The following is a true story from the recent Hurricane Tomas
At 5am on Tuesday March 16, Tui Tai received a distress call via radio from yacht “Siga ni Vanua.” The yacht had been anchored within Viani Bay, on the Southeastern corner of Vanua Levu, approximately 3 miles from Tui Tai’s secured position. Viani Bay was less than 30 miles from the center of the hurricane at the time of the call.
The caller identified himself as a crew member and reported that the yacht had capsized along the beach. Strong storm surge was slowly sinking the vessel. The report also mentioned that the yacht owner was trapped in a cabin below deck and was unable to free himself. Without help, he would soon drown.
Tui Tai’s Captain, Angus Hill, dispatched a small tender boat with 4 crew members to attempt a rescue. Esala Naitani (2nd engineer), Isoa Vosaniyavu (Divemaster), Owen Whippy (Dive Instructor), and Marika Madden (cook) set out at 5.10am amidst category 4 hurricane winds and rain. Wind gusts were reportedly up to 125 knots. The rescue party navigated 3 miles and found the distressed yacht, where it was indeed capsized and rapidly taking on water.
Tui Tai crew boarded the yacht and proceeded to rip away doors and pry open an escape for the yacht owner. The Tui Tai crew successfully removed the yacht owner, who was bleeding from injuries sustained as the yacht tumbled over the reef and sand. Both members of the yacht crew and all of Tui Tai’s rescue party were able to motor safely back to the Tui Tai and all survived.
The crew of the "Siga ni Vanua” were given first-aid, blankets, food and water aboard the Tui Tai, where they braved the rest of the hurricane, together.
Tui Tai owner Tige Young said, “I don’t think it’s possible to truly understand the courage displayed during the rescue. That 4 crew could safely and successfully locate the yacht was an amazing feat of seamanship, given the strength of the winds and horrible sea conditions. That they were able to save lives is a testament not only of their bravery, but also to their sense of duty to help those in need.”