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Three Canadians, including nine-year-old boy, rescued from high seas off Hawaii

By Sue Richards last modified Feb 09, 2012 11:02 PM

Published: 2012-02-09 23:02:35
Countries: Canada , Hawaii

As reported by the Winnipeg Free Press

First the power on their sailboat cut out, then they were knocked into the stormy waters of the Pacific by the very ship that was steaming to their rescue.

Nearly two days after they were plucked from roiling ocean waters some 450 kilometres off the coast of Hawaii, three Canadians — including a nine-year-old boy — are safe on dry land and telling a compelling story about their dramatic rescue.

"I just came to realize what this was and how incredible it was that it turned out like it did," an often emotional Brad James told reporters in Honolulu. "There's a whole bunch of guys on a boat that saved my life, saved my son's life and saved my brother's life."

Thirty-two-year-old James, his son West, and 29-year-old brother Mitchell were sailing from the Mexican tourist destination of Puerto Vallarta to Hilo, Hawaii, when their boat lost power in weather the U.S. Coast Guard described as "extreme." The vessel's engine overheated and its forestay was badly damaged. When the trio of Canadians, all from Alberta, tried to rig a makeshift sail, they lost their mast.

Brad James used a satellite phone to call for help as waves rolled over the deck of the sailboat. The coast guard then contacted the Horizon Reliance, a container ship that was about 240 kilometres away, to come to the rescue of the stranded Canadians. The ship changed direction and travelled at full speed to reach the drifting, hobbled sailboat, arriving in the area at 1:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday — about six hours after James had called for help.

But the crisis wasn't over. The sheer size of the hulking 272-metre container ship, combined with the high seas and strong winds at the time, created more problems for the struggling sailors. "They got closer and they got bigger. I didn't really have any perspective as to how big this boat was," James recounted. "I said - It looks like we might hit the boat!"

At that point two huge waves came at the sailboat, pushing them right up against the huge container ship. The three Canadians, all wearing life-jackets and struggling to stay on deck, then saw the waves drop before a part of the container ship's underside — well below the surface of the water — shot straight up and went right through the tiny sailboat. "I said - We're not going to die, but we are going to sink" James recalled. "The boat went down, we jumped overboard and we started swimming."

Read full story at the Winnipeg Free Press