When I spoke to Alyson last night she had the name of a man here who might help me arranging a possible rescue attempt for Elsi. He is Sergio Andrade Barrientos. He is a friend of Tom Wills and he had passed Sergio’s name to her. Sergio has been in Shetland before and stayed in Bressay. I’ve now met up with him and he is being a great help. He has a lot of contacts here and is doing his best to help. He has been running me all round Punta Arenas speaking to this person and the next. He is also an Oceanographer so he understands the sea around here pretty well and he has offered me his home to use as a base while I am in Punta Arenas.
The port authorities here have issued a general message to all vessels in the area to keep a look out for Elsi. Yesterday we met a fisherman friend of his who works on the west coast and today we have spoken to several more people, some with boats available for charter to tow her if she is spotted.
Even with boats available the biggest problem is finding Elsi in the first place. There is no EPIRB or any kind of locating beacon onboard. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. The other main problem would be getting to her and getting a tow attached.
Time and tide are against us however. When I left Elsi she was about 80nm offshore and the wind was southwest about 20 – 25kts and due to go northwest for a time. The current will tend to take her southeast.
The weather on the coast today is southwest (blowing onshore) 20 – 30 kts but is forecast to be up to 45kts or more by tonight. Elsi will drift at about 1.5 – 2kts per hour. She may well be ashore somewhere already. The best I can hope for is that she might have drifted in through a gap between some islands and has landed up somewhere that she hasn’t got too much damage.
Now for a completely bizarre twist to this story, one that I find almost unbelievable.
The reason Elsi was found off the south coast of Australia in 2007 was because an American sailor, James Burwick, was sailing his yacht, Anasazi Girl, from Cape Town to Auckland. He had a problem with his mast as he nearer the Australian coast and alerted the Australian Coastguard of his situation. He was still able to sail but they sent out a plane to check on him and as they flew out they spotted Elsi drifting. They alerted Falmouth CG who in turn alerted Shetland CG who in turn phoned us at 0700 on 13th February 2007 to tell us Elsi had been found.
Now that we had an accurate position for her we charted a local fishing boat which went out and was able to tow her into the port of Albany where I had been in hospital and where Anasazi Girl was now heading.
I met up with James Burwick there and told him the story.
On the same day Elsi was dismasted (this past Saturday) an American yacht 200nm south from me was also dismasted. It was a family, man wife and three children, one, three and five years old. They were too far out for a helicopter and a ship was sent out to try and rescue them. It was the same Anasazi Girl with James Burwick and his family. How strange is that? Out of all the yachts in the world….
They were picked up in a very difficult rescue operation and they were able to tow Anasazi Girl into Puerto Williams. The navy ship with the family onboard arrived here this afternoon and I was able to speak to James as they came ashore. He couldn’t believe it either. They are just now in the hospital getting checked over and are coming to stay in this hotel for the meantime. We are having dinner together later tonight.