Inadequately equipped yachts towed to safety by SNSM crew

MARIGOT–French-side sea rescue SNSM highlighted two of its recent rescue missions where occupants on board the yachts lacked basic safety equipment such as VHF radio, GPS and distress flares.

On Thursday, April 19, around 4:30pm, surveillance centre CROSS-AG contacted SNSM to report a 36-foot sailboat with two people on board and with no mast, suffered engine failure two or three miles from Ile Forchure.
At about 5:00pm, shortly after Rescue Star’s departure, CROSS called back to cancel the mission as the crew of the sailboat managed to repair the engine and were headed for St. Barths at two or three knots.
As the SNSM crew returned to their dock, CROSS called back to say the yacht had broken down again and was drifting a few miles from Ile Forchure. The occupants requested towing assistance but could not give the yacht’s exact position. There was no VHF on board the yacht, no signalling devices and only a cell phone that didn’t work well.
At 6:05pm Rescue Star departed again, while Voyager 3 was diverted by CROSS to try to obtain a visual of the drifting boat to establish a position while there was still daylight. In Guadeloupe, the Civil Security DRAGON 971 helicopter was also engaged, but neither Voyager 3 nor the helicopter could locate the boat in trouble.
Then at 7:55pm, after almost two hours searching, Rescue Star found the dismasted sailboat, not by Ile Fourchure, but four miles east of Pointe Blanche. The SNSM crew towed the yacht to Philipsburg in difficult weather conditions (20 knots wind and rough seas with waves of two to 2.5 metres).
At around 10:00pm, Rescue Star chose a spot in the bay where the sailboat could anchor safely. But when the two people on board swung the anchor, it was not attached to their boat and quickly sank to the bottom.
The second option was to tie up to a mooring buoy but as they took the rope, they broke their gaff. After the boat was secured, both occupants requested to be brought ashore in Philipsburg. Rescue Star returned to its home dock at Fort Louis Marina at 11:00pm.
The next day at 6:55am, a new call came in from CROSS-AG which had just been contacted by the fire brigade because a person reported a friend was in difficulty on a sailboat coming from the Virgin Islands. A few minutes later, the SNSM received a message on Facebook directly from one of the crew members of the vessel involved.
They were two people adrift on a 31-foot hurricane-damaged sailboat, without mast, and without engine, electricity, safety equipment, and VHF. Fortunately, the WhatsApp connection was working. CROSS was able to obtain a position thanks to geolocation via WhatsApp.
Rescue Star then departed with a new crew of three at 8:30am after refuelling and proceeded to the location about ten miles west of St. Martin to tow the sailboat back. About 50 minutes later at 11:48 am, the sailboat was safely anchored in Marigot Bay.
SNSM reminds boaters and yachtsmen never to go to sea without safety equipment. The minimum is to have a portable VHF, a GPS and distress flares to be able to signal the position of the vessel.

Source: The Daily Herald