Skipper Nick Barran and other crew members made it on a life raft in time as his yacht, the Mureadritta's XL, in the background, sank after being struck by a whale Tuesday morning.
4 in crew arrive safely in isles after ship sinks
The four-person crew of the Mureadritta's XL bailed water "like crazy" Tuesday and tried frantically to plug an 18-by-12-inch hole in the left side after colliding with a pilot whale, recalled skipper Nick Barran.
But they abandoned the efforts when the water was knee-high in the 40-foot sailboat, making it clear they were going to sink, Barran said.
The collision occurred when the Mureadritta's XL neared a pod of whales while heading for Los Angeles from a transpacfic yacht race to Kaneohe Bay.
"It was not an accident; it was a purposeful, protective strike," Barran said, guessing that one of the whales may have been ill or injured because it is unusual for a whale to strike a boat.
The four were rescued by the Coast Guard and a passing vessel and arrived injury-free at 6:30 a.m. yesterday at Honolulu Harbor.
No one panicked because they were prepared for such an emergency and have had extensive sailing experience, Barran said.
Other crew members included David Smith of Honolulu, a retired electronics engineer with the Naval Ocean Systems Center; a French woman, Nathalie Criou, an electrical engineer from San Francisco; and James Clappier, a 17-year-old from San Francisco.
They broke out the life raft and assembled all the equipment they needed to survive for three or four days. "Everyone did an excellent job" in following his orders, he added.
The Coast Guard showed up 2 1/2 hours after the collision with the whale and dropped the survivors a radio from a helicopter to help monitor their location. The Coast Guard hovered over the raft until they were picked up by the Maersk Darwin, a cargo vessel, Tuesday night, 12 hours from the time the sailboat was first hit, he said.
The crew later was transferred from the Darwin, which was en route to Yokohama, Japan, to the Cammie M., an American longline fishing vessel, at 10:45 p.m. Wednesday.
To pass the time, "they had a terrific library of movies," Barran said. "We watched at least seven movies till we reached Honolulu," including "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Along Came Polly."
The most intimidating part of the entire episode was "facing the cameras when we landed," he said, though their transfer from the Darwin to the Cammie was nerve-wracking on rough seas.
"We were bouncing around a lot" and both ships crashed into the other, causing $50,000 in structural damage to the Cammie, Barran said.