Rescued at sea for the second time in four months

Loss of their rudder in November last year meant their boat “Viewfinder” had to be towed to Madeira. At the end of February this year, 600 miles off the Cape Verdes, Viewfinder’s new rudder broke, this time requiring a rescue by oil tanker for the double-handed crew Jim Laverdière and Janette Wygergangs and sadly the loss of Viewfinder.

Published 10 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Pointe Claire couple Jim Laverdière and Janette Wygergangs have been rescued at sea for the second time in four months and this time they’ve lost their C 36 sailboat Viewfinder for good.

At the end of February, the couple and two guests were rescued  600 nautical miles off the coast of Mindelo, Cape Verde, by the Amazon Guardian, a 750-ft. oil tanker which was diverted for the rescue by Portuguese Search and Rescue. The Viewfinder is only 36 feet long. The contrast in size between an oil tanker and sailboat made the approach an ultra-delicate procedure.

“Luckily, the rescue took place during the day and the weather conditions were good,” Laverdière said. “There were a couple of tense moments, but our lives were never in danger.”

It was a broken rudder that crippled the sailboat which was on its way to Martinique. The boat was too far from land make its way back with such extensive damage, so Laverdière used his satellite phone to contact search and rescue in Halifax. They contacted the Portuguese authorities who began to look for a vessel in the region that could lend a helping hand.

The tanker dropped the couple and two guests off at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands where they will wait for the insurance claim to be processed.

The couple’s first rescue took place last November after Viewfinder’s rudder was badly damaged by submerged debris. The boat was towed by fellow Quebecer Richard Larivière, who was sailing in the region until a Portuguese rescue boat arrived to take over the tow to Madeira. The boat’s rudder was replaced and the couple continued their sailing adventure.

This latest incident left the Viewfinder too badly damaged to salvage, so the couple and their guests had to abandon ship permanently with only the most basic of personal effects in tow. The boat will drift with the currents until it hits land, quite possibly the eastern seaboard of either Canada or the United States.

The insurance claim was processed quickly last Nov., so the couple is hoping for the same result this time. Laverdière has his purchasing eye on a couple of boats that just happen to be in the Caribbean. The couple will take the biggest hit financially when they outfit the new boat. All the bedding, kitchen supplies, nautical equipment that isn’t covered by insurance and an expensive generator had to be left behind on the Viewfinder.

Laverdière and Wygergangs aren’t happy they lost Viewfinder, but they are safe and their spirits are good.

“It’s just another adventure to add to the list,” Wygergangs said. “We lost the boat. We got rescued. We got back on land. And now we’re continuing with our lives.”

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Comment received 5 April 2013

I have just read your news article on the French Canadian couple that had to abandon their yacht due to a damaged rudder. Whether or not the damage was enough to warrant the time and expense of diverting a commercial ship is something that only the crew can decide, however, I feel that the apparent ease with which M. Laverdière has adjusted to the loss of his vessel and processed his insurance claim shows some insight.

What I find startling is that they left their yacht to float around the trade winds route to become a danger to other shipping. This is still in the optimum weather window for a tradewinds crossing and there is a chance that another unsuspecting yacht could hit the Viewfinder and come to grief due to their recklessness.

Surely taking a few moments to open the seacocks and cut a pipe would have been possible prior to step off the yacht? To scuttle the yacht would have been the correct thing to do and not leave it as a danger to shipping.


J Burns

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