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Canadian sailor rescued from south Indian Ocean by out-of-date EPIRB

by Nancy Knudsen on 3 Aug 2011
Kekuli floundering in the south Indian Ocean, now abandoned and sinking - photo by AMSA SW
A Canadian sailor has been rescued after setting off an out-of-date EPIRB when his yacht ran into trouble in the southern Indian Ocean because his engine had broken free of its mountings and threatened to hole the 9.5 metre vessel.

Conditions were typical for the Southern Ocean at this time of year, with 45 knot winds and nine-metre seas. Paul Lim, from Victoria in British Columbia, was sailing his yacht Kekuli on a solo circumnavigation of the world when the incident happened.

Lim admitted that his battery was 'long-out-of-date' but his emergency beacon still worked when he decided that it was too dangerous to continue, about 125 nautical miles south west of Australia's most south westerly point, Cape Leeuwin.

His beacon was detected by Australia's Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). They sent a search and rescue Dornier helicopter who dropped off a radio and an extra liferaft to the yachtsman as he waited for assistance from a Panama-registered bulk carrier, the Kohju.

The helicopter crew stayed over the stricken yacht until it was replaced by an RAAF PC3 Orion aircraft.

'The Dornier located the yacht and made contact with the 62 year old Canadian skipper who advised that the engine had broken off its mountings and was rolling free in the hull,' the AMSA reported.

'The weather was extremely poor with 90 kilometre per hour winds and nine metre seas. Due to the conditions, the Dornier had difficulty dropping communications and rescue equipment to Kekuli, however, after several attempts, successfully dropped a VHF radio, strobe light and liferaft.'

However then a bulk carrier, the Kohju, arrived and got him aboard early on Tuesday after a tricky, six-hour operation in rough seas.

Mr Lim told ABC Radio from the Kohju that he was totally surprised at the fast rescue response once he activated his emergency radio beacon) from his yacht Kekuli.

'I thought when I switched it on, maybe in a couple of days I might get a response if I'm lucky. A friend had given me it in Chile and the expiry date on the battery was actually 2002, so there was no guarantee it was going to work,' Mr Lim said.

'It was kind of a desperate effort trying to avoid a catastrophe.'

The yachtsman said he had to make a call about the risk of the loose engine going through the hull and decided against trying to make it to Fremantle or Albany 'because one roll ... and I would have drowned'.

After six hours, Lim was brought onboard the ship and his boat, which was starting to sink, was abandoned.

The sailor had departed Victoria in Canada in 2008 on a voyage around the world. He will now be aboard the Kohju for some time, as the bulk carrier is continuing to its original destination of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.

So it's another successful rescue by a search-and-rescue authority, but one has to query why why he was sailing in the South Indian Ocean in the southern hemisphere winter without an in-date EPIRB and without a VHF radio.
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