Home Featured 4 pals rescued in Pacific Ocean after whale sinks their boat

4 pals rescued in Pacific Ocean after whale sinks their boat

4 pals rescued in Pacific Ocean after whale sinks their boat

A giant whale plunged a group of sailors into a scene straight out of “Moby-Dick” when it sank their boat in the Pacific Ocean — where they waited in a life raft for 10 hours before they were rescued.

Rick Rodriguez, 31, of Tavernier, Florida, and three pals set off from the Galápagos Islands on his 44-foot sailboat Raindancer for a three-week, 3,500-mile journey to French Polynesia, the Washington Post reported.

But on March 13, less than two weeks into the trip, things went horribly wrong.

Rodriguez, a native of Newcastle, England, and the others were enjoying a lunch of vegetarian pizza when they heard a loud noise about 1:30 p.m.

“The second pizza had just come out of the oven, and I was dipping a slice into some ranch dressing,” Rodriguez told the paper over a satellite phone. “The back half of the boat lifted violently upward and to starboard.”

The group quickly gathered essential supplies, including water and food – then scrambled into a life raft and dinghy before the boat sank in about 15 minutes.

Rick Rodriguez and Alana Litz in a dinghy
Rick Rodriguez takes a selfie of himself and Alana Litz adrift in a dinghy.
Instagram / Rick Rodriguez

Rodriguez made a mayday and set off the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, whose signal was picked up by officials in Peru, who alerted the US Coast Guard in California.

Fortunately, the group also had an Iridium Go satellite WiFi hotspot and a phone, though they were only partially charged and an external battery pack was only at 25 percent, the Washington Post said.

“Tommy this is no joke,” Rodriguez messaged his friend Tommy Joyce, who was sailing the same route but was some 180 miles behind.

“We hit a whale and the ship went down. Tell as many boats as you can. Battery is dangerously low,” he typed.

Rodriguez sent a similar message to his brother Roger in Miami.

“Tell mom it’s going to be OK,” he added confidently.

When he checked the Iridium Go later, he saw Joyce’s reassuring message: “We got you bud. We have a bunch of boats coming.”

Rodriguez replied: “Can’t wait to see you guys.”

The Raindancer happened to be sailing the same route as about two dozen other vessels taking part in a yachting rally called the World ARC.

Rick Rodriguez with the Raindancer
Rick Rodriguez in an undated photo with his ill-fated Raindancer.
Instagram / Rick Rodriguez

An alert sent by the Coast Guard was picked up by the Dong-A Maia, a Panamanian-flagged tanker sailing 90 miles to the south of Raindancer. It quickly changed course.

The sailors, who were thrown by the large impact, all noticed that a whale had rammed their boat.

“I saw a massive whale off the port aft side with its side fin up in the air,” Alana Litz, 32, a former firefighter in the Canadian military, told the news outlet.

The Raindancer seen from a drone
The fiends left the Galápagos Islands on the 44-foot Raindancer for a three-week, 3,500-mile journey to French Polynesia when disaster struck.
Instagram / Rick Rodriguez

She said she believes it was a Bryde’s whale that was about as long as the vessel.

Rodriguez noticed that it was bleeding as it slipped below the surface.

Bianca Brateanu, a 25-year-old from Newcastle, had been cooking below at the time of the collision and rushed up to see a whale at starboard, leading the group to wonder if at least two whales were present.

Also onboard was Simon Fischer, 25, of Marsberg, Germany, who had the least experience but “is a very levelheaded guy,” Rodriguez told the Washington Post.

The friends abandoned the Raindancer with enough water for about a week and roughly three weeks’ worth of food. They also had a fishing pole and a device for collecting rain.

But the rescue came after about 10 hours.

Rodriguez seen aboard the sailboat
Rodriguez was joined by Alana Litz, 32, Bianca Brateanu, 25, and Simon Fischer, 25, on the ill-fated journey.
Instagram / Rick Rodriguez

The Rolling Stones, a 45-foot catamaran captained by Wisconsin native Geoff Stone, was only about 35 miles away and he received a relayed mayday call.

Stone communicated with Joyce and with Peruvian authorities via WhatsApp to say he was heading to the last known location, which he reached a few hours later.

“The seas weren’t terrible but we’ve never done a search and rescue,” he told the Washington Post, adding that Fischer spotted his lights from about five miles away.

Rodriguez set off a flare and activated a beacon to assist in the final approach.

Although the Dong-A Maia also was nearby, the friends decided to board The Rolling Stones.

“We were 30 or 40 feet away when we started to make out each other’s figures. There was dead silence,” Rodriguez said.

The four friends after their rescue
The four friends were rescued by The Rolling Stones, a 45-foot catamaran captained by Wisconsin native Geoff Stone.
Instagram / Rick Rodriguez

“They were curious what kind of emotional state we were in. We were curious who they were. I yelled out ‘howdy” to break the ice,” he told the paper.

“All of a sudden us four were sitting in this new boat with four strangers,” Rodriguez added.

He told the outlet that “there was never really much fear that we were in danger. Everything was in control as much as it could be for a boat sinking.”

It also wasn’t lost on him that the story that inspired Herman Melville to write the 1851 novel happened in the same area.

The ship Essex also was sailing west from the Galápagos in 1820 when it was rammed by a sperm whale, leaving the captain and some crew members to spend about three months adrift as they resorted to cannibalism before being rescued.

Fortunately, Rodriguez and his friends didn’t have to face such an unsavory outcome.

“I feel very lucky, and grateful, that we were rescued so quickly,” he told the paper. “We were in the right place at the right time to go down.”

The Rolling Stones was expected to arrive in French Polynesia on Wednesday.