Just a summary of the events myself and Windwatcher ( my son-in-law) had last Monday during the race. We had left #2 about 3 PM on Monday. On the Hobie TI we worked our way our of the pass against the tide and heaed back into the gulf. As early evening approached Windwatcher started getting sick. Vomitting and then severe dry heaves. He kept getting sicker as we moved South. There was a discussion about turning around against the following seas and peddleing/sailing North.We had broke off one of the Mirage drive peddles leaving #2 so even if Alex could peddle, ( he could not) we only had one set. We discussed heading to one of the campsites on Cape Sabel, but the closest was at least 10 hours. Neither cell phone could pick up anything. We tried calling any vessels in the area on the VHF, no luck. I did a Pan/Pan call to the Coast Guard. Key West picked right up and asked us questions for 20 minutes until the VHF went dead. Our second VHF had gone dead due to water intrusion ( waterproof…right..ha). At that point, about 11:00 PM we decided to head east to land. Alex had started getting chilled a few hours before and was now in early stages of hyperthermia. He was in his dry suit, with a cap on, with emergency solar sleeping bag wrapped around him. We also carried hand warmers to put close to arterys to warm the blood. My thoughts were to get to land, set up the tent, get him dry and in a sleeping bag, start a fire and rethink our choices. As I watched him continue to get worse, when he asked again to push the 911 button on the SPOT, I did. 15 minutes later a chopper flew over 4 or 5 times. We hit the strobe lights on our vests and lite up the boat with flashlights. A few minutes and a rescue swimmer was at the boat asking questions. They had Alex go in to the water in his dry suit and the rescue swimmer floated him away from the Hobie. They were afarid the chopper would flip the boat. Up in a basket and he was away.
Later that night as I tried to sleep I also had hypathermia setting in. My dry suit holds the mosture inside and when you stop moving its easy to get chilled. I changed out on my dry suit into gortex dry pants and a warm jacket. Adding a extra solar blanket over the top of me as I was in the solar sleeping bag and then 3 sets of hand warmers, under arm pits, groin area, and hands. It worked!
Alex spend 2 days in the Marathon hospital. He had Rhabdomylysis. It can be caused from extreme muscle strain that causes muscle fibers to release their contents and puts protein into your blood that can cause kidney complications. He has made a full recovery.
So what did we learn?
1. Thank God for the SPOT. And knowing that if the SPOT did not work we had 2 PLB’s to use. I hated to use any of them, but was down to no choices.
2. 2 “waterproof”VHF’s are fine, but dry bagging at least one is smarter
3. Solar bags/blankets are good. Hand warmers are a real plus near the right body parts.
4. Extra dry clothes double bagged close to you are required from now on.
5. Cell phones are fine excempt in the Everglades and off shore.
Hope that helps. And a big thanks to Chief for requiring the gear he does. Its a case like this that makes it all so important and worthwhile. See you on the beach.