I went down to make another mayday call for the fleet on 69 and on 16, in both Spanish and in English. I activated the distress button on the VHF. Barry came down and grabbed his bag and a few things. I took from the chart table the boat’s documents. Even though the water was now almost thigh high, Mark came down and grabbed his passport and money. I went up in the cockpit and Barry started sending tin cans, water bottles, bread, any food items he found up to the cockpit. I emptied one of my watertight bags (the one with the computer) and Judy told me I wouldn’t need it, so I threw it down into the cabin, and filled the bag with food. I put my papers and some the other items in my other water tight bag, sealed it and attached a fender to it. Barry came back up as the water was now mid-stair level. His floating pelican case with cell phone inside floated by, and he grabbed it.
I told everybody that I will take care of them, just to stay calm and wait to orders. I told everybody to grab onto a bag, and not to go overboard yet, we will all go into the liferaft together when its time. I explained the EPIRB had been activated and that the USCG was getting the signal as I spoke. I told them all that we were going to be OK. I took Ray forward to the liferaft in front of the dodger. I explained to him how it worked and what his job was going to be and how it was going to unfold. I made him read the instructions; there are little drawings on the top of the canister. He looked at me as if I was mad to make him read instructions in a time like this. So I just explained it. I took the line, made him check that it was attached to the frame to the boat. I told him we would pull this quite a ways for it to pop out and inflate on its own. His job was to hold on to the line so the liferaft wouldn’t fly away. I told him this wasn’t going to happen until I was certain the boat was going down because we had a much better chance of being spotted on the boat. I told him to stand-by and hold on to the railing. I went back to the cockpit to make sure everybody was ready and prepared. I don’t know how one can be ready, or how you know if you have everything, but when I saw the water now at the top of the stairs and the first wave rolling on the bow, I knew it was time.
I looked at Barry and said now is the time to deploy the liferaft. He agreed. I said come with me. The boat was now just bobbing on port tack, sails were mostly luffing water outside almost same level with water inside. I secretly hoped we could float like this for a while. Barry turned to me, said something like we’re going to make it fine and we are going to live this one out, so we shook hands saying let’s do this, this is it. Hug, kiss, and pat on the back. We pulled the line from the canister. I remembered the change in color from the line means you are almost there. When I saw the red part, I said wait, wait, let’s make sure this doesn’t get blown away. So I made a clove hitch on the railing. Ray was still holding to his end. I told him not to let go. The first real big wave came across the deck. I started pushing the canister down, so it would go overboard but it started to inflate on top of the boat with a part of the raft under the lifeline, inflating now on both sides. Moment of pure panic, now the lifeline is going to prevent it from inflating and the boat is going to take it down with it. I started pulling, and pushing from the other side; I told Barry and Ray to pull, to pull it hard so it would dislodge itself from under the lifeline. It was making really loud sounds, all different. It sounded like it was being popped more than inflated. I turned around and started to go towards the cockpit, I remembered the bolt cutters in the garage. The cockpit was under water, I was not going under water. I wanted to go to the end of the life line at stern pulpit to cut it off, but the next wave completely inundated the cockpit, crashing over us, now we are swimming. As the raft popped free of the lifeline, I heard a loud air suction out of the galley port hole, the last of the air trapped inside the boat. Then the whole deck was under water. Then I felt the backstay right behind me… as the boat sank, the backstay gets closer and closer up to the little triangle at top of the mast. I saw Ray almost under it, I shoved him away as I backed out the other side, and I saw the top of the mast, with the wind indicator arrow and Windex, disappear 20 cm from my face.
I looked around, and did a head count, asked if everybody was ok. We were all around the liferaft; we were all in the water. There was nothing else. It all seemed to so quiet, I felt really small and abandoned. We were alone. The boat was gone.
All the best,
Wayne Zittel and the J World Team….