Progress report #7, March 2nd by David Nichols
On Saturday the 25th I spoke with Howard by Satellite phone and he was experiencing very high winds and “hundreds of Williwaws. One right after another.” (A Williwaw is a violent burst of wind that descends down a mountain to the sea in the Strait of Magellan.) This was very similar to the experience on the 22nd. He was extremely concerned and had moved several times to find a more secure anchorage. At one point he had to cut an anchor free.
This weather event had been going on for more than four days so Howard had not had much sleep. In some instances the winds exceeded 50 knots. The battery on the satellite phone was very low and there had been little or no sun shine to re-charge the batteries. The conversation was very short because of low batteries.
On Feb 26th at approximately 6pm Southern Cross was anchor down in a desperate situation and cyclonic winds began to form in addition to the williwaws. These cyclonic winds are very rare but very real as reported by the Captain of the Sibbald the Armada vessel, which diverted to pick Howard up while struggling itself to stay in place behind an island for safety. Howard’s boat was hit by one cyclone and was immediately capsized. He righted the boat, wad capsized a second time, righted again and was subsequently blown off the boat as he attempted a third righting. He fortunately was blown near his ditch bag and one seat cushion and spent the next hour and a half attempting to reach shore as williwaws and cyclonic winds tore across the water pushing him closer on moment and further to sea the next. He finally made it to the beach but was so hypothermic and physically spent he could not walk and crawled up into the shore brush unable to use legs or hands. At 8 PM Chilean time Howard managed to send an SOS with an In Reach Delorme to the Armada de Chile. His location was
S 54 41.2721′ W 71 42.7424′, elev 7 ft.
It was extremely fortunate that a Chilean Navy ship was already within an hour of Howard’s location (the Armada base is 150 miles from his location) fighting for safety on its own but because of winds recorded by the ship of 72 knots/83.5 mph. The situation was too dangerous and the ships inflatable was unable to rescue him until 7am the next morning. Howard spent a full night in the open with freezing rain and winds up to 72 knots. At 7am a slight weather window opened and the Chilean navy was able to come to the shore of Isla Georgiana and pick him up. He was taken to Punta Arenas where the ship was headed any way and he is recovering from hypothermia and cuts and bruises to his hands and feet sustained while getting ashore. All he had in his possession at the time of rescue was his ditch bag, dry suit, passport/wallet, Delorme and one seat cushion. He has had to start life over in Punta Arenas buying essentials like a pair of shores, tooth brush etc.
His Ocean Rodeo dry suit did not fail, in fact the dry suit, his will to live and fitness level are responsible for his survival in the water. “The dry suit is the reason I’m here today. It protected me while I was in the water for an hour and half, while I was getting out of the water on the rocky shore, and while I was on shore during the longest coldest of nights,” Howard told me in a Skype call later. The Armada patrol boat captain and crew were very impressed by his ditch bag, dry suit and layered clothing. He knew and was also told that 15 to 20 minutes is survival time in the water in that area.
Also the boat was not lost and Howard hopes to leave tomorrow morning with a local fisherman and the fisherman’s brother to recover the boat. He is not yet fully recovered but his will and determination to save his boat, which hopefully is still afloat and on her side at anchor will be successful. Once recovered the boat will be either put on the deck of the 36 foot fishing boat or towed back to Porta Williams. It will take the small local fishing vessel two days to reach the remote site and then two more days to reach Pt Williams.
The Below 40 South film is donating a $1000.00 toward the cost of recovering the boat. Small Craft Advisor Magazine is putting a PayPal account up on their blog for donations toward the recovery. We know Howard has so many friends who might be willing to pitch in a little. He has budgeted funds to ship the boat out of Chile but has no funding for the attempted salvage. Any donation will be held by Small Craft Advisor and if needed will be sent to Howard who will use the funds to execute the recovery. He has covered all of his other expenses and his insurance has taken care of medical and lodging needs. Our hope is that the boat and the film he has shot can both be recovered, what a story!
Please check the Small Craft Advisor Magazine Blog for more information. http://smallcraftadvisor.com/our-blog/
I will post the progress of the recovery operation as soon as I get the details.
Howard will make a statement as soon as he is able.