The South African Maritime Mobile Net (SAMMN) has saved the lives of two yachtsmen, not once, but twice in less than four years.
Radio ham operator Graham Griggs from Bushmans River Mouth decided to check on two yachts which he escorted from Brazil to Cape Town, Jess Hawes and Heather Holland on board Dalkiri and another yacht Faraway with skipper John (surname unknown) on board.
In doing so he played a huge roll in saving the lives of Hawes and Holland when their yacht Dalkiri ran into trouble off the Brazilian coastline.
Griggs said, “Dalkiri was about 2500 kilometres out of Rio de Janeiro and Faraway about 1000 kilometres ahead of them”.
His call to Dalkiri was intercepted by the skipper on Faraway who informed Griggs that he has picked up a “Mayday” distress call from Hawes on Dalkiri.
“The yacht was taking on water from a leak below the water line and they needed help,” John said.
With John on frequency Griggs passed the “Mayday” to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Cape Town who in turn passed it on to MRCC Brazil.
“I called John to thank him and to give him a synopsis of the sea pressure chart and the weather forecast for the next 22 hours when I heard Hawes on Dalkiri calling me,” Griggs said.
We confirmed the current position of the yacht.
Griggs said that he told Hawes that he has reported his position to the MRCC.
Windy conditions at that latitude made it impossible for John on Faraway to turn around to pick up the couple so Griggs contacted MRCC in Cape Town again.
“MRCC Cape Town confirmed that a Brazilian Navy frigate and a merchant ship were on route to Hawes’s position the estimated time of arrival (ETA) for the merchant ship was 23:00 UTC on May 4 while the frigate would reach them at 13:00 UTC on May 5,” Griggs said..
The information was relayed to the Dalkiri which struggled with their pumps only just controlling the water level caused by the leak.
The merchant ship arrived ahead of the frigate and stood by until a helicopter from the Brazilian frigate “Bosisio” airlifted the couple to safety on Tuesday, May 5 and took them to Rio de Janeiro.
Their yacht was lost at sea but the couple were taken to Brazil in good spirits according to Griggs.
The SA Weather and Disaster Information Service (SAWDIS) received communications from the captain Pamplona of the Brazilian frigate.
It read, “Hi there, I am captain Pamplona from the Brazilian Navy. Must congratulate Mister Graham. I received the Dalkiri Mayday message from MRCC Cape Town and was in charged of the rescue plan. Was a great operation. Best regards”.
The couple had another close call about ten nautical miles off the Brazilian coast in April 2005 but at that time their yacht was saved.
This is not the first time that Griggs was involved in a maritime rescue mission.
He also assisted with daily radio communications in search for yachtsman Jure Sterk that went missing aboard the yacht "Lunatic" in January 2009.
SAWDIS commended Griggs for his roll in assisting maritime vessels virtually on a daily basis.
Griggs is a member of the SA Maritime Mobile Net.
The couple left Brazil on Monday night and arrived safely in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
The article was published in the Talk of the Town of the 22 may 2009. The paper is based in Port Alfred, about twenty kilos from where Grham Griggs operates his control room from.