High Seas Rescue

I woke up early on April 16th as we were scheduled to cross the Equator and I wanted to take a photo. No, I did not expect to photograph a big black line across the ocean running from east to west. 🙂

The sunrise was quite spectacular. However it seemed a bit unusual given that our stateroom was on the west side of the ship and the sun had set there about 12 hours previously. I turned on the navigational channel and discovered that we had made a 180 degree turn and were sailing in the opposite direction – fast!

I wasn’t sure what had happened. Did somebody go for a midnight swim and we had to turn back to find him?

We went up to have breakfast and ran into our old friend Bertrand the head waiter. We asked him what was going on but he said he had no information. Shortly after this the Captain came on the PA system to announce we were off to Malden Island on a rescue mission.

During the night the ship received a distress call from the US Coast Guard. A sailboat had run aground on Malden Island reef and was severely damaged and not repairable. The two mariners were enroute from Hawaii to Tahiti when it happened. We were the closest ship although 200 miles north of them. We had to turn back to help.

Malden Island isn’t the greatest place to be marooned. It has a salty lagoon in the middle, is very low lying and has been used for guano mining and Hydrogen bomb testing in its history. It is uninhabited and unloved.

After an 8 hour detour we spotted the island. About all you could see was the surf breaking on the reef.

The captain had had to Google Malden Island to find out anything about it. After this the Celebrity Cruises marine department in Miami emailed him an updated chart which he had input into the navigational system.

The part of the Island where the sailboat ran aground was unsuitable to approach with a huge cruise ship (the reef, remember?) So we navigated to a safer spot where we could get in closer. The sailors on the island had VHF radio so the ship advised them to walk across the island to the safe anchorage.

Ahh..this looks more promising.

Rescue launch away to pick up the stranded mariners. They had to swim out a bit and then our seamen pulled them into the boat.

Got ’em! Not the finest picture but the best I could do through the glass in the ship’s lounge. The rescuees are seated in the bow section.

Once the marooned mariners were aboard, and all was well our captain was faced with a minor problem. We were now 16 hours behind schedule on our voyage to Hawaii. That might mean we’d miss the port call of Maui – our final stop before the 1st cruise ended.

Our captain conferred with Celebrity head office and the decision was made to increase speed to our maximum of 21 knots. With three more sea days and the higher speed, we were able to make up nearly 14 hours and we ended up only a couple of hours late getting to Lahaina Maui. This saved the final port day and made everyone happy – all except the sailboat captain (who left a $150,000 pleasure craft on the Malden reef,) and Celebrity management (who had to spend an additional $150,000 in fuel costs to make up the time.) All in the interest of rescue on the high seas. It was sure an interesting time.


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