Yachting Boating World: Randy and Dawn Ortiz had been travelling the world on their yacht Nirvana Now for several years when tragedy struck last month in the South Pacific.
Randy and Dawn Ortiz had been travelling the world on board their S&S North Atlantic 42 Nirvana Now and posting their story online for several years when tragedy struck in April.
Initial problems for the pair started to develop on April 6th after they noticed that the forestay was loose and on further inspection found that part of the deck had started to part from the hull.
Writing on his blog, Randy said: “We attributed this to the state of the sea over the last three days, which had been a 2-3m swell at a period of 3-5 seconds.
“We rolled in the jib sail mounted on the forestay to reduce the strain and kept the main sail up with reefs.
“We helped support the forestay with a spinnaker halyard and a spare jib halyard attached to the port and starboard forward mooring cleats.
They then began sailing a downwind course to further reduce the strain on the forestay, heading for Nuku Hiva, an island in French Polynesia.
Unfortunately the couple’s problems were far from over, with them later noticing that water was starting to build up in the bilge, requiring it to be pumped out multiple times.
Shortly after, the pair decided to contact Pacific seafarer’s net, an amateur radio communications organization providing support and assistance, and another yacht called Continuum was diverted to help them.
Over the next few days, the situation on board continued to deteriorate as rough swells caused significant damage to the yacht.
“A large wave came up behind us and slammed the rudder over breaking the steering quadrant and separated from the hull the internal structure of the boat where the steering cable pulleys attach on the starboard side. We contacted W3ZU Fred and asked him to relay a May Day message to the Coast Guard that our situation had deteriorated and that we needed assistance. We then set up the emergency tiller system so we could maintain the boat in a heaved to arrangement to maintain stability”, wrote Randy.
“US Coast Guard Group 11 responded and we informed them of our damages, that the barnacles were reducing our progress and that the bilge pump was keeping up to the ingress of water from the damaged deck.
“We also informed them that Continuum had changed course to meet us. They were going to see if there was another ship in the area that they could ask to assist and we arranged to send regular position reports to them through W3ZU Fred, which we did throughout the night.”
As the heavy swells continued, another large wave struck Nirvana Now, breaking the rudder’s emergency steering linkages, causing it to swing free, pounding against the hull of the boat.
“Throughout the day 2-3m waves continued to slam the rudder into the bottom of the boat, as the rudder stops were damaged. We rigged a line from the midship mooring cleats, then aft around the rudder to reduce the movement of the rudder and the damage it was imparting on the hull.
“With our situation critical but stabilized we continued to pump the bilges every hour to keep ahead of the ingress of water from the damaged bow and the deteriorating condition of the rudder mountings. We maintained radio contact routines with Continuum, W3ZU Fred and the Seafarer’s Net and waited for the arrival of Continuum.”
At 3pm on April 8th and after three days of continued problems, Continuum arrived on scene and the couple made their way across to the yacht on board a dinghy.
Once safely aboard Continuum Randy and Dawn could only watch as Nirvana Now sunk to the bottom of the South Pacific, having previously agreed to scuttle the yacht so it was not a hazard to navigation.
In a closing statement on his blog, Randy said: “I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the efforts of RCC Alameda1 and their radio watch keepers for their irreplaceable efforts.
“Bob and Mona Jankowski on the Continuum willingly endured great hardship as they motor-sailed 40 hours into strong winds and large seas while standing watches of two hours on, two hours off, to enable them to reach us before we sank.
“The two hour watch routine made possible the radio contact schedule of every two hours which kept them informed of our position as we drifted disabled. It was a great moral booster to us to be to talk to our saviors on a regular basis.
“I would like to impress upon all that it was the communications allowed us through the SSB radio giving us access to the land based ham networks and other boats that saved our lives. With the popularity and attributes of satellite phones increasing I think it is still prudent for all persons voyaging off shore to be skilled in the use of the SSB radio.
“We will miss the boat that gave us so much joy for 18 years.”