Whale Sinks Sailboat Off Coast of Mexico

PHOTO: A Northern California man was rescued after his 50-foot boat was struck by a whale while he sailed off the western coast of Mexico, authorities said.
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A California man was rescued after his 50-foot sailboat was struck by a whale while he was sailing alone about 40 miles off the coast of Mexico.

The impact from the collision disabled the sailboat's steering and the vessel began taking on water late Tuesday.

Max Young, 67, a retired Sacramento high school teacher, quickly stuffed a mattress into the hole in the ship's hull and activated several pumps. Young was "trying to bail out water as fast as he could, because he wasn't sure how long it was going to take to be rescued," his wife, Debra, told The Associated Press.

Young also activated his EPIRB, an emergency radio beacon, around midnight which alerted the Coast Guard.

"The safety equipment he had on board allowed us to find him very quickly. It was a big reason why we were able to rescue him," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Pamela J. Boehland.

The Coast Guard requested assistance from the Ocean Virgo, a Panamanian-flagged merchant ship. The Ocean Virgo was approximately 60 miles away and immediately headed to the scene.

"The fact the freighter was less than 60 miles away and was able to respond to our rescue request was great, but he was very lucky that he was able to be rescued so quickly," Boehland said.

The command center watch also diverted an HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Sacramento to investigate the sinking vessel.

When the crew of the Hercules located and established radio communications with Young at about 2 a.m., he was bailing water from his boat. He had also deployed his life raft in case he had to abandon his boat.

The Hercules remained on scene until the Ocean Virgo arrived around 4 a.m., and Young climbed out of his boat via a rope ladder that was thrown by the ship's crew.

Young had been on the final leg of a trip from the East Coast to a marina in Emeryville, Calif., when the collision took place. Young has been sailing for at least 30 years, and having worked on boats with his father, who was a commercial fisherman, he's been on the ocean most of his life, his wife said.

Debra Young said she has been in contact with her husband while he's on board the Ocean Virgo, which is headed for Panama. He's not expected to be back to Sacramento for another few days.

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