Salt Spring sailor Art Munneke rescued by freighter in South Pacific
Car freighter diverted from shipping route to pick up Munneke from his sinking yacht
A sailor from B.C.'s Gulf Islands should be arriving in port in Auckland, New Zealand, today, after being rescued from his yacht that began sinking in the South Pacific after a storm over a week ago.
Art Munneke, a member of the Salt Spring Island Sailing Club, was aboard his 11-metre sloop L’Antillaise in the South Pacific and heading home, when it rolled over in a storm.
Munneke was slightly injured, with cuts to his face, but the hull of the yacht was damaged and it began to take on water.
Steve Randle, spokesman for the Rescue Coordination Centre in Wellington, New Zealand, said Munneke headed for Rarotonga, one of the Cook Islands, which was roughly 1,100 kilometres away.
Munneke was able to keep the craft afloat for five days with a combination of hand bailing and an electric pump, but then the pump failed.
"At that point, things became very serious," Randle said. "He was unable to keep up with the water coming in, and that's when he set off his distress beacon."
The rescue centre picked up the signal at 10:30 a.m. local time on April 7.
The closest ship, a car carrier named Fidelio, was 370 kilometres away when it changed course for the rescue mission.
A plane was also sent to find Munneke. It took five hours to cross the 2,300 kilometres between Auckland and the area he was in. By the time the plane reached his area, there was only 20 minutes of daylight left.
The crew spotted him, and made radio contact, but soon had to leave for Rarotonga to refuel.
Six more hours went by before the Fidelio arrived.
"If you can imagine the scene, it would have been pretty close to midnight, pretty rough conditions, a 25-knot wind and two to three metres swells," Randle said.
"It's a credit to the captain and the crew of the Fidelio that they were able to manoeuvre so close to him," he said.
Munneke abandoned ship, and climbed up the freighter's pilot ladder. Randle called it a "fantastic rescue."
"His yacht, unfortunately, has been left to sink," Randle said. "A navigation warning has been issued for vessels in the area to be on the lookout for that."
With files from the CBC's Terry Donnelly