Brackers save stranded sailboat

A 40-foot sailboat was towed away from a reef in front of the Cayman Brac Reef Beach Resort Thursday afternoon following an hours-long salvage attempt by a Marine Parks Enforcement officer, some volunteers, and a private company’s dive boat.

Cayman Brac

The MV Nekton Rorqual tows the sailboat off the reef at high tide on Cayman Brac. Photo: Ed Beaty

Witnesses said the MV Nekton Rorqual towed the sailboat off the reef at high tide after crew members wrapped a large rope around the hull.

‘We just wanted to thank all of the heroes that saved us,’ said boat owner Nancy Patterson. ‘You’ve got some seriously wonderful people here in Cayman.’

Ed Beaty at the Reef Photo and Video Center on the Brac described it as a very delicate, painstaking operation.

‘It could’ve pulled off the bow of the boat,’ said Mr. Beaty. ‘But they had it engineered very well, and it took a lot of time….to run small lines back and forth, tie it to the larger lines, and get the large lines connected. The surf was pounding the whole time, and the little boats were getting beat up.’

The sailboat, Willow, got hung up on a reef in the shallow water as it was leaving the channel on Wednesday. The vessel’s rudder broke and the sailors – two women – had lost steerage, according to Jason Belport of Reef Divers. Mr. Belport also aided in the salvage operation.

Ms Patterson, a 60-year-old Floridian, was on a sea trip around the Caribbean with her friend Virginia Hanawalt of California. Ms Patterson said the two had made it in from Montego Bay and were looking to moor the sailboat somewhere around the Brac.

She was unable to find a suitable spot. Ms Patterson said she then attempted to guide the boat out of the channel, when a large set of swells rolled in.

‘I would rise up to eight feet and come down and crash on the bottom. One of those crashes on the bottom broke the rudder,’ said Ms Patterson.

Mr. Beaty said the boat was finally removed from the reef around 4pm Thursday. Ms Patterson said it was kept on a mooring on the north and west side of the Brac over the weekend.

‘There is definitely damage that has to be repaired by a boat yard, but we did not take on water during (Thursday) night,’ said Ms Patterson.

Marine Parks Enforcement Officer Erbin Tibbetts said he went onto the boat before anyone else to see if it was OK.

‘There was minor damage,’ said Mr. Tibbetts. ‘The boat was pulled outside of the channel.’

He said the craft would eventually have to be examined at the Port Authority, or perhaps even towed to Grand Cayman, for repairs and to determine its seaworthiness.

For now, the two sailors were planning to stay with Cayman Brac resident Linda Stritzinger.

‘I told them, ‘there’s no reason to stay in a hotel’, that’s how we do it down here,’ said Mrs. Stritzinger, who had never met the two women before.