Save a boat, win an award!

Good Samaritan Award by the Panama Possee

When we were in Costa Rica last year, we were passaging South and at 9 pm heard a PanPan distress call on the VHF radio. This is the international maritime signal for help, and it was from a cruising catamaran that was taking on water.

A shipmaster’s obligation to render assistance at sea is a longstanding maritime tradition. It is an obligation that is recognized by international law. Article 98 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982 (UNCLOS) codifies this obligation in that every “State shall require the master of a ship flying its flag, in so far as he can do so without serious danger to the ship, the crew, or the passengers … to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost …”.

It turned out, that we were friends with this crew and they were 3 hours North of us. Of couse, per the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) above, we acknowledged the call, secured the necessary latitude and longitude information, and immediately redirected to assist. With a 180 degree course correction, we motored as quickly as we could to help. By the time we got there, the Captain had smartly beached his catamaran on the beach so that it wouldn’t sink, He and the crew were busily trying to stop the agressive water ingress with two built in water pumps which weren’t keeping up with the flow.

What about the Costa Rican Coast Guard?

At the same time we heard the distress call, the Costa Rican Coast Guard heard it and offered to bring a fast boat with a large water pump to help remove the water. Unfortunately for our friends, they didn’t show up at the anchorage until 5:30 am the next day! They said they had been looking for us earlier, but there was only one large cruising catamaran, with all it’s lights on, beached on the coast. Regardless, they offered to tow the boat to the nearest marina or ride along until the Captain was sure the boat could make way controlling the water ingress sufficiently.

Costa Rican’s Coast Guard arrival

Enjoy’s calamity box

In a previous blog about checking off the safety boxes before our Pacific crossing, I mentioned our “calamity box” which has grown over time. Folks planning off shore passages might wish to consider assembling such a collection. Of course, calamity is what it means, it does not cover spares for general maintenance or things that break that can be fixed in the daylight. We have spares for that!

Among other things, our calamity box includes:

  • Underwater identification: hard hat, goggles, waterproof flashlight, fins
  • Rapid water ingress: a 2000 gph water pump equipped with 50′ of flat fire hose, a 50′ cable with the ability to plug into 12 V and hot wire to existing water pump wires and clip onto batteries.
  • Underwater repair: PC-11, a 2 part underwater epoxy, 3M 5200 and 4200 Fast Cures, and other tapes, glues and adhesives
  • Rigging failures: Rigging cutters, 20′ of 3/4″ dynema, various soft shackles, silicon tapes
  • Sail repair: A range of sail tapes and patches
  • Engine failures: JB Weld steel stick high heat, Permatex gasket material for high heat

Enjoy to the rescue

We arrived at 11 pm and set anchor nearby. Luckily, we were traveling with our friend, Captain Suky Cannon, and so she was able to help as well. I pulled out a selection of items from said Calamity box, including the water pump and adhesives, and a scuba hookah with a 50′ of line and scuba tank, and weight belt. The Captain of the disabled boat came by and picked Don up and off they went. Working until 3 am, they were able to slow the water ingress through a combination of 3M 5200 and materials and keep up with the water elimination using our pump along with their two water pumps.

Buddy boating to safety

Knowing that the closest marina couldn’t haul a catamaran, the Captain called Marina Pez Vela, the closest marina that could haul him. This high end marina caters to the IGFA international fishing tournaments and has a very capable work yard and team. While they were quite full, they understood the problem and offered us both safe haven. So, after a few hours rest, we both set off together and buddy boated until the we arrived. Marina Pez Vela greated us with chase boats to help us navigate in, and immediately hauled the boat to identify the damage.

Rum: good for recovery and recognition

So, we had a 12 year bottle of Flor De Cana rum from a previous Panama Possee award. Let’s just say, it took us a few days to recover and boy did that rum help us along the path. And guess what our award is for Good Samaritan of the Year? Yes, a new bottle of Panama Possee’s sponsor, Flor De Cana. How it will get to us in the South Pacific, who knows but you’ll be the third to know… Stay tuned.

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