On the evening of 20 April 1998, the 7,7 metre yacht “Renette” with three persons on board, was on passage from Cape Town to Hout Bay under motor. When the yacht’s motor failed, the vessel was in Chapman’s Bay, one Nm south of Duiker Island. The sea state was 5 – 6 metre swells rolling in from the South West, with a Force 8 SE wind blowing.
The owner only had prior sailing experience on Hobie Cats and had bought “Renette” four days previously. The crew could not restart the motor and were unable to raise sail. As the yacht drifted down past Vulcan towards Duiker Island the crew fired red flares and sent out a Mayday message.
Rescue 8, under the command of the Station Commander, Peter Adamo, launched at 1810 hours in fading light. Rescue 8A was also ordered to sea, but its departure was delayed by the difficulty experienced by Station 8 crew in getting through homegoing traffic.
At 1820 R8 sighted the casualty, beam-on to the sea, just to the West of and being carried down onto the line of breakers created by incoming swells striking the mass of confused rocks which run North from Duiker Island, and the surrounding kelp beds.
Conning from the upper steering position, Adamo closed the casualty and then turned head to swells, intending to allow the seas to veer him down on the yacht. As this manouvre was completed the starboard gear lever stuck in neutral. Subsequent examination has shown that the plastic clamp on the outer casing of the Morse actuating cable had broken.
By the time that Adamo had transferred to the wheelhouse, a larger than usual swell had thrown Rescue 8 onto her beamends, with her starboard gunwale almost awash. The same sea overturned the casualty, throwing the occupants into the water where the lifeboat lost sight of them amongst the kelp. One of the yacht’s crew had his lifejacket ripped off him bythe force of the swirling waters.
After a further short delay during which the starboard gear lever at the lower station refused to function, Adamo regained full control and turned again head to sea. Two of the yacht’s crew were then seen hanging onto the casualty’s upturned hull: only one wearing a lifejacket, with the third person in the water, wearing a lifejacket.
At this time R8A was not yet on scene, having only launched at 1830. Therefore, although the casualty’s position was in an area of high swells and numerous blinders only suitable for a craft with a very shallow draught, despite the danger Peter Adamo decided that he had to get R8 alongside to get the crew off. The casualty was drifting shorewards through the surf and kelp, so Adamo went inshore, ahead of the breaker line, and approached from the East, head to sea. Wearing harnesses and leaning over the bow in a human chain, the R8 crew were able to haul the one female crewmember of “Renette” out of the water. During this manouvre a blinder was observed not five metres off the port side of the lifeboat.
R8A arrived on scene at 1845, with Lianne Roper as coxswain. By now it was almost dark. Without a moment’s hesitation, showing great skill, she took R8A through the heavy, confused seas around the casualty and her two crew plucked the two male crewmembers off the sinking vessel. The water was up to his chin by the time the second man was rescued.
Both lifeboats returned to Hout Bay without incident.