As I personally couldn’t take part of the rescue operation, I concentrated on documenting this incredible undertaking. The outcome: 830 pictures and 13 HD videos. Because internet here is way too slow to upload a lot, here’s a small snippet of the big moment:
After having arrived at the french Navy base in the early morning, the only thing we could think of was our ship. We knew that today would be a calm day but tomorrow big swell would set in and then a rescue attempt would be impossible. The pilots of the helicopter spent hours on the phone trying to find someone who could help us. Gui went off to get two mobile phones so we could stay in contact. When we reached the marina Taina our rescuers were already there and packing the ‘Vaimiti 9′ with all gear needed. TEN minutes later we were underway towards Tetiaroa.
During the hours we spent on sea we made scetches and discussed possible ways to get the boat off the reef. When we finally arrived just before sunset we saw that she was actually nearly on dry land. The images I made just before we got into the helicopter showed a different picture. So there was absolutely no way we could pull her off the coral, we need to get a crane or a – excavator. And luckily Ti Ai Moana by coincidence also had a special excavator on exactly this island. And it can go through 2m of water ! After we got the permission (this island is private and owned by the son of Marlon Brando) next morning this big yellow beast made its way through the lagoon while Yann and Sebastian were tying ropes around the Rancho Relaxo.
With the help of the digger and the 1500HP of the Vaimiti 9 the 12-ton Rancho Relaxo finally started moving. And when her back was already touching the water and the excavator only needed to retreat – it happened. The arm touched the mast and it immediatly broke. Now we had a new challenge: To get the broken rigging of our ship on the deck before the waves again put her onto the reef. The wires and ropes were cut and the pieces of the mast and boom put on deck. And finally with extremely violent motion the Rancho hit the water – and stayed afloat.
On the inside the ship was a mess but nothing was broken. The rigging was gone, so was the boom, our handrails, the sprayhood and many other little things. But it had no hole – after spending two nights on the reef.
Right now we’re back in the Marina Taina in Tahiti. We try to get some order into the chaos on deck and calculate our options. It probably will take a few days for us to get to a decision as how to move on. Luckily nobody got hurt. And lucky us we have this amazing tank like ship that keeps us save.
So. Now we’re back on the internet and sort through hundreds of emails and FB-messages while trying to understand what had happened during the last three days.
We were on our way from Moorea to the Tuamotus when we hit the southern reef of Tetiaroa at around 3am local time. It took only a few seconds and the ship was thrown onto the rocks. Everything went very quick. The kids got lifevests on, I used the VHF to send out a MAYDAY with our position and situation. As soon as we knew that help would come (in the form of a Navy helicopter) we started to gather our most important things and prepared to abandon ship, I got the sails down and closed all windows just to be sure.
One of the best moments of our life – seeing the searchlight of the helicopter appear in the middle of the night. Followed by one of the scariest things we ever did: Leaving our home, our ship, all our posessions behind and jump into the dark ocean to climb onto the reef with the kids on our arms.
The crew of the helicopter did a fantastic job and got us up in the air in no time, fatigue setting in when we saw our shipwreck from above and escaped into the night to be brought to Papeete….