While I don't know exactly what caused the boat to sink
|Product Name||ResQLink+™ PLB|
|Date of Rescue||06/14/2015|
|Saved By||United States Coast Guard & "The Office" Sportfisher|
|Beacon Purchased From||Gift|
|Lives Saved||5 people|
We left the boat ramp Sunday morning at 4am in search of Dolphin and Sailfish, and we rode out to Georgetown Hole (about 60nm East of Charleston, SC) without any problems at 20-25 kts. Both bilge pumps were working, both bilges stayed dry for the ride. About 20 minutes after we started fishing, the boat took on too much water and quickly sank out from under us.
While I don't know exactly what caused the boat to sink, my guess is this:
Once we slowed down to trolling speed, the waves were spaced out to where we would take a wave over the bow every once in a while, but nothing that seemed too terrible. I'm guessing that the waves coming over the bow filled all of the bow lockers, and those small drains were blocked by leaves and/or all the gear inside the lockers.
I think that once the water in the lockers weighed the bow down, any water in the bilge drained to the bow, away from the pumps. It seemed like it happened so fast at this point -- once the bow got heavy, it plowed more, causing more water to collect in the bilge, making it heavier, in turn causing it to take more water over the bow. Before we knew it, there was standing water on the deck. We cut all of the lines that were out and I got one, maybe two Mayday calls out from the boat's VHF. Everyone got their life jackets on and I grabbed the ACR ditch bag (emergency bag) that I keep readily available, at arms length right on top of the console.
Once we were in the water, the boat was completely gone almost immediately. We all stayed together. I got the handheld VHF and the PLB out of the ditch bag and resumed communication with the CG. I was a little worried at first since they wouldn't verify that they were seeing my beacon -- they were asking me to deploy a device that had already been deployed. That was probably the worst feeling of the day. After about 10 minutes, they said they saw the signal, and broadcast our coordinates on the radio. Communication was tough from a handheld -- since VHF is Line of Sight, you lose comms when you are right on the water and in the trough of a wave.
Luckily 2 boats were in the area and headed our way. The Office out of Georgetown got to us first, and picked us up. The CG chopper arrived a little while later, and the CG vessel made it out to pick us up and take us home.
Aside from the obvious, everything went really well. It was less than 1 hour from the first Mayday call until we were on board The Office. The crew stayed composed and nobody panicked. The fact that this happened in June instead of January was a blessing. I can't thank the boats that responded enough for their support. Larry, Tom, and Charlie (the crew of The Office) were incredibly accommodating, and offered us water, gatorade and food if we needed. They were running a charter, and pulled lines in to run over and help us.
I can't thank you guys enough for producing a product that I can count on to save my life. I didn't get a DSC call out, so literally the only thing that the CG had to get my coordinates was this beacon. Even if I had a handheld GPS, there's no way I could have clearly broadcast my coordinates verbally with my handheld VHF. The USCG is actually using this story to promote EPIRBS and PLB's around Charleston, since it helped so much.