Yacht crew used humour to keep chins up
The only woman aboard the stricken yacht, Tholile, which was towed into Durban Harbour on Tuesday, said she kept cracking jokes to lift the spirits of her five colleagues.
Relieved to be back on dry land, Kaylee Featherstone, 20, said she tried to keep the humour flowing to distract her colleagues from the ordeal, despite suffering from sea sickness.
The Amanzimtoti resident said: “I wanted all of us to laugh because there was nothing else we could do while waiting for help. I knew that if one of us panicked, we would all panic, but fortunately that did not happen.
“We are so grateful to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) for all the help. I have sailed three times before and it was the first time that I experienced being towed in,” Featherstone said.
Engine failure and other problems left the Tholile stranded south of Port Edward on Monday morning. They had left Durban on Sunday night.
On board were Featherstone, skipper Greg Challis, Gert Breet, Johan Meiring, Tony Riley and Eddie Goldblatt.
They had planned to sail in the direction of Port Elizabeth, on their way to Mauritius for a three-week stay.
Speaking at the Point Yacht Club yesterday, Challis said they were relieved to be back.
He also said they were very grateful to the NSRI for its help, saying the rescue service had done a great job.
Challis said they had been making steady progress until they began experiencing difficulty.
“We were experiencing winds of between 30 and 35 knots and the waves had grown from 1.5m to 4m, big enough to break the boat,” he said.
Challis said a leak had developed and they had decided to return to Durban to get it checked before proceeding further.
That’s when the engines had failed, Challis said. The sails were also torn by the strong winds.
“I did not take the sails down because it was already late in the evening and only did so in the morning.”
Challis said Breet, who was sailing for the first time, had been very brave and had at some point jumped into the water to release ropes that had become snagged.
“He was a hero. Also Kaylee who kept us going with her great sense of humour. All that kept us really calm. We will still continue with our trip. We just need to get the boat checked out first.
“This was the worst trouble in my 12 years of sailing, but I have had worse weather conditions,” he said.
Featherstone’s mother, Pam, said she had only found out on Monday that they were having trouble and had somehow kept calm because the NSRI had assured her that everything was under control.
“I knew Kaylee would be okay because she had sailed before and I am so relieved to see them safe,” she said.