The missing sailboat and its daring recovery
by Alana Stillitano Aug 28, 2020 03:19 UTC
Finding Eclipse © Alana Stillitano
The sun had finally reached its peak through the clouds after days of windy and rough seas. A young man spotted a blue dot in the distance after searching the Atlantic for days from a seaplane. He zoomed in closer and saw it. His house, his sailboat, the Eclipse. After three long days of searching, she was there, perfectly erect and resting in the mud a short distance from the shore.
It’s not every day that Sea Tow Key Biscayne Captains Peter Dominguez and Bill Rychlicki are called in because of a missing boat. Their most common calls for the locally owned water assistance franchise include providing tows, jump starts, fuel deliveries and more to boaters. However, with more boaters than ever on the water this season, especially new boaters, there is a lot to learn about safety and protocol at the helm.
Just three days earlier, the wind was blowing across the ocean water, sending salt spray across the face of a young Phil Gutowski as he made his way to the marina where his Tayana 42, Eclipse, was moored . But as he made his way to Anchorage # 91, where the bright blue hull of the Eclipse peaked – he saw nothing. The boat was gone.
Thousands of questions go through a person’s mind when you can’t find your boat after you anchor it: Has it been stolen? How did she manage to free herself? How did she get through the mooring field without hitting anything else?
The days passed but in vain. Eclipse was nowhere to be found and hope was rapidly dwindling.
Finally, Phil was able to search for Eclipse in a seaplane. The sky had cleared and a spec was visible a few miles away. After flying a little closer, Phil and the pilot were able to see the distinctive blue hull. The hatches were still closed, the battery voltage was good and the hold was almost dry! A dream come true.
Captain Dominguez and Captain Rychlicki had to wait until high tide to bring Eclipse back to freedom. They dragged her about a mile through the sand and shallow rocks of the shore until the water was deep enough to float on its own; lifting the weight off Phil’s shoulders.
Even though it seemed like all hope was lost, Phil never gave up. With the help of the boating community and Sea Tow Key Biscayne, the Eclipse returned home as it left. While learning a hard lesson, always make sure your vessel is securely stowed with the proper moorings before leaving the dock or mooring.