Dubai sailors rescued near Socotra by Yemeni fisherman after boat runs adrift

Wooden dhow rescued the four crew after drifting 80km in Indian Ocean

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A senior sailing instructor and his wife have been rescued by fishermen off the Yemen coast as they attempted to sail from East Africa to the UAE.

Dacey Calisura and her husband Jethro Friggens were sailing their 12-metre Catalina vessel built in 1995, named Freya, from Kenya to Dubai, where the couple both live.

They were hoping to sail the 2,900 nautical miles, the equivalent of 5,370km, in around 25 days, traversing the Indian Ocean and along the Somali Coast, before a brief stop in Socotra, an island off the coast of Yemen.

We thought there would be a problem with pirates but it turned out the problem was the weather
Dacey Calisura, rescued sailor

The couple were sailing with two other friends, Euan Jarvis, a former chief dinghy instructor and Caroline Kneitz, who also sails at a club in Dubai.

The stretch of water from where the boat was rescued is one of the world’s piracy hotspots, with scores of incidents reported in recent years in the Gulf of Aden, the Guardafui Channel and Somali Seain waters.

After sailing through 12 days of rough weather that included 30-knot wind speeds and five-mete-high waves, the boat got into difficulty when it lost steerage.

When the ship's autopilot failed, it became adrift in rough seas.

“We were sailing from Kenya to Dubai and we knew the weather was going to be rough, but nothing we couldn’t handle,” said Ms Calisura, who was undertaking her first open sea voyage, in an interview with Dubai Eye.

“The first 10 days were great, and we managed to hand steer the boat without autopilot despite the weather and rough seas.

“As soon as we saw Socotra we started to have issues with steering so we were open to the elements.

“We were stranded and at the mercy of currents taking us away from land and drifted for a day without knowing what to do.”

Mayday signal

The crew kept in touch with the UK coastguard via a satellite phone after issuing a mayday signal.

With only large shipping tankers and navy patrol vessels in the area, there were few opportunities for rescue.

The UK coastguard sent a signal to a shipping tanker nearby to head in their direction to protect them from the giant waves that risked capsizing their boat.

Thanks to their planning, daily updates sent to friends in Dubai made them aware the boat was in difficulty, who then notified contacts in Socotra who launched a rescue led by fishermen.

A wooden dhow searched the area for 9 hours before spotting the stricken vessel and attaching tow ropes.

The rescue operation took around 22 hours as the vessel was towed around 92km, making it safely into land on July 28.

The crew are now making boat repairs and hope to sail the boat back to the UAE, via Salalah in Oman, before the end of the year.

They will fly back to the UAE on Sunday to resume their day jobs.

“We couldn’t believe a fishing dhow was out so far,” said Ms Calisura.

“The fisherman were amazing, and determined to find us. They came on-board and attached towing lines to pull us to shore.

“We were thrown like a toy on the sea, it was incredibly rough. Until we had our feet on land, we didn’t know if we would be OK.

“The whole time we were praying. We thought there would be a problem with pirates but it turned out the problem was the weather.

“It was a unique experience to be rescued by civilians.

“It will be sad to leave the boat behind but we have to get on with our lives.

“Without the fishermen, we don’t know what would have happened.”

Updated: August 04, 2023, 6:45 PM