China / Society

Chinese-run ship rescues 72-year-old Frenchman stranded in Caribbean

By Xie Chuanjiao ( Updated: 2016-01-16 00:46

Chinese-run ship rescues 72-year-old Frenchman stranded in Caribbean

Chief officer of the Winning Joy went down to the sailing boat from the cargo ship to tie ropes to connect the two vessels for the rescue. [Photo provided to]

Chinese-run ship rescues 72-year-old Frenchman stranded in Caribbean

Bernard Couvet after his rescue by crew members of the Winning Joy. Photo taken on Aug 18, 2015.[Photo provided to]

A Chinese-run cargo ship rescued a 72-year-old solo French sailor after his navigation equipment broke down in the Caribbean and he drifted without food or water.

The MV Winning Joy, an 87,417 ton bulk carrier run by Qingdao Winning International Management Co., came to the rescue of Bernard Couvet, aboard the yacht SV.Kaflo, three days after he ran out of food and water, and 19 days after his electronic navigation systems broke down.

His diesel oil had run out and he could only maneuver the boat on wind power. He continued to transmit Mayday distress calls in hopes of finding rescue from passing ships after a tanker failed to help him and left a few days before.

The story only came to light when the Winning Joy returned to its home port of Qingdoa in eastern China.

The crew of the Winning Joy, picked up the distress signal on August 18, 2015, found Couvet and his yacht and managed to rescue him, with his craft, despite dangerous high winds.

Li Fubin, master of the Winning Joy, said, it was his first voyage as a ship master and he would remember the salvage experience forever because he was so proud of it.

"Offering timely help to those who suffer at sea is the duty and responsibility that any Chinese is obliged to take and we should all embrace our tradition and virtue of helping others," he said.

Li said he was cautious at first when he received the weak and intermittent salvage request from the very high frequency (VHF) radio, as the area is known to be infested by pirates.

"We contacted the boat immediately through radio and we confirmed it was a sailing boat in distress, and then we turned our ship to head to the signal source area and made the application to the ship company for rescue approval."

It was 4:40 am when they discovered the signal and when they received the approval from the company at 5:20, they spotted an elderly man on a sailing boat struggling at sea.

The cargo ship's crew risked huge waves and strong wind to conduct the salvage.

Song Zhisong, a sailor aboard the Winning Joy, said the first rope that tied between the two vessels broke shortly after being attached was fixed because it was hard to control the relative speeds.

"Then our master ordered almost the full crew to get involved and then we fired a line with a special appliance that allowed a thicker cable to successfully connect the two vessels," Song said.

The crew members pull the ships closer and then threw a rope ladder down to the sailing boat.

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