‘Tommy this is not a joke’: Friends send mayday message as boat sinks in Pacific after being hit by whale
A group of friends had to be rescued from the Pacific after their 44ft sailing boat sunk after being struck by a giant whale.
Rick Rodriguez and three friends spent 10 hours on a lifeboat and dinghy after the bizarre reported accident took place on 13 March.
Mr Rodriguez, who is from Florida, was 13 days into a three-week and 3,500-mile crossing of the South Pacific from the Galápagos Islands to French Polynesia when the whale collision took place.
He told The Washington Post that he had been eating vegetarian pizza onboard the boat Raindancer when it ran into the huge whale.
“The second pizza had just come out of the oven, and I was dipping a slice into some ranch dressing,” Mr Rodriguez said in a satellite phone interview with the Post.
“The back half of the boat lifted violently upward and to starboard.”
Crew member Alana Litz added that following the collision she saw “a massive whale off the port aft side with its side fin up in the air.”
And within seconds alarms began sounding warning the group of friends that the boat was taking on water.
Mr Rodriguez says that he issued a mayday call on the boat’s VHF radio and sent out their position in an emergency distress signal. The crew then gathered enough food and water for around a week, as well as emergency equipment before launching the lifeboat and dinghy.
In the rush, they left their passports behind.
Using a phone and satellite hotspot, Mr Rodriquez messaged his friend and sailor Tommy Joyce, who was on the same route but around 180 miles behind them.
“Tommy this is no joke. We hit a whale and the ship went down,” Mr Rodriguez says he messaged his friend.
He also sent a message to his brother Roger urging him to: “Tell mom it’s going to be OK.”
He also asked his sibling to try to contact Mr Joyce on WhatsApp to try to reach him faster.
After turning the wifi hotspot off for two hours to conserve battery life, he finally received a message back from Mr Joyce, saying “We got you bud.”
The crew was eventually rescued hours later.
The Peruvian coast guard had picked up the distress signal and relayed the information to the US Coast Guard station in California.
But, in the end, it was another boat which reached the group first.
The Rolling Stones, captained by sailor Geoff Stone, had heard the mayday call from the Raindancer and coordinated with Mr Joyce and Peruvian officials.
“I feel very lucky, and grateful, that we were rescued so quickly,” added Mr Rodriguez. “We were in the right place at the right time to go down.”
While the crew of the Raindancer should have completed their journey on Wednesday – and had to say goodbye to the Raindancer – the group has no plans of quitting.
Now, they will complete their journey to French Polynesia onboard the Rolling Stones.