Well, yesterday was the last day of Georgia problem areas. But as in the days prior we just picked the time for the right tide (it helped we had picked the right days for the right time). It also helped that the weather cooperated. Although, looking at the forecast we did change our plans to stay out one more night before tying up in Beaufort, SC.
Favorable currents helped with that decision. While making our way up Calibogue Sound west of Hilton Head, we heard a “May Day” call on the VHF. A 30 foot cabin cruiser (“Glory Days“) was taking on water offshore. The sound of the man’s voice made it clear he had a problem, but he still did a pretty good job of communicating.
Lucky for him and his wife, a USCG helicopter was flying south of Hilton Head. We saw the helicopter do a U-turn as they came over the radio to tell him they were heading his way and seven minutes from his position. We plotted his position and found he was three plus miles off the mouth of Port Royal Sound. About the same time he came back on the radio to announce he had hit or had been hit by a whale and had taken substantial damage to his running gear (props, shafts, rudders).
We listened to the situation evolve (we were at least four hours from his position). The water in the boat got deeper, and the USCG added assets — sending a boat then two more from Tybee Inlet 18 miles from his position. At the same time, the helicopter spotted a center console fishing boat, (“Big Hit“), nearby and connected with the operator by VHF. That boat headed straight for the distressed boat. Glory Days then announced the high water alarm had gone off. Big Hit got there before the Coast Guard boats and took the wife aboard while the husband continued to deal with the problem. When the USCG got there they got de-watering pumps aboard and pretty soon you could hear the tension in all voices drop a step or two.
Turned out one prop and shaft had been ripped completely from the boat. The hole a prop shaft leaves when it exits the boat can let in a prodigious amount of water in a short time, and it is never easy to get to the hole to plug it. (Behind the engine…in the dark…nothing but wet). Glory Days made it back in under escort on one of its own engines.
By the time we reached the Parris Island ferry dock, it was all over except for hauling the boat at Skull Creek Marina on Hilton Head. $$$$$ This is the way we’d like to hear about every situation like this being resolved. Sadly, it’s not the case.