FORT LAUDERDALE, FL -- On Saturday, January 2, 2010, solo sailor
Dennis Clements was thrown into the Atlantic Ocean after his
35-foot sailboat rolled over in a fierce winter storm. He surfaced
to find himself swimming alone in 25-foot seas in the dark with no
life raft, EPIRB, radio, immersion suit or boat in sight -- 250
miles off North Carolina.
Three days later, the Missouri man was safely back at home with his family in Blue Springs.
Miraculously, Clements, 55, was able to tell the tale because he had an ACR Electronics SATELLITE 2 406™ EPIRB on board, which was triggered by the tremendous amount of water inside the boat.
"I knew I was at a dead end. I was deluged with water through the top hatch and pretty much upside down and under water by then, when I looked over and saw the EPIRB was on," Clements said. "I got dragged down with the boat and lost everything. When I came to the surface, I had no knowledge of direction and was alone in the dark."
Clements was travelling from New Jersey to the U.S. Virgin Islands when he ran into bad weather. After his boat, Gloria A Dios (Spanish for Praise be God) was knocked-over and 100 gallons of water poured in, he steered for the mainland. The weather grew worse. Rain, waves and water sloshing inside the boat automatically set off the EPIRB, and sent a satellite distress signal to authorities.
At 5:07 p.m., the U.S. Coast Guard Fifth District received the alert and launched an Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C. HC Hercules aircraft crew to search for the sailboat. They also issued an AMVER alert to seek assistance from other vessels in the area.
Following the LAT/LON coordinates provided by the SATELLITE 2 406™ EPIRB, the Hercules at 6:30 p.m. flew to the location of the crippled sailboat. Using his VHF radio, Clements told the crew that he was taking on water and needed rescue.
The C-130 dropped two life rafts for the mariner, then witnessed a "huge wave knock the boat down on its portside and dismast it," according to Clements. As he tried to use the small mainsail to steer toward the rafts, another wave smashed into the disabled boat and rolled it 360 degrees. That's when Clements was dragged down with the boat. He tore free and surfaced wearing only a life vest and the clothes on his back.
He floated aimlessly in the cold, dark Atlantic for what seemed like almost an hour. He prayed and held onto hope. Incredibly, Clements bumped into one of the Coast Guard rafts and heaved himself aboard, not believing his good fortune.
About 10:30 p.m., a Search and Rescue (SAR) team from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which was diverted from flight operations to assist the USCG in the rescue, was able to locate Clements. The Navy team extracted the sailor from 18 to 21-foot-seas and winds peaking at 45 knots. They flew more than 100 miles back to the carrier with the Hercules flying overhead, according to a Coast Guard news release.
Clements was given a medical review aboard the Eisenhower, and a USCG Jayhawk helicopter crew flew him safely back to Elizabeth City. He was back on solid ground on Sunday at 3:45 a.m.
Interviewed at home three days after his rescue, Clements recounted all the factors contributing to his amazing rescue. "I'm a completely satisfied customer of ACR Electronics. Your beacon played a significant part in saving me and being alive today," he said. "I consider your instrument [EPIRB] was instrumental in the rescue of my life."
An EPIRB is a satellite-signaling device of last resort, for use when all other means of self-rescue have been exhausted and where the situation is deemed to be grave and imminent, and the loss of life, limb, eyesight or valuable property will occur without assistance. All beacons must be registered following purchase. Simply go online to www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov. There are no monthly service fees.
About Cobham Life Support-ACR Products
Cobham Life Support -ACR Products www.acrelectronics.com, designs and manufactures a complete line of safety and survival products including EPIRBs, PLBs, AIS, SARTs, Strobe Lights, Life Jacket Lights, Search Lights and safety accessories. The quality systems of this facility have been registered by UL to the ISO 9001:2008 Series Standards. Recognized as the world leader in safety and survival technologies, ACR has provided safety equipment to the aviation and marine industries as well as to the military since 1956. The company is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and employs 200 at its manufacturing facility.