Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Part Three: Eluding Davey Jones

This is the third installment in the four part saga “Eluding Davey Jones.” If you haven’t read the first chapter here and the second chapter here then please review before continuing…

Tom raised the Coast Guard out of San Juan and gave them our position and a summary of the situation. They asked if we could tell how quickly the water was coming aboard, would we be able to stay afloat, etc. He replied that, with the pump burned out, it was only a question of hours before we filled and sank. They instructed us to stand by and so we stood and stared at each other, shins covered in sloshing water. We were in the main saloon of a 77’ ocean racing maxi constructed of aluminum, a material not known for buoyancy. Suddenly they came back, the crackling of the dispatcher’s voice startling us from our meditations on the deep, dark fissure (the Puerto Rican trench) that extended nearly a mile beneath us. Tom acknowledged the Coast Guard.

“We’ve got a bird outbound to your position,” the voice snapped. “They’ll lower a diesel pump to you in a bright orange barrel. Bring it on board and deploy it to keep your vessel afloat. ETA twenty minutes.”

“Roger,” Tom responded. “Standing by.” He called for one of the delivery crew to come below and monitor the VHF and then we both went topside to look for the helicopter. The night was still black, no moon so we heard the craft before we spotted it, a low thump thump that built to a crescendo until it was hovering off our port bow. The wash from the rotors stirred the water and plucked at our clothes. We were drifting slowly, no sails up, so we made an easy target. Our mate from below on the radio shouted up that they were going to lower the barrel. It came down slowly, swaying in the wind and as it swung over our port rail Tom and I grabbed it, guided it to the deck. He unclipped it and gave them thumbs up - we caught the glimpse of someone waving from the open bay door and then they were gone. Inside was a long rubber hose about nine inches in diameter and the pump. We unpacked it and set it up, jumped the motor and watched in relief as water began to pour over the side. - Stay tuned to Zephyr for the final chapter.

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