Monday, July 18, 2011

No room for "what ifs"

photo by Aubrey, Chicago to Mackinac, 7/24/2010

Aubrey has rediscovered his love for sailing within the last year. I'm glad he has something physical to do. I generally don't worry about him when he's out on Lake Michigan. The harsh environment of Lake Michigan turned scary for him last night during some severe weather that hit overnight.

I went to bed around 10:30pm knowing it was likely he would get caught in but didn't let myself worry about it. I was woken up at 3am by a text from Aubrey that said "safe through the storms everyone's fine. Finishing soon." I went back to sleep.

Aubrey called me at 7:45am after they had finished and eaten breakfast. This is when he told me that those storms were the scariest he's ever found himself in. Another member of his crew was 70% sure the boat was not going to hold up. Aubrey said they had to stop sailing the race and basically just hold on to make it through. Now I was concerned. I had no idea it had been that bad.

I had no idea until I hung up with Aubrey that it could have been so very much worse.

Statement from Chicago Yacht Club

As of Monday, July 18, it has been confirmed by the U. S. Coast Guard and it is with great regret that the Chicago Yacht Club acknowledges the deaths of two sailors who were competing in the 2011 Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac.

A severe thunderstorm crossed Lake Michigan around midnight EDT last night. Windgusts were reported at 52 knots with waves of 4-6 feet.

The Coast Guard was notified at 12:40 am via VHF radio by crew members from one of the competing boats "Sociable" that another of the competing boats, "WingNuts," had capsized in these severe conditions. Five sailors were pulled from the water on arrival to the scene and one other sailor was later rescued. The six sailors were rescued by the crew of "Sociable."

The accident occurred approximately 13 nautical miles northwest of Charlevoix, Michigan, and 10 miles east of South Fox Island.

The "Sociable" skipper called all boats for assistance on Channel 16 and ten boats in the vicinity immediately abandoned the race to join in search efforts for two missing sailors.

The two lost sailors were "WingNuts" skipper Mark Morley,  51, and Suzanne Bickel, 41, both from Saginaw, MI.

Mark Morley had 44 years of sailing experience, including six Chicago Mackinacs and 85 qualifying races. Suzanne Bickel had sailed in two previous Chicago-Mackinac Races, with 16 qualifying races.

In a brief statement Commodore Joseph S. Haas said, "On the behalf of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, the Board of Directors and Flag Officers, we express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the crew of "WingNuts." The crew of this boat exemplified the spirit of the Chicago Mac that is steeped in tradition of family, friends and passion for the water."

My husband could have died last night.

That is all I will let myself think about that. I mean, it could happen it anytime, but during a long distance race on a known to be harsh water environment sort of amplifies that. I know that he is safe and will be coming home to me soon. I can't wait to give him a big hug on Wednesday.

Edit to add: - Video from another boat of what the storm was like. Still images shown in flashes of lightning paint a frightening picture.

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