by Renate Johns
The two Swedish sailors were a little more than a week into what was to be a three-month voyage from Florida back to Sweden. Niklas Carlberg, 35 and Karin Wiger, 24, were on on Carlberg's 33-foot, Swedish-flagged sailing boat Bull when events turned against them, with water entering the boat 'near the propeller'. 'But,' he added, obviously frustrated by his inability to locate the source, 'it wasn't a seal leak.'
Bull sitting low in the water
'We'd been taking on water for four days,' Carlberg said, but the two bilge pumps were keeping up. But then the boat encountered unforecast 35-40 knot winds, gusting to 45. 'So by the time we realised we were losing the battle we really hadn't slept in about three days,' he said.
They still ate a little. 'Lots of Snickers,' Carlberg said, 'and one night I made ravioli, but we had to eat it out of cans,' as the boat was tossed violently by the storm.
He said then one of the bilge pumps failed and that's when he activated the boat's EPIRB that alerted watchstanders in the USA state of Virginia.
Rescue coordination efforts began immediately for Coast Guard officials in Portsmouth, Virginia, and Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, the 498-foot Panamanian-flagged ship Crown Sapphire volunteered to alter course and located the sailing boat about 150 miles southwest of Bermuda.
Carlberg was obviously buoyed by their speedy rescue, only made possible by the AMVER system. 'The ship was 10 nautical miles away and it only took about an hour to get to us,' he said. By then, the Swedish duo had taken to the sailing boat's lifeboat. 'It was very rough seas.' The Swedes had to jump from their liferaft onto a cargo net hanging from the Crown Sapphire to climb to safety.
According to the Coast Guard, Bull apparently sank about 8 a.m. Sunday — the time that its rescue beacon stopped operating. So the yacht was lost to the seas, meaning that Carlberg will only ever be able to conjecture on what caused the mysterious leak. They had hoped to complete a circumnavigation the world in Bull.
Coincidentally, the two Swedes ended up in the Port Wilmington, Delaware, a state famous as having originally been settled by Swedes, simply because 'that's where the ship was heading', according to Petty Officer First Class Nick Ameen, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The Crown Sapphire was bringing fruit from Argentina to Wilmington, shipping records say. While the good samaritan ship was a volunteer ship in the world-wide AMVER system, the captain said he was not authorised to comment.
The couple, who owe their rescue, and probably survival, to their DSC-enabled EPIRB, their In Service liferaft and the AMVER system, were safe Monday night at the Seamen's Center of Wilmington. They will now train and plane it back to Sweden.
'This case is a perfect example of why equipping your vessel with a properly registered EPIRB can pay off so well,' Capt. Kathleen Moore, commander of Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay, said in a statement, never wanting to lose an opportunity to exhort seafarers to 'do it right'.