by Hal Schade, sailing vessel Griffin
On the morning everything started, I was sitting aboard GRIFFIN in the anchorage of Placencia, Belize, tuned up for the Northwest Caribbean net on my high frequency radio.
I heard the familiar voice of Gene on QUEEN MARY, but there was an urgency in his voice. It quickly became clear that SAILABOUT had issued a May Day in the Pacific. I let Gene know I was standing by on the radio with fairly quick access to a telephone ashore.
The owners of SAILABOUT, Grethe and Gunnar, had been my neighbors in Monkey Bay Marina, Rio Dulce, Guatemala until their departure for the Pacific several months before. The previous owners of SAILABOUT, George and Meca, are also friends, something that you will see pays off.
Back to the radio...I listened intently as Gene talked with the folks of the Mobile Maritime 14300 mhz ham net. You can read from other accounts what a valuable service these folks, along with the U.S. Coast Guard and the sailing vessel Damari and many others played in the 30-hour ordeal. Enough can't be said in their praise.
But I don't want to recount the whole thing. Just thought I'd provide a sidebar.
Follow this circle!
I knew that George and Meca had maintained close contact with Grethe and Gunnar and even had thoughts of a visit to their home in Norway. George and Meca had been managers for Karl Jacobs, the owner of Monkey Bay Marina. I contacted Karl by email and he quickly gave me the telephone number of G&M. I went ashore in Placencia, called them and they proceeded to get in touch with G&G's family in Norway, letting them know the situation and that rescue was underway.
Bob of SHAMAL, having just arrived in Florida from Belize and still on the radio, took up phone contact with G&M, relaying updates to the family.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard, through the 14300 net, was asking for some SAILABOUT information, specifically a description of the vessel and the crew. Because I knew them, Gene asked for help. I described the vessel, then the crew.
Here's where it gets touchy! I said they were both in excellent health, in their early 40s (key!) and quite fit. I said Gunnar was about 5'10" and about 180 pounds. Then I said Grethe was about 5'5" and..........gee, do you want to guess a lady's weight ON A WORLDWIDE RADIO NET? EVEN IN AN EMERGENCY? Well, I made my best guess, and hoping to add a little humor to a treacherous situation, begged for Grethe's forgiveness in case they could hear me.
Well, I haven't had a chance for direct contact with G&G since the incident, but I will remind Grethe that I did UNDERSTATE her age by 10 years, so I should be given some credit for that! Any support in this regard would be greatly appreciated.
Also, G&G had taught me some Norwegian phrases before their departure. All I could think of as time slowly marched by was one that basically meant "nice day." We used it often on the docks. So when it appeared rescue was imminent, I asked Damarri to transmit to SAILABOUT (spelled phonetically and with apology to all Norwegians) "feen dawg ee dawg." DAMARRI passed the message and replied "We don't know what it means, but it got a laugh over the radio from SAILABOUT." I was glad I could bring a little smile to my dear friends in their terrible situation.
At 10:30 a.m. when it was confirmed that G&G were safely aboard BELNOR, I gave a big Texas "wahoo" over the radio. Shortly thereafter, the 14300 guys pointed out that because I am not a licensed ham operator and the emergency had been resolved, "we can no longer talk to you on the radio, Hal." I replied I understood, but that this would not be "the first night this old cowboy spent alone," to quote a famous Texas songwriter.
Feen dawg ee dawg, G&G. No more "f...n."
The Norwegians: Knut, Marius, Gunnar & Kristian