The Salty Dawg Rally — the cruise-in-company to the Caribbean each fall — got under way in a staggered start in early November from Hampton, Va., Beaufort, N.C., and other ports with a 116-boat fleet.
The cruise took a nasty turn just a few days in when a strong offshore front didn’t follow its weather forecast and instead strengthened, leaving a good portion of the fleet sailing into rough seas.
Click play to watch the air rescue of the Wings crew.
On Nov. 7 and 8, the Coast Guard, with the assistance of the Navy, rescued four sailors from one boat and responded to a total of five boats in distress.
Crewmembers aboard the 41-foot sailboat Ahimsa sent a distress signal via a satellite tracking device, saying they were taking on water about 230 miles off Virginia Beach and needed assistance.
“Two boats, Ahisma and Wings, were abandoned and crews rescued by the Coast Guard due to hull damage and gear breakdowns. It is believed that Ahisma has sunk while Wings is adrift and awaiting salvage by the owners,” a statement on the Salty Dawg website said.
In another case, crewmembers aboard the 38-foot sailboat Nyapa sent out a distress signal via a satellite tracking device, saying they had lost their mast and were taking on water about 275 miles off Virginia Beach and needed assistance.
Fifth District watchstanders also received an alert from an EPIRB registered to the sailboat Aurora. The alert positioned Aurora 230 miles east of Elizabeth City, N.C.
Crewmembers aboard the sailboat Brave Heart, about 50 miles southeast of Ocracoke Inlet, N.C., contacted Sector North Carolina watchstanders and said a 67-year-old man on board had an arm injury.
Lastly, crewmembers aboard the 54-foot sailboat Zulu, about 100 miles east of Oregon Inlet, N.C., contacted Sector North Carolina watchstanders via satellite phone, reporting that they were disabled and adrift.
“Of the 116 boats that started the [Salty Dawg Rally], seven had serious gear failures and had to return to the U.S. for repairs, or in two cases were abandoned. These emergencies are a cause of concern for all of the Salty Dawgs and will be addressed by the board of the SDR in the aftermath. More than 95 percent of the fleet managed the challenging conditions and put it behind them in a very seamanlike fashion.”