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Navy helps sailors get off the beach

Oct 2, 2009


To the editor: The tale of the grounding and tragic loss of his boat on the Brazilian coast told by Neil Malik in the July/August issue made for gripping reading. It served as a vivid reminder of the unusual good fortune that my shipmate and I enjoyed in a similar situation on the northwest coast of Crete in September 1956.

There were myriad circumstances surrounding our adventure, but recounting them here would make for too long a story. As it turned out, we were able to draw on resources that Mr. Malik could only dream about. In brief, we found ourselves at the end of a terrific storm in heavy surf with a shredded mainsail; the main halyard and topping lift lost to the masthead; and an engine that was wet and inoperable. Our anchors held, but the weight of the seas broke both chains. The boat was starting to pound on the bottom and, to get out of the surf, we were determined to get the boat onto the beach.

While my shipmate stayed aboard securing things, I walked ashore and somehow commandeered a Greek army unit with an old U.S. Army 6 x 6 truck. With their help we dragged the boat, a wooden Abeking & Rasmussen yawl, straight up out of the surf and onto the beach. To get back to sea a couple of days later (a lot of details are being skipped here), we sought help from a U.S. Navy fleet anchored in Suda Bay at the eastern end of the island. (It helped that both of us had recently served as officers on a destroyer in the Pacific.) The Commodore arranged for an LCU (Landing Craft Utility) and an underwater demolition team to help us. This was correctly rationalized as being good drill for the men involved.

With all of that equipment and manpower, getting the boat back into the water was a piece of cake. Shortly after dawn, on a calm day, with a perfectly calm sea, the boat was towed straight out and clear of the beach and secured to a small anchor borrowed from the LCU. Using scuba gear, a search for the lost anchors was conducted, but they had been buried in sand and nothing was found. Aside from pride, our only loss from this whole adventure was the two anchors!

—Ed Karkow lives in Waldoboro, Maine.