So, dad suffered a stroke, had impaired speech and some right side paralysis. The great concern was that the same parts of the brain that control those functions also control the 'swallow' function, and Dr. D was concerned with potential aspriration. Capt John made the right call ... and he and Justin and two of the crew members of the Horizon Lines vessel Reliance showed incredible bravery in making the at-sea transfer from a bobbing 33' sailboat to a stable 900' container ship...
The Horizon Reliance is a 900' container ship and is about 60 miles away traveling around 22 mph. I started getting hailed on the VHF radio long before we could see her. We could see and track her progress on out AIS (automatic tracking system) that I installed on our chart-plotter. We finally spot them about 12 miles away right behind us. The Captain asked me a few questions about Gallivant maneuvering ability and such. He would like to come up on our port side and slow down while I go around his stern coming up on his port side. That way we would be on the lee side of the big ship. The windward side is the side where the wind is blowing and the lee side is the sheltered side from the wind. The seas should be a bit calmer and make things better.
They want to lower one of their life boats down, have us come along side, get dad to the lifeboat and raise it back up. Sounds good right?
As we approach the Horizon we can see all hands on deck and cameras galore. I manuever Gallivant around the stern and up the port side. The lifeboats are up by the bow. I hold a position off a bit while the boat was lowered with three men in it.
When it got down to the water, they hailed me on over. Each man had a boat hook so it was looking good. But right when I got alongside the lifeboat rose about 5 feet! Gallivant went under it and then the lifebot came crashing down on our rails bending and splintering it to pieces!
I shoved the throttle to full and got away from them as fast as possible. I thought it was a wave so asked if they could lower their boat some more so it would be floating rather than suspended. They did the best that they could but the same results only worse. The entire teak rail was now nothing but splinters, the railing looked like a pretzel and upon further inspection, the top of our mast had been caught in the cables, tearing off our mast light VHF antenna and wind gauge.
The next plan was to lower a litter over the side with a crane. They worked on it for 45 minutes started to lower it and changed their minds and I am very glad that they did. It would have been a disaster trying to get an able bodied man, let alone Dad in his condition, into that thing while still trying to keep Gallivant from being destroyed against that big ship.
The next thing was to lower the gangway down to water level, have two men at the bottom, get close and make the transfer. They got it down but not far enough. Then lowered it some more to the point that their man got his feet a little wet. This guy was not afraid though, and he said his name was Sean, and what was your dads name? "Bob." The other guy, Qui ('Wee") stayed up the ramp a bit.
I eased up as slow as I could. The Horizon was still traveling along at 5 knots and I can only do about 7 max. I had to keep Gallivant's nose at just the right angle to the hull of the 900' ship. To keep her parallel would cause us to veer into her and collide because of the currents the Reliance was creating with her massive size,; to much away angle and we would dive off and have to start all over again. I made my move, and it all went perfect. We eased on in until we almost touched right at the spot at what was left of out gate. With a push Justin handed off his grandpa to Sean, and with a shout of confidence, Sean yelled "I gotcha Bob!" The two men carried him up the Gangway ant took him to the ship's hospital.
We then got close again so that they could toss us a rope (it was about 60' from their deck down to ours) so that we could tie it to Dad's bag and get it to them. (Jenni's insert: Dad's bag contained his identification, passport, clothing, etc, which will be essential when they make port in Hono)
The Gallivant is a bit broken and beat up. Justin and I drifted away from the big ship, assessing our damage, getting sails up and are now working to get to shore as soon as we can.
Looks like another 10 days or so to go to get to Honolulu. The winds have been fickle and uncooperative so far.
Jenni here -- let me preface by saying that the last 48 hrs have been absolutely harrowing for the Gallivant and her crew... Capt John was finally able to take a few minutes to write down the events that have transpired since Sunday evening, which thankfully have had a positive conclusion:
SUNDAY (day 9)
The winds have not been good for us to maintain a course for Hilo, HI so we are just doing the best that we can for now. The best that we can means many more miles and days to get there.The open ocean is so very different to sail in. With every swell it tosses you to and fro. If winds are anything under 15 mph the sails just flap and bang. It is very hard on the equipment.
I had not been hydrating well and was feeling the effects so laid down to rest. While I was down Justin saw a flying fish. What an odd critter. I made some supper and we watched the sunset. This was the first real one that we have had. Most of the evenings have been rather colorless as far as sunsets go.
It was just a bit after 8pm, Dad stood to give it a look. He sat back down and just smiled.I asked him something and he didn't answer, just smiled. I asked again, something is not right. it didn't take but a few minutes to realize that he was having a stroke.
Right arm weak, no speech. 1200 miles from anywhere or anybody.
Almost exactly half way between San Diego and Hawaii.
I called our doctor right away. The recommendation was to observe and keep him hydrated. I am finally able to convince him to chew an asprin.
We got him propped up in the cockpit and I sit next to him keeping him steady as the ocean rocks us as it has since day one.
About 2 hours later Dad wants to get to his bunk. He has regained some motor skills and Justin and I get him down the ladder and into bed.
I called the Coast Guard in San Diego, and the Flight surgeon said the same as Dr. Dawson: just keep an eye on him.
Dad is able to get himself up and make it to the head and that is very encouraging, I ask him to drink but he hasn't had much and that concerns me.
Next morning he was able to speak a little, this is good but using the head often and not replenishing. Did get another aspirin in him though.
I called Dr Dawson again and it is just a hard thing to call, as opposed to him being there. My concern is Dad becoming dehydrated out here. Once you're behind that curve it is tough to get on top of it again, so I made the call to the Coast Guard in Hawaii to request a medical extraction.
They wanted me to talk to another flight surgeon but I have already talked to 3. I need rescue for this man.......now. I understand that the individual on the sea must be as self reliant as possible and the resourses it takes to extract, but I have done all that I can for him and I feel that he is in need of more than that.
hey relented and said that there was a cargo ship within 15 miles of us that could pick him up. I asked where it was bound? Guatemala........it will get there in 5 days. And where would they be taking my crewman (my dad)? Well..........Guatemala. With all do respect sir I appreciate your assistance, but there is no way that I am putting my Father who has had a stroke, in need of medical attention on a ship going to Guatemala. I realize that you are not a travel agent but there must be a ship out here bound for an American port. "I will see what I can do."
Two hours later, the CG found a ship that was coming from Seattle right to Honolulu: the Horizon Reliance. Optimus Transport had taken many a load to the Horizon lines over the years. This was very good news. More later on the actual rescue.
Rough day for the Gallivant... nuff said.
Here's to a fresh day tomorrow, fair winds, and God's good graces.
The guys are making decent time now that they're in the trades - slow days are about 120-miles of travel, best days are 160-miles or more. Something tells me the Big Island is going to look mighty fine of the bow a week or so from now!
Quiet night last night, John says, which is a good thing! They're still angling south, and hoping for a bit warmer air (he says it was too chilly to wear shorts yesterday).
They're still sailing under just the jib, but once everyone is up and has had breakfast, they hoist the main and see if they can increase their speed some without stressing Oscar (who, by the way, is performing marvelously now).
John was kind of excited to see they've passed 26'N. They've passed through 22 lines of Lat since entering the ocean (Neah Bay is 48'N) and have just 7 to go (Hilo is at 19'N). Still lots of ocean to travel westward, but the trades are favorable and they're doing well.
Well like I said the storm kicked our butts (and Oscar's). The vice grips I used as a clamp just snapped. It's a good thing we had lines tied to everything or we might have lost something important and had ourselves a very long sail to Hilo.
I did get a nap this morning. Justin was at the helm. After I got up I went to work on Oscar.
I hung out over the stern with pieces and parts in my teeth (and a string ties to each on in case of butterfingers) The swells were only 10 to14' and I got him back together and on the payroll again!
Now sailing downwind in the trades.
Gonna go take a nap.