Sailing across the ocean is never really a breeze. Three Canadians learned that the hard way in the middle of the night on Wednesday. Edmonton residents Bradley James, his brother Mitchell, and Bradley’s nine-year-old son, West, were sailing from Puerto Vallarta, in Mexico, to Hilo, in Hawaii. At about 4:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday and still short of Hawaii by about 450 kilometres, a storm broke the mast of their 12-metre sailboat and the engine stopped working after overheating. They sent a distress signal and the Reliance, a container ship more than 200 kilometres northeast of the sailboat, was alerted by the U.S. Coast Guard to help.
But as night fell, the storm got worse and six-metre-high waves battered their boat. Several hours later, the container ship approached the sailboat and the crew tried throwing ropes overboard to bring the three sailors on board. But the wind and the waves were rocking the two vessels so hard the 272-metre ship eventually hit the small boat, knocking all three passengers into the rolling waters. Thankfully, all three had been wearing life jackets with strobe lights. Mitchell was eventually able to take hold of a surfboard that had been strapped to the side of the boat and made his way to one of the sides of the ship. The Reliance’s crew was able to get him on board first at about 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Almost an hour later, Bradley and his son, who had been floating on life rings thrown by the ships’ crew, were lifted to safety aboard the Reliance. All three have been taken to Honolulu and are doing well.