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Stormy Pacific rescue: 3 saved after sailing accident off Hawaii

February 10, 2012 |  9:32 am

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The ocean voyage was fit only for the hardy: no on-deck swimming pools; no movies at night; no meals fit for the delicate epicure.

It was just two Canadian men and a 9-year-old boy on a 39-foot sailboat, traveling from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, across the Pacific Ocean through what turned out to be stormy weather -- and an agonizing, but ultimately successful, rescue from a capsized and disabled vessel.

“It was scary. I thought we were going to die,” the boy, West James, told the Associated Press on Thursday in Hawaii. West, his father Bradley, 32, and uncle, Mitchell James, 29, were rescued this week from their drifting boat about 340 miles from Oahu. The sailboat had been disabled by storms.

“There were waves crashing all over the place. We had no engine. We had no sail,” Bradley James, of Edmonton, Canada, told the news agency. He said the boat had a leaky exhaust, a broken water pipe, an overheating engine and a snapped mast, which made sailing to land impossible.

The trio sought help by satellite phone, and the Coast Guard redirected a commercial ship, the Horizon Reliance, from about 150 miles away. The 900-foot ship maneuvered into position, but two waves -- 25 to 30 feet, Bradley James estimated -- forced the big ship's bow onto the sailboat.

“It just crushed it,” he said. The sailboat sank, leaving the Canadian trio in the water, wearing life jackets and headlamps. The ship rescued Mitch James within half an hour, but Brad and his son had drifted away.

Horizon Reliance Capt. James Kelleher eventually solved the difficult nautical problem of steering his ship through the steep waves and fierce winds of 50 knots toward the father and son. They were rescued about an hour later; all arrived in Honolulu by Thursday morning.

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-- Michael Muskal

Photo: Horizon Reliance crew member Ahmed Baabbad, left, pats West James on the head in Honolulu. The boy was part of a Canadian family rescued from a capsized boat in the Pacific Ocean. Credit: Marco Garcia / Associated Press

 

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