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Shell vessel aids in rescue of stranded mariner with cat tucked in his coat

  • Author: Mark Thiessen
  • Updated: April 28, 2016
  • Published October 20, 2015

A Frenchman with his cat tucked inside his clothing made a daring leap of faith when he jumped to a waiting rescue ship from his sailboat, which was being battered by high seas south of Alaska.

The Coast Guard captured the dramatic video from a C-130 Hercules airplane monitoring Tuesday's rescue. The man's identity hasn't been released, but Petty Officer Lauren Steenson in Kodiak said the sailboat was named La Chimere.

The man activated a location beacon Tuesday about 400 miles south of Cold Bay, Alaska. The C-130 was dispatched to assess the situation.

The airplane crew radioed the mariner, who reported his 30-foot sailboat lost its rudder and rigging in heavy seas and 46-mph winds.

"With the 20-foot seas, his boat is getting pretty well thrown around," she said.

He had no control, and the boat was "pretty much dead in the water," adrift in high seas.

The Coast Guard contacted the Polar Pioneer, which is an oil drilling vessel used by Royal Dutch Shell off Alaska's northwest coast this summer. The ship and support vessels were nearby as they make their way back to Port Angeles, Washington.

The Polar Pioneer sent a support ship, the Tor Viking, to rescue the sailor.

Video shot by the Coast Guard shows the Frenchman on the rigging pole near the bow of his sailboat, riding wave after wave until making a dramatic leap over the railing of the Tor Viking.

The video shows the man disappearing behind the railing head first with his legs last to disappear. After a few seconds, a crew member walks toward the man, who then stands up.

Steenson said the pilot of the C-130 told her the sailor placed his cat inside either his sweater or coat before making the leap.

Once the man was safely aboard the Tor Viking, the Coast Guard marked the position of the sailboat for future reference.

The Coast Guard had also requested help from the Alaska Air National Guard, which sent two helicopters and two HC-130s from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, said Alaska Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Eagerton. The guardsmen turned around after the man was rescued, Eagerton said.

"It's good training at the very least," he said.

It wasn't immediately clear if the man rescued would continue with the Shell ships to Washington state.

The sailboat left Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on Oct. 13, headed to Vancouver. Steenson said reports didn't indicate if his final destination was Vancouver in Washington or British Columbia.

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