Back Up GPS Saves Cruisers from Rogue Wave

This unfortunate story is a good reminder that it’s important to have more than one emergency communication device on board.

A pair of longtime sailing buddies were enjoying their third straight day at sea on May 10th, but they were on a course to disaster. Heinz Fragner of Austria and Manfred Jabbusch of Germany were bringing their friend’s 45-foot sailboat, Eva, from the United States to Greece.

After sailing from Florida to a small town near New York City for repairs, they set off on May 8th for their trans-Atlantic journey. The weather started nicely but eventually they encountered rain and strong winds. Still, the waves weren’t mammoth or overly worrisome, according to Fragner.

“They weren’t necessarily rough but (they were) very long,” Fragner said Wednesday evening in a telephone interview with the Cape Cod Times.

But one wave changed everything that Tuesday, swamping the sailboat about 120 miles off Nantucket.

“It was like a monster wave,” Fragner said.

The boat capsized, he said, with the mast flung out into the ocean. Their food was gone and the sailboat was taking on water. Parts of the vessel’s deck were torn up, he said. Fragner was not hurt but Jabbusch, who is in his early 70s, suffered a back injury, which made it impossible for him to stand up at first.

“The biggest problem we had was to call for help,” the 66-year-old Fragner said. The GPS system and radio were damaged and no longer working.

Fragner searched the boat for a 10-year-old, handheld GPS system. He figured it was the pair’s last hope. They found the device under a swath of bed sheets. Using a satellite phone, they called in their location to a German rescue station, which connected them to the Coast Guard Command Center in Boston, Fragner said.

According to the Coast Guard, the stricken mariners reported at 1:45 p.m. on May 10th that the Eva‘s pumps weren’t working. The pair also reported winds gusting to 35 knots with 12-foot waves. The boat still had its life raft, according to the Coast Guard.

For the complete story, go to www.capecodtimes.com.

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