Tuesday, January 15, 2008
A British yachtsman thousands of miles from home and seriously injured during a solo transatlantic voyage managed to summon help from an unlikely but familiar source: his local pub. Alan Thompson, 61, an experienced sailor, broke his pelvis while sailing 600 miles northeast of Bermuda. He was in severe pain and hardly able to move but he managed to use his satellite phone to call the Bull’s Head in Fishbourne, West Sussex. Roger Pocock, 62, the licensee and a friend of Mr Thompson, immediately alerted Falmouth coastguards, who located the yacht and organised a rescue operation by the US coastguard. Within hours two coastguards were airlifted aboard the 37ft yacht Padolu to help her owner to abandon the vessel and climb aboard an oil tanker that had responded to a mayday alert. Before the rescuers arrived, a doctor from Queen Alexandra hospital in Portsmouth spoke to Mr Thompson via satellite phone and prescribed medication that was stored on board. Mr Pocock said: “We received a call from him, saying he was in trouble. He said he’d been on deck and taken a fall. I don’t know why he didn’t put out an SOS, but maybe he didn’t want to make a big alert.” The yachtsman, from Chichester, in West Sussex, had just bought the Hunter Legend yacht from a Florida dealer and set off to sail her back to Britain alone. He had crossed the Atlantic on two previous occasions, but with a crew and 20 years ago.
Alan ThompsonA spokesman for Falmouth Coastguard said: “This gentleman had just spent quite a lot of money in Florida and bought this boat. He was in a terrific amount of pain. “We told him he would have to come off and it would be the last he would see of the boat, which isn’t insured. Now he’s back on his way to the USA and I’m afraid the yacht has been abandoned.” Mr Thompson had paid about $33,000 (£16,866) for the secondhand racing sailboat. It sleeps six people, has a full-length settee and U-shaped kitchen-diner in the salon. “He was talking on the phone to us, you could tell he was in agony,” the spokesman said. “He was upset at the fact he was going to have to leave it [the yacht] as you can imagine, after just paying out all that money. “We put it to him – you have to come off, we can’t get you treated on board. In the end he agreed it was the best course of action. It would break my heart. He was gutted but I think he knew that was it.” Mr Thompson had flown over to the US and probably stayed there for a few days to check the boat over first, which would have added to the cost. Padolu will either sink or the prevailing winds and current will take her back to America. If she hits the Gulf Stream she could even end up somewhere off the British Isles, the Coastguard said.