NORFOLK, Va. – Three people and a dog were rescued Friday from a life raft in the Atlantic Ocean about 900 miles northeast of Bermuda after their sailboat sank in a storm, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The 49-foot-sailboat Blue Pearl sank Thursday evening after being badly battered from two days of storms, according to an audio recording with the sailboat’s captain posted by the Coast Guard.
“We were preparing to die,” said 55-year-old Leonard Rorke, a United Kingdom citizen who is the sailboat’s owner.
Also rescued were 29-year-old Henri Worthalter of Belgium, 50-year-old Lisa Rorke of the United Kingdom, and Dexter, a Jack Russell terrier.
Coast Guard officials were notified Thursday by the International Rescue Center after a message came in saying people were in a life raft and needed help. Coast Guard watch standers in Portsmouth, Va., issued a call for help about 6:30 p.m. to any commercial ships in the vicinity of the life raft. Three ships answered the call and diverted their course to aid in the search.
The sailboat’s crew had an electronic position-indicating radio beacon in the life raft that allowed the Coast Guard to direct ships toward their location. Rorke said there was poor visibility, 25-foot waves and winds reaching about 40 miles per hour. He also said the life raft had to be patched up and that they were holding on “for dear life.”
“We were bailing water. It was life and death,” he said in the recording of the rescue’s debriefing. “We’re very grateful. We are very, very lucky.”