SA’er “WHK” brings us up to speed on this near-disaster aboard the J/130 Solarus. From the thread.
Owner Noel Sterrett and I are safely back in Newport, RI after a potentially catastrophic sinking of J/130 Solarus in 4,000 feet of water approximately 90 miles from the closest point of land during a delivery from Charleston to Newport. Thanks to Eric Irwin, who we contacted via satellite phone to arrange for an emergency haul at Ocean City Sunset Marina, and to my wife who, on 1 hour notice, drove 9 hours to Ocean City Maryland to pick us up after a harrowing ordeal that occurred while delivering J/130 Solarus from Charleston to Newport.
We hit a submerged object approximately 4:30am Thursday 14 May resulting in a hole pictured in the stbd bow below the waterline that resulted in flooding in excess of the capacity of the bilge pumps. We had water in the bilge approximately 6 inches above the cabin sole. Emergency Mayday calls were made on VHF and Iridium phone to the USCG along with activating the EPIRB. The life raft was brought topside with the ditch bag and was ready to deploy if we needed to abandon ship.
Fortunately, within 30 minutes of our distress call we had excellent support from USNS William McLean (T-AKE12) approximately 3 miles west of our location. We were able to maneuver alongside USNS William McLean who launched a small boat with a crew with a high capacity pump to dewater the boat, Once the water was pumped it was determined where the flooding was coming from. There was a 15 inch crack in the bow on the stbd side of the v-berth. The crew from USNS McLean was able to prepare a temporary damage patch by wedging a 2×4 against a rubber mat across the crack that was held in place by nailing a strongback to the support in the v-berth. A USCG rescue helicopter air lifted an emergency pump to USNS McLean that was passed to us that we were able to have on board Solarus to dewater if needed. USNS McLean also provided additional diesel fuel so we could motor rather than sail to the nearest port in Ocean City, MD to be immediately hauled. USNS McLean provided a shield from wind and waves and escorted us 20 miles towards Ocean City where a USCG 47 foot boat from the USCG Station Ocean City met us. Two USCG Petty Officers were transferred to Solarus and remained onboard with Noel Sterrett and I as the 47 foot USCG boat escorted us back to Ocean City.
Immediately upon arrival in Ocean City we drove into the travel lift slings at Ocean City Sunset Marina and were hauled and met by a marine surveyor. It was there we were able to asses the true damage. A hole approximately 2 inches in diameter had been punctured in the outer skin on the stbd side about 6 inches below the waterline. Since we were sailing upwind in approximately 8 to 10 foot seas, there was significant “hull pounding”. This resulted in a hydraulic jack hammer from the seawater against exposed balsa core and inner skin. The effect was it cracked the inner skin approximately 15 inches where it allowed sea water to flow in at a rate faster than the bilge pumps could dewater.
Noel and I can’t thank the crews from USNS William McLean and the USCG enough for their rapid and complete response that resulted in the saving of Solarus and our lives. They were professionals who really helped us when needed. Once we decompress there will be some more pictures posted. Noel hopes to get the boat repaired in time for the Transatlantic race in June, followed by Fastnet race in August.