Boating NZ : FREE TO READ March 2014
"You don't begin a marathon with a 200-metre sprint.” OVERBOARD see you. And I couldn’t see Victoria. I wanted to alert her to my predicament but I didn’t want to cause confusion with a muffled yell that had no immediate urgency or direction. She might waste precious moments going below to look for me. So I waited as the smooth underside of the bridgedeck flew by overhead and I was left between the rapidly fading wakes of my cat. Suddenly, I saw Victoria’s blond head rise into my line of sight. I was already 20 metres behind the boat, looking over the dinghy and into the saloon. I summoned the energy of every cell in my body and fog-horned one big word: “VICTORIA!” 5 – 10 SECONDS Victoria loved sailing but was not overly familiar with all the systems on the sailing cat although I had explained the basics and she had made her own observations. But, like the fireman rescuing the cat, the in-flight crew who serve us coffee are fully trained for worst case scenarios. However, experience is the real exam – and we were about to sit it. If I didn’t get her attention in the next five seconds, I had Plan B: to stay afloat for as long as it took, and that meant saving energy. I had been reading about cellular activity and how much energy it takes to survive. I pictured my energy level as a green health bar, like the one on my son’s video game when he’s taking hits. This was not my first near-death drama, but the other times, like the onboard LPG explosion, were all over a second after I never saw them coming. This time, Death’s door was wide open. I yelled twice at Victoria. I saw her turn and see me. VICTORIA I heard my name, but it sounded different from any call that would have come from onboard. I was standing in the galley and looked straight out the back. There was Stephen about 100 metres away in the choppy grey Colville Channel. I thought: “What the hell are you going swimming for? You said never to jump off the boat under sail; no matter how hard you swim, you will never catch up.” I ran up to the helm, disengaged the autopilot and tried to steer the boat around but there was no response. We were under full sail, roaring downwind. I could hear my breathing getting louder and stronger but slower... thinking what to do. I started the motors. STEPHEN 10 SECONDS... After Victoria saw me, I tried to make the most of the boat’s relative proximity. If she could hear me, these were my base instructions: “Autopilot off. Release the sails. Start the motors. Drop the main.” Every time I called out, my green health bar dropped, so every syllable counted. I knew she’d have to get the mainsail down to handle the boat under power. At maybe 200 metres away, the boat suddenly rounded up. VICTORIA The boat began heading more into the wind and sea which made everything rougher. I heard Stephen yell, “Drop the main." I turned back to him, always catching sight of his head above the waves with his sunglasses on, which seemed nicely The view Stephen Prinselaar had of his boat as it sailed away from him in Colville Channel in the Hauraki Gulf. INSET: His story in Boating New Zealand, August, 2012. After near-calamity: Stephen Prinselaar beside the hole in the trampoline, with the replacement tramp over the top. subscribe online at www.mags4gifts.co.nz/boating-nz 33 subscribe online at www.mags4gifts.co.nz/boating-nz 33 Feature_man overboard_March14.indd 33 18/02/2014 6:07:49 p.m.
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