Rescue in Estero Castro

The impact forced the rudder over smashing the tiller

In this week’s blog I was going to write about the Tábanos a huge biting fly, about visiting a church and getting a stainless steel thing made. But instead I’m going to tell you about an incident that happened to us as we were heading out of Estero Castro this morning.

We were motoring down the Estero enjoying a beautiful day and just about to tuck into the remnants of last-night’s pizza for lunch when a typical little island fishing boat/launch crossed our bow a little closer than the COLREGS would recommend but unorthodox maneuverers are not uncommon around here. However the launch swung hard to port and came straight at us. I went full astern and almost got us stopped but the launch hit us a metre or so back from the bow with a mighty thump. The impact broke our tiller off at the top of the shaft, we had the tiller pilot engaged so it was held tight at the time.

We could see a couple of people slumped over in the cabin of the boat; one raised a head to see what the thump was and collapsed again. I got Paula to get on the radio to Castro Radio and report an out of control boat with the crew probably suffering CO poisoning (it just seemed that was highly likely) and set too fitting the spare tiller.

Fitting the tiller
Tools still in the cockpit at the end of the rescue.

We got the spare tiller fitted in about five minutes and set off in pursuit of the circling launch, Paula was shouting at the lady to get outside as she was lifting her head and looking at us but was unable to comprehend or respond. We were just getting alongside to attempt to lasso the boat when two guys from the Armada arrived in a zodiac. They were quickly alongside the casualty and one jumped aboard quickly emerging from the cabin with a small child and encouraging the barely conscious lady out into the fresh air. We were a couple of meters off the beam and I asked the Armada guys if they wanted help and they did! So we went alongside and jumped aboard.

The child responded to a couple of thumps on his chest and a couple of rescue breaths from one of the Armada guys and we put him in the recovery position. Paula encouraged the lady to breath in the fresh air but she wasn’t really with us. Myself and the senior Navy guy went into the cabin and lifted the man out (not easy it was a small cabin) and obviously full of CO as just the few moments that were in there had us feeling the effects a little. The poor chap might have a lump on the back of his head as I banged it on the door but that’s better than the alternative.  The man was well under the effects but showed some signs of recovery after getting some air but was in a bad way.

The Armada guys had sent Paula to call for more paramedic backup and we had also flagged down a small freighter that was passing and their first-aider came over with some oxygen ( well actually it turned out to be normal breathing air for fire-fighting BA but at least we had a mask to give some positive pressure).

Towing alongside
Acting as a tug to help get the casualties ashore

We started an alongside tow to bring the launch into shore, where perhaps an ambulance could get by road, until the work-boat from the freighter could take over to manoeuvre the little raft of small craft through a mussel farm and a salmonera to the shore.

Damage to Morgane
A dent in the bow and some scratches

We were instructed to await instructions and got to work finishing of fitting the spare tiller and inspecting the damage. We were not too badly damaged; a fist sized dent in the bow and some bad scratches to the paint and the broken tiller.

Jet boat
Jet boat speeding in to take the man to Castro

One of the Armada’s fantastic Hamilton Jet Boat rescue boats had now arrived and sped off with the male casualty to take him to an ambulance in Castro and a larger 25-30m patrol boat had also arrived. They checked that we were OK and in typical South American fashion ordered (asked) us to go to Castro to make a “Voluntary” Declaration; which we had anticipated so got under way.

Patrol vessel
an Armada patrol vessel arrived too

Almost back at Castro the Armada Zodiac caught us up to say thanks for helping them, but of course we had them to thank too as we would have struggled to have done anything in time to help the family by ourselves. They told us that the man was serious but stable (that phrase hey!) and that the woman and child were OK.

We reported to the Armada office, made our statement and gave them a copy of our logbook pages and an inspector came aboard to check that “Morgane” was OK to continue sailing. He chatted about his plans to buy a yacht with his son and issued us a certificate of good health for “Morgane” and we were free to leave.  We got intercepted by a reporter and photographer from Estrella de Chiloé as we left the Armada buildings and radio Chile is carrying the story too so we have used a couple of minutes of our 15-minutes of fame today.

Hopefully the family will not get into too much trouble with the Armada as it seems they didn’t have their boat registered or a Zarpe (a certificate giving permission to make a voyage); which you need for every voyage in Chile.

It’s beer o’clock!

8 Comments on “Rescue in Estero Castro

  1. Hi Tweed
    You are having an adventurous life in the Canales. Interested in why your tiller broke as I have laminated my own tiller. It is a bit beefier than yours (I think from pictures) but I would be interested in where yours failed. It looks as if along at least one of the gluelines as the break looks clean. Acquaintances of ours with the same boat (Rustler 36)have just arrived in S Georgia and also had a broken tiller under way so it is more than just an intellectual interest!
    Yours aye,
    Bill Attwood

    • Hi Bill,

      The tiller did indeed fail on glue lines. It was ancient, I have no idea how old, and had been repaired. There was too much glue on some of the lines. There was also some rot in the core that was not visible on the outside. The tiller pilot was on at the time of the impact. I only had time to go full astern and hadn’t taken the tiller pilot off although any turn on my part would have probably caused more damage to both boats. As it was they hit us quite square with their bow; if they had been a little faster on the turn we would have T-boned them (although we were virtually stopped) which may well have sunk them if we had speed on.

      Our rudder is an old-school unbalanced job and I think the impact on the bow pivoted “Morgane” around her keel forcing the rudder over; the tiller pilot was holding the tiller firmly and it simply failed at the fulcrum point. It may actually have saved us a problem further down the road.

      What is the name of the boat of your acquaintances?


      • Hi Tweed
        Sorry for delay in my reply. Thanks for info on tiller break. My tiller is laminated oak, with the individual laminations tapered along their length. The holes for the bolts fixing it in the s/s bracket were drilled oversize and epoxy filled before being re-drilled. The Rustler 36 in S Georgia is Caramor, with Marco and Cath as crew. They were in your home islands before sailing down, and are probably on their way back there now.
        Yours aye

        • Hi Bill, Thank you very much for the donation! Did you get my email to your other address? We’d like to check your mailing address so that we can send you a postcard 🙂

          • Hi Tweed.
            Yes, received a nice email from Paula, thanks. Your website is well worth the small contribution, both for entertainment and useful info. We plan to leave this year on our adventure: Cape Verdes, Surinam, then Fr Polynesia. After that we are undecided if we head to Alaska or straight Patagonia. Note “plan”. These things have a way changing.
            Yours aye

          • Hi Tweed
            Forgot my mailing address. I think it’s a really nice idea to send a card – I look forward to receiving it.
            Bill Attwood
            Kirschenstrasse 33
            15566 Schoeneiche
            Yours aye

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