This short video shows excerpts of the action from last Thursday afternoon that led up to the helicopter airlift by the US Coast Guard. What it doesn't show is the minutes I spent crying after I eventually succumbed to the repeated offers of assistance.
There has been a certain amount of negative comment about my rescue by the US Coast Guard. Most of these comments have been based on a misconception of what actually happened, and so I'd like to take this opportunity to set the record straight.
First, I did not call the Coast Guard, nor did any member of my team. The Coast Guard was called in by a wellwisher who was concerned about me. I did not authorise or even know that this had happened - the first I knew of it was when the USCG plane appeared overhead and hailed me on my VHF radio.
Once the USCG had been made aware, events took on their own momentum. The USCG made it clear that they were concerned about my welfare, and that they felt it would be best for me to agree to an evacuation. It was only with the greatest reluctance that I eventually agreed after several hours of stating that I was not in need of assistance.
Second, before I embarked I had taken out an insurance policy with the company Global Rescue, who specialise in medical evacuations from inaccessible locations.
One of my team members had extensive discussions with Global Rescue about what would happen in the event of an emergency while I was on the ocean, and we had clearly defined procedures governing what should happen in the event of a crisis. Unfortunately, once the USCG became involved, these procedures were no longer applicable - it would have been inappropriate to call for Global Rescue when the USCG was already on the scene.
I had taken out this private insurance policy with the specific intention of avoiding cost to the US taxpayer.
Third, I was not "ill-prepared." I successfully rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in this same boat, which took me 103 days. The safety standards in the Atlantic Rowing Race are extremely high. In preparing for the Pacific, my standards were even more rigorous, and informed by the lessons I learned during the Atlantic crossing. Many months of careful preparation preceded my Pacific bid. Click here to see the full inventory of safety equipment I had on board, as documented on this website.
I hope this clarifies the situation.
Once again, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the men and women of the USCG who picked me up from my boat and took care of me once I got to dry land. I admire their courage, their professionalism, and their commitment to public service. America can be justifiably proud of her Coast Guard and the magnificent service they provide.
After rowing the Atlantic as a competitor in a race, I was very much enjoying my Pacific row without the added pressure of a race situation. And yet now I find myself once again pitted against the clock.
The area of the ocean where the Brocade is drifting is still beset by high winds and waves. If we are to do repairs on the water, the calmest day in the foreseeable future is this coming Wednesday, 29th August. The seas will still be 6-8 feet, but this is the best we can expect.
But as yet we have no vessel capable of taking us over 100 miles offshore to go in search of the Brocade. Ideally, I am looking for a craft about 100 feet long with a crane, so we can hoist the Brocade onboard and do the repairs there, giving us a marginally more stable platform than simply climbing aboard Brocade to do the work. We have put out many lines of enquiry, and hope that at least one of them might come good.
But time is running out. In order to travel that far from shore and find the Brocade before 0600 on Wednesday morning, we need to set out on Tuesday morning - just 36 hours from now.
Today I travelled back to the Bay Area in readiness for the recovery operation. Tomorrow will be spent dashing around trying to secure sea anchors, containers for additional water ballast, a new survival suit, replacements for various items that have been broken or lost, as well as the ongoing pursuit of a suitable salvage vessel. Friends and team members have been mobilised to help, and are rallying to the cause.
We are racing against time not only to catch the weather window, but also to get to the Brocade before anybody else does. If I am to keep alive my dream of rowing to Hawaii this year, we need to make the repairs out on the water. To bring her back to land would take too long and blow my chances of getting to Hawaii before the winter storms. So we need to get to her before anybody attempts to tow her in.
But at the same time it is of paramount importance to make sure that she is safe and capsize-resistant before I continue. Everything is in the balance, and the clock is ticking....
P.S. More than ever I am indebted to friends old and new for their assistance. On Thursday night I arrived on shore with no clothes but a t-shirt and shorts, no money, and no ID. Without the kindness of strangers I would be hungry, almost naked, and marooned in Eureka. From the bottom of my heart I thank these good Samaritans for their kindness, hospitality and generosity.
Thanks also to all those who have sent messages of support and encouragement by email and via this website. Your words have given me enormous strength in these testing times.
I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to the many people who have played such significant roles in my life over the last 48 hours:
- the crew of the USCG helicopter - pilot Stephen Baxter, flight mechanic Jason Bauer, flight commander Kevin Winters and rescue swimmer Chuck Wolfe
- Clint and the crew of the USCG airplane
- the captain and crew of the Overseas Long Beach
- the staff at USCG Humboldt Bay
- my support team:
- and of course my poor, long-suffering mother, Rita Savage.
Also to David Helvarg at Blue Frontier Campaign, and CEO Michael Klayko and all the staff at Brocade for their continued support.
Thanks also to the new friends I have made in Eureka - Rich, Marilyn, Ken and Jack, for their hospitality, support, food and clothing.
I am aware that recent events have evoked a large number of comments. I had the strange experience of sitting in a coffee shop in Eureka today and overhearing people discussing the front page news - me.
Most of the comments to this site have been positive and supportive - and for that I thank you.
As to the naysayers, rather than responding in words I will allow my actions to speak. For now, know that your words only fuel my determination to do this and to do it right. And so I thank you too.
[photo: me with the crew of the USCG helicopter. L to R: Kevin Winters, Chuck Wolfe, me, Stephen Baxter]