In the morning, we had headed back to the slip to pick up the ladies. We met up with Stacey and Cindy, had a good lunch and got our tanks filled at Pacific Wilderness dive shop (good fills). On the way out of the harbor I took pictures of some sailboats and Angel's Gate lighthouse.
There was a good afternoon wind with a fair amount of chop. Mel adjusted the speed and the autopilot to take us to Isthmus. I saw a cabin cruiser just outside Angel's Gate and looked to see if it might be the Giant Stride, but it wasn't. As we settled in for the trip over I saw a 32 foot cabin cruiser in front of us that seemed to be smoking a bit much. As we went along, I looked at my watch and saw that it was 2:05 PM. As we went on we were commenting on the boat some. Mel thought it might be a diesel engines smoking badly. I wasn't so sure. Usually only cold, 2 stroke outboards smoke like that. We were less than a mile away when Stacey commented to Cindy about the line of demarcation that the smoke caused. By now all of us were a bit uncomfortable with what we were seeing. A little bit closer and we could see the people crowded against the upper railing wearing life vests. There was smoke coming from a number of places on the vessel.
I climbed out along the starboard railing and kicked both bumpers loose over the side.
There was actually a green sailboat, about 28 ft. long, close to the boat as well. They
would've had a bit of trouble getting people aboard let alone stopping. As we got close to the up wind starboard stern of the cabin cruiser, they passed by on the port side from the bow. Mel pulled us close alongside, stern next to stern, starboard to starboard. I yelled at them to throw me a rope and one person jumped down to the rear deck and threw me a line. Stacey was at the stern and asked if they had called the Coast Guard. The reply was a frantic "help, we need help ".
I tried to control their boat from the bow with the rope. Mel kept the boats together at the stern. Stacey and Cindy helped the people off of the upper deck onto the Rapture. Some were a bit close to panicked, but with minor prompting they all moved forward to the front deck and sat down. A couple people did not have life vests on, including one gent who seemed to be the owner of the boat. He actually said he was going to stay on the boat. I yelled him to get off now. When everyone was aboard Mel pulled us away about 75 yards. It's unlikely a boat like that can explode, except maybe on TV, but I bet it could do quite a flame on.
Experiences like this are odd because you are so involved and getting so much sensory input, but really you are missing a lot of what everyone else is experiencing. I sort of knew what Stacy and Cindy were doing, but I have no idea what Mel was doing and I know he was working on overload with the boat and considering communications. Cindy said that she could feel the heat coming through the hull.
It's hard to say who contacted rescue personnel first, but we soon saw a Coast Guard boat coming out of Angel's Gate. A little after that, a red helicopter was circling overhead. Within minutes, a Baywatch boat was closing in on us and a little behind them was the first fireboat. Coast Guard got there first and wanted to know if everyone was off the boat. The surrealistic thing was that through the whole thing, the engines of the cabin cruiser kept running. The skipper had tried, but could not shut them off. They said that they had used all their fire extinguishers. It didn't help.
A couple Coast Guard personnel came aboard. First they wanted everyone off the front deck into the back. Then they had them go into the stateroom to get them out of the way. They asked what happened. The Skipper said that he didn't know. They were going along and he felt like he was losing power, but nothing bad. Within three minutes from then, they knew there was a fire and just couldn't get it out or shut the engines off. Then the CG wanted to get the people out of the inside cabin so that no one would get sick.
The skipper of the cabin cruiser seemed pretty resigned and fairly annoyed. I think one of his biggest annoyances was just wondering what caused the fire in the first place. He was obviously frustrated that they couldn't get the fire out, but seemed relieved enough that no one had gotten hurt.
By now the Baywatch boat had started pumping water on the craft. Shortly after that, the first fireboat joined them shooting water from their front deck water cannons. We could see another fireboat coming and another Baywatch boat as well. The firemen on the first fireboat was already donning breathing gear. His boat approached the burning vessel with large bumpers over the side. He boarded across fairly choppy water with a hose and went into the cabin. Even with gear I wouldn't have wanted to go in there and it still wouldn't have given him good access to the fire in the engine compartment. The other fireboat pulled up beside the first and started to assist. In a short time they had it under control.
On the Rapture, the Coast Guard had gotten the immediate information of who was who and what had happened so far as it was known. They called Baywatch to see if they could take the people to shore. Offloading them was exciting and the boats bumped a bit. The coast Guard thanked us for our assist, but he wouldn't let me try their .60. I said I just wanted to put the cabin cruiser out of its misery. He said the firemen wouldn't like that, but it would have been an oily wreck anyway. They boarded their boat again. Good boat handling meant that they never touched the Rapture either time they came along side.
The show wasn't completely over. The main fireboat showed up about then. It was a huge,
bright red leviathan. The main forward water cannon could have sunk the cabin cruiser in
Mel calculated that the various bumping would amount to 400 or 500 dollars worth of damage to the Rapture, but he thought it worth it.
We started to get underway again for Catalina and the main event.
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