PEACOCK SPIT — A sailor barely avoided becoming another grim statistic in the annals of the Graveyard of the Pacific on Jan. 3 after his sailboat’s engine conked out and his mast blocked him out of the vessel’s cabin in the midst of a gale and violent seas about a mile off Cape Disappointment.
The 36-foot vessel’s sole occupant contacted Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment by cell phone at about 2:45 p.m. after the boat lost power and the mast had fallen, causing the vessel to become adrift near the Columbia River bar — a zone that has claimed hundreds of watercraft over the centuries.
There could hardly have been a worse time to be in the ocean off the Pacific County coast. Gusts reached 60 mph at the time and there was a combined swell of up to 20 feet.
Crew members aboard a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat were diverted from training operations nearby. An MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crew from Coast Guard Sector North Bend was also transiting the area and diverted to render assistance. The aircrew first located the distressed vessel at 3:35 p.m. and initially intended to provide on-scene weather information and guide in the approaching 47-foot MLB.
However, since the mast had fallen, preventing the man from entering the cabin to avoid the harsh elements, helicopter crew decided to hoist the man from the vessel rather than wait for the motor lifeboat. At 4:04 p.m. the rescue swimmer entered the water and helped hoist the man. The aircrew transported the man to Air Station Astoria, where he was found not to be in need of medical treatment.
The abandoned sailboat, with a homeport of Port Ludlow indicated on its transom, was blown by the southwest wind up the peninsula before coming ashore about half a mile south of the Oysterville Road beach approach in Surfside. An incident management team is monitoring the situation to prevent or mitigate any environmental impact, the coast guard said in a press release.
The sailor has not been officially identified.