The U.S. Coast Guard on Friday rescued two Northwest sailors whose boat was taking on water in 20- to 30-foot seas about 120 miles off the coast of northern California.
The 52-foot sailing vessel Gypsy Soul called a mayday Thursday evening after taking on water from a broken hatch while traveling in rough seas near Cape Mendocino. The couple onboard, Tarra “Tas” Kai and Chuck Fleer, left Tacoma about 10 days ago and were on their way to Hawaii when they ran into trouble, according to Lieut. Taylor Andrews of the Eleventh Coast Guard District.
Andrews said the Coast Guard received a mayday call from the vessel at about 7 p.m. Thursday but were unable to establish contact with the crew until about 4 a.m. this morning. A helicopter was sent from the Coast Guard’s Astoria, Ore., station to rescue the couple and their puppy, Sadie.
Andrews described both sailors as “very experienced,” with at least 40 years of boating experience between them.
Although tired and nauseated and suffering mild hypothermia when rescued, the pair were unharmed and did not require hospitalization, said Andrews. The status of their boat, he said, is not yet known.
The waters around Cape Mendocino are notoriously rough, and the sailors were battling extreme conditions with winds gusting to 60 miles per hour, Andrews said.
“They were hit really hard,” he said.
Breaking seas on deck apparently damaged the hatch, and the couple couldn’t keep up with the amount of water flooding the boat, Andrews said.
Seattle sailor Nicole Maraschky met Kai and Fleer last weekend when she and her husband, Aaron, arrived in Newport, Oreg., on their way down the coast. The friendly, outgoing couple had them over for dinner the following night alng with some other sailors, Maraschsky said, and told them about their sailing plans and previous experiences. Tai has sailed since childhood, she said, and Fleer has sailed the west coast before.
“They are very experienced,” she said. “This was going to be their biggest passage.”
Fleer recently got a job in Hawaii, she said, where he and Kai planned to live on their boat and eventually go cruising on it.
“It was a gorgeous boat,” she said. “They had all sort of plans for it.”
On Monday, Maraschky said, Tai and Fleer left Newport to head south. Forecasts were calling for high seas and strong winds, she said, so she and her husband decided to stay in Newport and wait for better weather. Over the next few days, she said, they wondered how Tai and Fleer were faring on the ocean. Hearing that they ran into trouble was a shock, she said, particularly given the couple’s experience level.
“It’s super scary,” she said. “I just feel sick inside.”