Port Townsend, Wash., sailors Linda Attaway and Brad Nelson escaped with their lives after hitting a submerged reef off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The couple were completing a 10.5-month cruise when their 42-foot Golden Wave Kattywompus grounded and rapidly began taking on water.
They were headed for an overnight anchorage in Doubtless Bay in darkness and under power when they struck the reef. “In a heartbeat, the depth sounder jumped from 18 feet to five feet,” said Attaway. “We hit the southern point of Tipps’ reef with a jarring blow. Under full throttle we powered off, only to have a wave on our beam push us back onto the rocks. Brad went below to check for damage and immediately called out, ‘we’re going down!’ I descended to make a mayday call, but Kattywompus was already filled with water.”
With their boat about to capsize, the couple quickly grabbed the yacht’s EPIRB and Viking RescYou life raft valise with little time to gather any of their belongings. Water was filling the cockpit and the hull began to turn turtle — their only hope was to launch the life raft in the lee. They deployed the life raft, activated the canopy strobe and fired flares. It was not long before a local in a small skiff came to their aid, rescuing the couple and towing the life raft.
Attaway said that the experience of losing their boat was sobering. “It happened so quickly…but thanks to our Viking and other safety equipment, we escaped unharmed and only a bit shaken,” she said. Attaway and Nelson plan to continue their voyaging in May, albeit with a new boat and life raft.