS. I called the coastguard immediately afterwards and told them I was standing by and did have AIS. They instantly found me and said thanks.

Rescue

Within about 8 minutes, possibly less, the helicopter Rescue 117 was overhead. She’d been on exercise locally I think, but the speed of response was spectacular. Shortly after that Rosslare lifeboat came on the VHF and informed Ohama that they were on their way and their ETA was about 20 mins or so. Both Enigma and the helicopter stayed close by the yacht the whole time.

There was never a point when we could have come alongside the other boat, however necessary, because of the swell. We could have streamed our tender, which was inflated on the foredeck, or they could have taken to their liferaft. Neither option was required, as the leak was stabilised and the professionals were on the way.  

It was an interesting lesson to watch the rescue. The lifeboat arrived with a huge bow wave at speed then gently closed on the yacht. They had established contact with the yacht on VHF earlier and on arrival quickly had their small rib on a hydraulic crane and dropped into the water in two minutes. Two of their crew went aboard and brought over their line. They’d previously told the yacht that they did not need to do anything with lines as the lifeboat would bring their own, along with a portable pump.

We felt like cheering our rescue services We watched the whole operation as the lifeboat arrived and the helicopter and Enigma circled. They then released us and the helicopter, from standing by and thanked us.

As we went on our way again the casualty was under tow towards Rosslare and all was secure. At Carnsore Point the Kilmore Quay lifeboat met them and brought the Fisher 31 there; probably a better place for a yacht as Rosslare Harbour not suitable and bad weather forecast.

Homeward

Meanwhile on our passage to Arklow with the wind dead astern we still made good progress. With 23 knots of wind at times it was clear that the promised weather was coming in. As the sun sank below the horizon we rounded up in the relative calm of Arklow bay and stowed the main. Motoring into and up the Avoca River at Arklow we were glad to be in calm waters and to tie up at a very secure berth at the back of the small marina totally protected. I watched the choppy river and the bouncing boats outside the following morning. The gale had arrived overnight as predicted.

Thanks to my crew for a job well done from Crosshaven.

John Murphy

PS We were so impressed at how good our Wexford lifeboat crews were. Here’s their song:

The Boys of Wexford

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