John goes Overboard but is Rescued at the Sea of Cortez

(April 25, 2022) I thankfully rescued John from the sea. Thinking about this accident, I feel luckier than John because it didn’t end in a tragedy. How could I live the rest of my life if I failed to rescue him?

At 8 am on that day, we left the Punta Trinidad anchorage in the Sea of Cortez. We were enjoying beautiful surfing kind downwind sailing, with 20 to 25 knots winds from North. Early afternoon, the wind angle started to change directly coming from behind of us flipping the boom/mainsail from left to right. We dropped the mainsail and started motoring. It was midday and luckily both of us were in the cockpit of the boat. We were about two hours away (about 10 nautical miles), from our next anchorage, Santa Maria Gypsum Mine. It looked we were not going to use the mainsail again for the day. John decided to tie the mainsail down with some sail ties while motoring. While he was putting the sail tie from one side to the other side of the mainsail on the boom, a big wave hit the boat. He slipped and flew overboard but managed to grab the lifeline with his left hand while still in the air. I was about to rush to the side of the boat to help him get on the boat. Even before moving a step of my foot, his left upper back hit the side of the boat with extreme force and he let go and fell into the water.  “NO NO NO…” I shouted.

Previously, we had talked about practicing rescue process but never did any practice rescues, just talk. I learned the rescue process by the book in the sailing class but was not confident doing it. When we talked about it, John told me “if he is overboard, I should consider him dead”. He mentioned that the first thing to do if you see someone go overboard, throwing anything that floats such as life jackets, seats, and etc. to mark their position. So, I threw a lifejacket that I could grab easily. The Boat was moving by the auto-pilot further away from him. I was watching him swimming toward the orange life jacket. I quickly turned off the auto-pilot and turned the wheel a 180 angle to rescue him. The ORANGE color life jacket was a life-saver to keep eye on his location. I wanted to push the “Man Overboard” button on the GPS but I had hard time while multi-tasking (not losing the orange color jacket, watching the engine gauges speeding up the gear, and controlling the wheel). I was able to move the boat toward him. When approaching closer, I tried to open the life-sling box to throw the life-sling so he can be attached to the boat. The box didn’t open initially by one hand. I eventually, used both hands to open it. I worried about the life-sling lines getting caught by the engine propeller. The boat was moving past it. I heard John shouting “Neutral”. I set the gear at neutral. He swam to the life-sling and I pulled the line, and managed to climb on board.

Next day, we drove the boat to a marina in Santa Rosalia. The Marina made a doctor’s appointment. X-rays and ultrasound showed neither broken bones nor cracks. The doctor put bandages around his torso and prescribed lots of medications, injected a powerful steroid anti inflammatory in his ass, and advised him to use cold pack on the painful area, and just rest. It has been two weeks. He is recovered, about 80%.  We are about to leave this marina this morning but I suggested to stay one more week so I can relax. It has been heavy burdening my head. All in all, it turned into a good story. John now considers his life as a GIFT and looks things a bit more positively. Me? I got a new hairstyle “Real Short Funky Red Hair”.

***No rescue pictures… 😊

***When John tells the story he admits and emphasizes that he did everything wrong. No jack-lines to clip into, no harness, no tethers, no inflatable PFD, just him, shorts and a T-shirt on the cabin top trying to tie down the sail. He also says I did everything right, threw the life jacket which is highly visible, kept calm, turned the boat around, and drove upwind of him so that the boat drifted back to where he was.

John says he has now become a Jack Line Nazi. He says he will always use it when working on deck, and he is going to redo our side jack-line system to include a center line and most likely two lines that will cross the deck and tie all three lines together. He said he will never leave the cockpit again without wearing his harness and clipping into the lines.

According to him, it was a true miracle that he was saved as I happened to be standing at the wheel watching him go on deck. If I had been inside taking a nap or reading a book, then the boat would have traveled so far away that without knowing where to look, I would never have found him with the waves and wind. A human head which is all that sticks out of the water when someone falls overboard is extremely difficult to see if you are not aware of the precise location where to start searching. Think about trying to find a coconut with waves and not knowing exactly where it is.

John now says that every day is a gift as his life should have ended when he fell off the boat.

Boat got very dusty at the Gypsum Mine Anchorage near Santa Maria, Baja California, Mexico

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