Viking Life-Saving Equipment

Will Your Liferaft Work When You Need It?

Last year’s “Baja Ha Ha,” the fleet cruise from San Diego to Mexico, provides yet another impetus for all ocean cruisers to reconsider their liferaft situation. You DO have one, right?  And it HAS been maintained, inspected and re-certified, right? And you actually know what’s stored in it and how to use it, right? And you don’t keep it in an old valise buried in some locker under a bunch of junk, right?  It’s okay to admit to one of these failings; but not okay to ignore it any longer.  The skipper and crew of J/World, a 40′ J/120 that sank after a collision with whales during the rally, did all of this right and they’re all alive and well today to talk about it.

In fact, the rescue of J/World’s crew is a textbook example of how smoothly things can go when you truly are prepared for the worst. Even some unlucky breaks didn’t prevent a successful rescue by U.S. Coast Guard helicopter. The specific equipment that kept this crew alive and got them rescued was their Viking RescYou liferaft and their EPIRB. The raft protected them in rough seas some 60 miles offshore southwest of San Diego and the EPIRB alerted authorities and brought the Coast Guard right to their location.

USCG Swimmer Hoisted Aboard MH-60 Jayhawk After J World Rescue

USCG Swimmer Hoisted Aboard MH-60 Jayhawk After J World Rescue

In this photo you see the USCG rescue swimmer AST3 Scott Mochkatel being hoisted back aboard the MH-60 Jayhawk after safely getting all five J/World sailors aboard the helo. The USCG Sector San Diego press release has a link to the actual rescue video (just click on the picture in the press release similar to the one at right).

Here’s how it was recounted by the crew to Viking, the makers of the Rescyou liferaft:

The annual Baja Ha-Ha cruiser rally from San Diego, California, to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, turned into a life threatening situation for five, San Francisco-based, J/World Performance Sailing School participants. Thanks to fast-thinking crew members, an eight-person Viking RescYou liferaft and the United States Coast Guard, they’re all alive today after their 40′ J/120 J World sunk, 60 miles offshore.

For J/World instructors Eugenie Russell and Barry Demak and three, adult J/World students, the rally started in fair conditions. Three days in, the team was enjoying swift passage to Turtle Bay, the first anchorage point, with 20-25 knot winds and 10-15′ swells.

On the third morning, just before 10am and about 200 miles southwest of San Diego, the crew encountered a pod of humpback whales. A severe collision caused the rudder to completely dislodge and J World started taking on tremendous amounts of water.

Captain Russell, an experienced offshore sailor, dealt with the situation calmly and methodically. The crew continued to sail the boat with just the sails to get clear of the whales, while attempting to secure the rudder post and stop the ingress of water with a manual bilge pump. Russell went below deck to retrieve the EPIRB and ditch bag, while Demak gathered additional food, water and equipment.

About 40 minutes after the initial impact, Russell and Demak decided the crew needed to abandon the sinking vessel. They activated the satellite-detectable emergency distress signal and deployed their Viking RescYou liferaft just as a large wave hit the submerging boat.

With the aid of the inflated boarding ramp, the five sailors entered the offshore liferaft, bailed out cold seawater and tried to keep themselves warm and dry. They took stock of the offshore emergency pack contents, read the survival instructions and awaited rescue in windy, high seas.

Soon the team saw a USCG Jayhawk flying past them. Demak radioed the aircraft, while Russell fired one of the SOLAS rocket flares. Once the Viking liferaft was spotted, the USCG executed a textbook evacuation of the five sailors.

Fortunately, the professionally prepared and operated teaching vessel was equipped with the best offshore equipment, including the well-maintained Viking RescYou liferaft. Russell and Demak agree that the Viking liferaft was paramount to their survival. “We were fortunate to have the best equipment in perfect working condition,” said Demak, “but it is just as critical to be confident that it will work as designed and to know how to use it.”

If you’d like to read the full account of the J/World sinking and rescue, the December issue of Latitude 38, original sponsor of the rally, has a fantastic article and interview with Eugenie Russell. And the blog of the J World Sailing School itself has an even more extensive account by the participants themselves.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, Gear & Apparel, Industry News, Passagemaking News, People, Powerboats, sailboat racing, Sailboats, Sailing Gear & Apparel, seamanship

Product Roundup: Stuff You Can Use

Editor’s note — At least once a month we’ll publish a list of interesting new (and sometimes not-so-new) products on the market that you might find useful.  We get dozens of press releases every week from manufacturers all over the world, but this is just a select few that seem especially worth bringing to your attention.



Viking Liferafts

Viking Life-Saving Equipment said its two offshore liferafts for yachts performed well in a recent Cruising World magazine test.  Viking said the magazine tested several ISO-approved liferafts from manjor manufacturers for various factors, including stability.  According to Viking, “with most of the rafts tested, it took only two or three people leaning on one side to tip them over.  The advanced RescYou and RescYou Pro from Viking required a swimmer in the water as well to manually empty the ballast bags before the raft would flip over.”  Viking says that once flipped, the RescYou Pro immediately righted itself without help in less than 60 seconds.

Viking RescYou and RescYou Pro Liferafts

Viking RescYou and RescYou Pro Liferafts

Liferafts for offshore cruising are a critical safety component and passagemakers need to do the research to determine how best to meet their own needs.  Variables to be considered include the number of people aboard, typical cruising grounds — coastal or offshore — and storage and mounting of the liferaft(s).  Part of the acquisition process should be a commitment to scheduled testing and maintenance.  In order to meet many international safety regulations, including those of the SOLAS treaty, liferafts must be inspected and certified at regular intervals.


STIDD Systems Helm Chairs

Looking for a double helm seat so you can share the helm duties?  Two of STIDD Systems’ latest offerings might do the trick.  The 1200 series of double-wide helm chairs comes in both a 45-inch version and a truly wide 54-inch model.  The narrower version, the 1200, is suggested for tighter situations where there might not be room for two separate chairs.  It has a double pedestal but saves at least 18-inches, according to the company, over a two-chair installation.  For those who want, or. . . ahem. . . need a wider accommodation, the 1200W is a seriously roomy double bench, with a removable center armrest.

STIDD Systems 1200 Double Helm Chair

STIDD Systems 1200 Double Helm Chair

STIDD Systems 1200W Double Helm Bench Chair

STIDD Systems 1200W Double Helm Bench Chair

Like all STIDD chairs, the 1200 and 1200W can be ordered finished in power coat or chrome and in a variety of upholstery choices to match decor and suit the location, whether that is in a protected pilothouse or on the flybridge.


Paradox Marine SmartKEY for Nav-Tracker

On my last boat, I had a satellite-based security system that, when activated, would set a geo-fence around my boat and notify me if the boat was moved outside that area.  On several occasions, I was motoring happily down the channel and out to sea when my cell phone rang.  It was the operator of the security service alerting me that my boat was being moved without authorization.  Doh!!

Paradox Marine Nav-Tracker 2.0 Security System

Paradox Marine Nav-Tracker 2.0 Security System

Users of Paradox Marine’s Nav-Tracker 2.0 security system can now use a special SmartKEY, which uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to automatically arm and disarm the system when an owner boards or disembarks.  It’s a great use of RFID technology.  When the owner arrives at his boat, a receiver onboard the boat detects the RFID on the SmartKEY fob and disarms the system.  When the owner leaves the boat and the SmartKey is no longer in range, the system automatically arms itself.  No more forgetting to arm the security system.  And. . .eh. . .  no more embarrassing calls from the security system telling you that you are “stealing” your own boat.

Copyright © 2009 OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Boats, Technology