San Francisco – After his boat was sunk by a whale off the coast of Mexico, a Northern California man is on board a freighter that he hopes will bring him to Panama in time to meet his wife for their 23rd wedding anniversary.
Max Young, of Sacramento, was sailing alone late Tuesday about 40 miles west of La Playa, Mexico, when his 50-foot boat was hit by a whale, lost its steering and started taking on water, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Pamela Boehland said.
The impact from the collision knocked out the sailboat's steering, Boehland said.
Young's wife, Debra Young, who has been able to talk to her husband while he's on board the merchant ship as it makes its way to Panama, said he's not expected to make it back to Sacramento until Monday or Tuesday of next week, a day or two after their anniversary.
"I'm looking forward to him being home," she told The Associated Press on Sunday. "If he's not here (by their anniversary) then hopefully I'll be there. I might fly and meet him," she said.
Max Young, 67, has been sailing for at least 30 years, but having worked on boats with his father, who was a commercial fisherman, he's been on the ocean most of his life, Debra Young said.
This case is one of those success stories...A man went out prepared, the worst happened to him, and he was able to respond.
- Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Pamela Boehland
That experience and preparation for emergencies probably helped turn a potential tragedy into a dramatic rescue.
"The fact that Young was prepared with all the right safety equipment helped save his life," said Lt. Charles Kelly, of the Coast Guard's command center in Alameda, Calif. "His EPIRB (emergency beacon) delivered an exact position to us, contact information that allowed us to quickly discern the sail plan of and number of persons on the vessel, and really took a lot of the search out of the search and rescue."
With that information, officials at the command center were able to immediately direct the merchant ship, which was about 60 miles away, to the sinking craft.
Meanwhile, as the rescue efforts were just beginning, Young was initially unaware that the boat was taking on water, his wife said.
"He was steering the boat and trying to get it back on course," she said. "It took him a while to realize he didn't have any steerage at all. It took him a bit longer to realize he was taking on water."
Young stuffed a mattress into the hole caused by the whale, turned on four bilge pumps and was "trying to bale out water as fast as he could, because he didn't know how long it would take to be rescued," Debra Young said.
When the freighter arrived around 4 a.m. Wednesday, Young scrambled off his boat by a rope ladder thrown by the ship's crew. He was unharmed.
"This case is one of those success stories," Boehland said. "A man went out prepared, the worst happened to him, and he was able to respond," she said.
The Youngs, who have four adult children, between the ages of 46 to 21, from previous marriages, have traveled around the world in the sailboat
Max Young, a former industrial arts teacher in Antioch, was on the final leg of a trip from the East Coast to a marina in Emeryville, Calif., when the boat was hit by the whale.