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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    54 days and 700 miles adrift, abandoned yacht makes shore

    Adrift 54 days, boat comes ashore on Martha's Vineyard. (nytimes.com)
    It was obvious, to the people on Norton Point Beach who spotted a sailing yacht adrift and bobbing in the surf about 1,000 feet offshore on July 5, that the vessel was in distress. The jib had been shredded. The boom was broken. No one was at the helm as the 36-footer drifted toward the opening to Katama Bay.
    "We got our guy on board," Edgartown fire Chief Peter Shemeth said. "There was nobody on the boat. The radios were still on the weather channel, there were solar chargers powering the radios. It was kind of eerie. The bunks were made up, everything was pristine."

    While first responders didn't find a medical emergency, they did find a somewhat miraculous, somewhat ironic, story as they began to unravel the mystery.

    It turns out, the boat had been adrift for 54 days. She had managed to float mostly unscathed through busy East Coast shipping lanes, avoid the jagged, rocky New York and New England shoreline, and land on a soft, sandy spit of beach more than 700 miles from where her owner abandoned ship, thinking he would never see his vessel again.
    Bill Heldenbrand had faced a quick, tough decision on May 12, as he sailed solo from Jacksonville, Florida, to Bermuda, where he planned to lay over for a few days and then sail on to Europe.
    He had no previous sailing experience when he bought the vessel in December 2012, but he had dreamed of life at sea.
    He quickly discovered how different the open ocean is compared with the protected waters of the St. John's River in Jacksonville.

    About 550 miles off the East Coast, still about 400 miles from Bermuda, he ran into a fierce storm with waves topping 20 feet and steady winds of 40 knots, he said.
    "I had to make the decision really fast," he said. "I was stopped in the water, and the oil tanker was going by at 14.5 knots. My radio range was only 5-6 miles. He was about out of radio range."

    The tanker changed course to take him aboard, and he set Running Free adrift.
    Much more at the link; Heldenbrand is an interesting guy.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    The Far North
    Love stories like this, a happy ending for a "sailor"! And a neat sailor at that, boat in "pristine condition, beds made"! Wow!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    He had no previous sailing experience when he bought the vessel in December 2012, but he had dreamed of life at sea.
    And he was planning on sailing solo from FL to Europe? Yikes!
    The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.--Albert Einstein

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