Thursday, December 11, 2008

A rescue at sea - And you thought you had a bad day

I was so excited yesterday when early in the morning, I received an email from the sailor that was rescued on our cruise 2 weeks ago. It's so nice that he is alive. On the ship, they told us he was doing good, then we didn't hear anything after that. He was dropped off to the Panama Hospital - end of story. Well upon my return from being down south, I posted the video of the rescue on my blog and Youtube. He saw it and sent me the full story. It was a harrowing few days for the guy, but he's doing well. Here is the email he sent me.


Dear purpleslady,

It was a great surprise finding me at Youtube! Yes, I am Rick Simoes, the one rescued by Coral Princess a couple of weeks ago and, since you took your time to edit and publish the video, I would like to tell a bit of my ordeal...

From Vancouver I went to Cartagena to pick-up a friend’s sail boat and bring it to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Cartagena was hot as an oven! The heat and humidity made me feel bad as I never felt before. I do not know whether to have come directly from the Canadian winter, or if was the excess of the delicious local rum, the truth is that I was not feeling well during those days in Colombia, with a principle of insulation...

Set sail in late afternoon, and we quickly left Cartagena behind. The sea was calm and we left the bay towards the north of the Caribbean Sea in the direction of Jamaica. Woke up in the morning feeling badly. The sea had deteriorated too much and was stung with contrary winds of 20 knots and waves of 5 '. Our sailboat Illusions, with its 33 feet and built for blue water crossings, due to the strong waves was very slow at only 3.6 kts. Sick, I went out to the deck and threw up for the first time. Both, I and Jaime, my friend and sailing companion of 15 years, have been very surprised with what we thought to be just a "sea-sickness" because I had never been sick on a cruise before, over seas worse than what we had there.

I didn’t mind much; because once the nausea passed I believed it had been an isolated fact. Few hours later, the nausea came back and I started throwing up frequently. Throughout the day, only ate a green apple that came back minutes later... Woke up in the middle of the night with unbearable nausea, without being able to raise or contain, I vomited profusely. Turning on the lights, I saw me drenched by a huge amount of blood. My hell began.

Immediately, in an emergency meeting, the three crew members discussed our situation. I suggested a return to Colombia, but Jaime and Jamie, an Englishman who traveled with us, felt that it would not be an option, because we were almost halfway to Jamaica, and the sea / wind would be much worse in the return direction. The decision was to move forward, and launch a signal of distress by an emergency radio system that was supposed to connect automatically with the coastguards of neighboring countries. This was our third mistake: the system was not efficient, but we did not know ...

The next day was a torture. The sea worsened by the minute, already with waves of 10 'that swept the deck at any moment and forced us to move more and more slowly, elongating a journey that we wanted to finish quickly. I could not get down and I was lying on the bottom of the deck, where the wind on my face relieved the endless nausea. The vomiting of pure blood remained in a macabre cadence every 3 hours and at the end of the day we reached the conclusion that our signs of distress were not being received by anyone. Then decided to trigger the short-wave radio and started to send a periodic "Mayday" call.

My condition worsened a lot. The internal bleeding was now in my bowels and I was feeling very weak. Without eating and drinking for days, my body began to surrender. Lying at the bottom of the deck, I didn’t talk, or rise for anything, nor for basic needs. From time to time big waves washed the deck and my dirty body covered with a piece of canvas and stuck to a lifeguard, not feeling cold or heat as if half anesthetized and unrelated to reality. Felt no fear, nor despair, but knew that the situation has worsened and that I would not stand much longer.

In the middle of the night of the fourth day finally a contact! The Navy of Colombia, who was making maneuvers in the Caribbean Sea, heard our cry for help. Sometime later, new contact. It was the Coral Princess. They had been informed by the Colombian Navy and the rescue was on its way, arriving in a couple of hours. The vessel had all the resources for the rescue and salvage. I had no strength to get up and see, but the Coral Princess emerged as a wonderful vision on the horizon, as my two companions told me. Came slowly and then stop some 500 meters away, with a rescue boat with three crew members quickly getting out of his side.

It began then another stage of my torment ... The sea was rough and high, with huge waves that did not allow the approach of the boat. In two of the many attempts there were violent clashes with our sailboat, endangering the safety of both boats and leaving considerable damage in the structure of Illusions. I felt that this approach would be impossible and was even wondering for how long the attempt would remain. The radio worked non-stop between the ship's captain, the rescue boat and Illusions, but could do little because the sea conditions were very bad indeed.

So, I think I got the worst moment of all this adventure: I clearly heard the cruise captain saying that they could not continue and that another kind of rescue should be organized by the Colombian Navy. They would retrieve the rescue boat and go! At that moment I saw my only chance threatened and decided: I would throw myself into the sea and try to swim to the rescue boat! Unsuccessfully my two companions tried to dissuade me, because the sea was very bad and I was very weak. Sharks, weakness, rough sea, nothing would hold me at that time. I flagged to the rescue boat indicating that I would jump and, after also trying to say that it was not prudent, they positioned to receive me. My friend changed my life jacket with one that automatically inflates when touching the water and I was tied to a long rope. I said goodbye to my fellows and dove! The "automatic" life-jacket didn’t inflated and I sank like a stone! I started swimming with all forces that I still had, and with difficulty but luck, get close to the boat from where they throw me a buoy tied to a rope. The crew pull me quickly and with some difficulty dragged me on board. I was saved! They hoisted by the side of the ship, under the applauses and flashes of hundreds of passengers watching the whole operation from the deck. I was quickly transported to the ICU, where Dr. Colin Cameron and his team immediately began my medical care with serum, blood transfusions, medications, etc... The dry and hot bed of the ICU, my stomach controlled by drugs and a firm environment opposed to the continuous balance of Illusions, represented paradise!

I slept deeply for the first time in several days ... Two days later, the Coral Princess arrived in Panama City. At the dock, I was received by an ambulance and immediately transferred to the excellent Hospital San Fernando. There, in addition to continuing treatment with serum, blood and medications, had an endoscopy and received a reassuring diagnosis, which showed only fissures due to contractions in the esophagus caused by vomiting. Nothing serious! Treatment: diet and rest for a few days. Doctors said I was very lucky. I had lost 50% of my normal blood volume, and certainly would not resist for another 24 hours. Four days later, in good health, left Panama to continue the treatment and recovery at home, where I am now, well and safe. It seems movie, right? But it is not. It's real life...

Well, thank you for being patient reading this long text. I wonder if you could send me a copy of that video. After all, it was a tremendous moment of my life and something to be remembered... Kindest regards, Rick (


KF said...

Gail, that is just unbelievable!! What a story. That poor man. I wonder where his home is-is he Canadian?
Thanks for your blog, your life is soooo interesting and your Christmas will be all the merrier knowing that the sailor is alive and well.

Anonymous said...

That's CRAZY! Just like something out of "House"! That's so neat that took the time to track you down.



dp said...

Well, what an amazing thing to happen, and I am amazed he found himself on YouTube... so cool. Great for him to have the rescue preserved for his memory box.
How cool

Susan said...

Wow. That's amazing. I kept thinking there would be something that caused the vomiting of blood, but I guess nothing special. How strange and what a fabulous rescue to witness.