In 1990, after the successes with Damiana, I had John Shuttleworth design Nai’a, (Dolphin in Hawaiian) an all-out 30’ carbon fiber racing trimaran, with a 50’ wing mast. I sailed Nai’a for the Save The Dolphins Project of Earth Island Institute, with their name on the mast, dolphin graphics on the spinnaker, and “Save The Dolphins” on the outriggers.
Nai’aCapsize In First Race
Nai’aCapsize In Transpacific Record Attempt
On day 30, we were well ahead of record time, with under 300 miles to go to the finish at Misake, near Tokyo Bay. We had sailed through several low pressure systems, and had one more to go with winds due to pick up, but were running comfortably under full main and spinnaker in about 15-18 knots of wind. I felt confident, had my smaller sails laid out to change down to, and went below to rest.
But I fell asleep for about an hour, and woke up feeling Nai’a had picked up speed in the freshening breeze. Just as I was coming up to get the spinnaker down, Nai’a surfed down a wave and stuffed her bow, pitch-poled and capsized. I dove back inside the cabin, and was soon standing on the cabin roof in water to my crotch. I got my emotions under control and went into survival mode. I opened the escape hatch and got out with my emergency bags, cut loose the life raft, inflated it and got in. I activated the EPIRB (emergency radio beacon), and within two hours a Japanese search and rescue plane was over-head.
With a hand-held radio I made contact with the plane, and was told we were too far out for a helicopter rescue, that a ship was being diverted to pick me up. Japanese search and rescue did a very professional jobcontacted my coordinator and parents in California and circled over-head until the Century Highway No2, a car carrying Japanese ship arrived during the night to pick me up.
I spoke to the captain of the ship on my radio and was told he saw my lighted raft and they would put a life boat over to come pick me up. I was relieved that the huge ship would not have to come close for the pick-up. But to my horror, by mistake, the ship drifted down on me and I was pinned against the side of the ship in the raft. I panicked and didn’t know what to do but scream in the radio to back away. I heard the captain say he couldn’t hear me, that my batteries must be dead. Eventually, the ship pulled away, and after about an hour of dealing with engine trouble on the life boat, I was picked up and taken aboard the ship. I arrived two days later in Yokohama on board the Century Highway No2, grateful to be alive, but with nothing but my sailing gear. By then Nai’a had drifted away, making it too difficult to organize a salvage effort, so I let that go.
Nai’aFound On Midway Atoll
I flew out to see Nai’a, and was granted an hour to see her and pay my respects. She was on the beach still upside-down, but with her outriggers broken off, laying next a highly endangered Hawaiian monk seal. I crawled inside her and took some pictures, and left her there to be eventually chain sawed up and cleared off the beach by the wildlife service. The irony of Nai’a sailing to save the dolphins, and finding her final resting place in a wildlife refuge for dolphins and seals is very touching.
Dolphin Spirit Project
A project of the International Marine Mammal Project of
Earth Island Institute
300 Broadway, Suite 28
San Francisco, CA 94133
phone: (415) 788-3666