CHENGTU - apparently under a former name - leaving Newcastle. Click for Maritime Executive news item
We're all accustomed to being on the sea - weeks, perhaps, away from the sight of land. We may not think much about it. After all, we carry our world with us: its joys and frustrations, its commonplace everyday happenings. Chow, work, that SOB who got the Bos'n's  job and is now making our lives miserable, the new Captain and what he's like - it's all pretty consuming, and fills our everyday world during the long days at sea. The horizon rings us in, and the sight of another ship is a curiosity.

Then something happens that draws our attention outward. This was such an occurrence for the crew of CHENGTU. This news story from Maritime Executive gives us the basic facts.

CHENGTU, like HORIZON RELIANCE (see HORIZON RELIANCE 1, 2, 3, & 4  in the Categories list to the right of the page) responded to a yacht in distress. The yacht WINDIGO, between Tonga and New Zealand, sent a distress message on Wednesday. CHENGTU responded , along with another yacht, ADVENTURE BOUND, and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, whose P3-Orion made three trips to the scene and provided the only communications link. 

A statement from RNZAF said: "This is the outcome we have been working towards since the emergency beacon was activated on Wednesday afternoon. It is the result of an excellent coordination effort involving the RNZAF, which provided a link for the two people on the WINDIGO when there was no other means of contact, and I would also like to express my appreciation to the captain of the CHENGTU and the crew of the ADVENTURE BOUND for their efforts."

Steven Jones & Tanya Davies - click photo for news item from
Steven Jones and Tanya Davies, crew of WINDIGO, had both suffered injuries when the yacht rolled in a storm two days out from Tonga. Speaking before the rescue, Steven Jones' mother said the pair originally feared that the yacht would sink. The yacht had taken on water during the roll and was disabled and unable to navigate. She said 75 km/hr winds and 10m waves were battering the yacht. Here is a news item from the New Zealand site

Click chart to go to BBC news story
Here is the location of the rescue, 700km (435 miles) south west of Tonga and 1,260km (783 miles) from New Zealand. CHENGTU apparently dropped heaving lines to the damaged yacht and pulled the two injured yachtsmen aboard - I haven't read any account of how this was done. In 10m seas and 75km winds, it was a nice bit of shiphandling and an extraordinary effort by CHENGTU's crew. Here is another report from BBC News.

Those sailors on CHENGTU may have done what we all would do - but they did it. No matter how cozy or confining our shipboard world may seem at times, it's fundamentally a lonely ocean. We'd quickly realize our isolation if we were in distress. Thank God for men like those on CHENGTU! And may we be like them when we're called upon to render aid to someone on the suddenly lonely ocean.

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