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OAR Northwest rowing team rescued after boat capsizes during Atlantic Ocean crossing

Post by Craig Hill / The News Tribune on April 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm with No Comments »
April 8, 2013 8:55 pm

 UPDATE, April 8, 1 p.m. – Sounds as if the capsizing of the James Robert Hanssen ocean rowing boat was a result of an open cabin hatch. In an interview with Seattle radio station KUOW, Jordan Hanssen said the crew was in the middle of a shift change when the boat capsized. With the cabin hatch open allowing rowers to swap places, water poured into the tiny cabin. When the boat capsized, the unsecured cabin prevented the boat from righting itself as it is designed to do. The crew deployed the life raft and signaled for help. They were rescued several hours later and are now in Puerto Rico.

“We are bruised but not beaten,” Hanssen told KUOW.



Adam Kreek, Jordan Hanssen, Pat Flemming and Markus Pukonen arrive safely in Puerto Rico on Sunday after their boat capsized on Saturday,
Adam Kreek, Jordan Hanssen, Pat Flemming and Markus Pukonen arrive safely in Puerto Rico on Sunday after their boat capsized on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of  Erinn J. Hale, OAR Northwest)


UPDATE, 4:36 p.m., April 7 - The ship carrying the rescued OAR Northwest crew is pulling into harbor in Puerto Rico according to text message from team spokesman Greg Spooner.  Spooner flew to Puerto Rico last night to meet the team.

From a statement posted today by Spooner at “They are uninjured, shaken, but excited to get back to land this evening to reunite with family and friends, and share the challenges and great successes from the 73 days at sea prior to the capsize.”

A team of local rowers survived a wave Saturday morning that capsized and damaged their boat 843 nautical miles shy of completing their transatlantic adventure.

University of Puget Sound graduates Jordan Hanssen and Pat Flemming and Canadians Adam Kreek and Markus Pukonen, were shaken but uninjured Saturday after being rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and a Puerto Rico-bound ship.

At 5:10 p.m. on Saturday evening the crew was safely aboard the Heijan, a car carrier ship, and preparing for dinner, said team spokesman Greg Spooner.

Spooner was awakened by a call from the Coast Guard at 3:50 Saturday morning informing him that the 29-foot boat’s distress signal had been activated.

Spooner, who was crew member when the team rowed the boat across the North Atlantic in 2006, called the crew’s families.

For hours he waited for verification his friends were alive an uninjured.

Checking the weather conditions, Spooner was able to confirm it “was perfect rowing weather” at the time of the incident.

“Something happened, but we can’t confirm what,” Spooner said.

Spooner said the crew was wearing its lifejackets when the James Robert Hanssen, the boat named for Jordan’s father, was capsized by the wave. The team, OAR Northwest, has successfully rowed across the North Atlantic, around Vancouver Island and made other trips without capsizing the boat.

The team left Dakar, Senegal, on Jan. 23 and was rowing to Miami.

The boat is designed to self right after capsizing, but it sustained too much damage from the wave. Spooner said the men swam to the life raft.

The Coast Guard deployed an Ocean Sentry H-144 turbo prop from Puerto Rico which was relieved by a C-130 from Clearwater, Fla.

“But because the life raft is covered, for the longest time they could only confirm that there were two people on board,” Spooner said.

Two nearby ships responded to the distress call, but Spooner says he’s not sure how far out of their way they had to travel.

The men were picked up by the Heijan at about 3 p.m., Spooner said.

Coast Guard Command Duty Officer David J. Saliceti posted a message on the OAR Northwest’s website at 5:10 p.m.

“Our pleasure to have assisted the adventurers and sailors of the 29’ James Robert Hanssen,” Saliceti wrote. “A quick note: It sure pays off to be prepared with safety equipment and having accurate information on the PLB (personal locator beacon).”

The ship is due to arrive in Puerto Rico 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Spooner planned to fly to Puerto Rico Saturday night to meet the team.

“It’s been a busy, nerve racking and eventually joyous day,” Spooner said.

The boat was left at the scene of the incident and it remains unclear if the team will be able to recover it, Spooner said.


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