Call 911, or Rocket J?
Call 911, or Rocket J? If you're sailing on Pamlico Sound, North Carolina's racing hotbed, and if you're the least bit accident prone, try to stay close to Randy Boyles' s J30 Rocket J. Over the past 3 years the tight, veteran crew of Rocket J has pulled 5 people out of the drink in 4 separate emergencies.
"It boggles me that we've been the boat on the scene over and over," Boyles says. "Until you've been through a thing like that, you don't know how fast it moves."
Doyle credits the mutual trust of a team that has sailed together for years—Paul Baumbach, Neil Craven, Mike Hession, Tom Hughes, and Keith Sparks—for keeping Rocket J smooth under pressure. "The most important thing is to get something out there to the victim, to keep them secure while you get control of your boat," he says. And even if the victims are wearing flotation, it's not necessarily easy to retrieve them. Rocket J uses the Lifesling that Boyles has carried for 10 years.
The Rocket J crew has been changed by the rescues, Boyles says: "It was blowing 40 and it was cold when we pulled Dyk Luben out of the water back in 2000. He had been in the water long enough to start wondering about his future [a death roll threw Luben out of the J 22 he was skippering] and he didn't have much time left. The next time we went racing, everybody on our boat showed up wearing flotation."
And—the last person rescued by the crew was one of their own who went overboard wearing, yes, flotation.
Rocket J was awarded a US SAILING Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal.