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The missing sailboat and its bold recovery

by Alana Stillitano 28 Aug 2020 03:19 UTC
Finding Eclipse © Alana Stillitano

The sun had finally peaked through the clouds after days of wind and stormy seas. A young man spotted a blue speck in the distance after searching the Atlantic for days from a sea plane. He zoomed in closer and he saw it. His home, his sailboat, the Eclipse. After three long days of searching, there she was, perfectly upright and resting in the mud a short distance from the shore.

It is not every day that Sea Tow Key Biscayne Captains Peter Dominguez and Bill Rychlicki are called because of a missing boat. Their most common calls at the locally-owned on-water assistance franchise include providing tows, jump starts, fuel deliveries and more to boaters. However, with more boaters out on the water this season than ever, especially newer boaters, there is much to be learned about safety and protocol while at the helm.

Just three days earlier the wind was whipping across the ocean water, sending salty sprays onto a young Phil Gutowski's face as he walked to the marina where his Tayana 42, Eclipse, was moored. But while on the tender heading towards mooring #91, where the bright blue hull of Eclipse would peak through - he saw nothing. The boat was gone.

Thousands of questions run through a person's mind when you cannot find your boat after you anchored it in: Had it been stolen? How could she have broken free? How could she have made it through the mooring field without hitting Anything else?

Days were passing but to no avail. Eclipse was nowhere to be seen and hope was dwindling fast.

Finally, Phil was able to search for Eclipse while on a seaplane. The skies had cleared and a spec was visible a few miles away. After flying a little closer, Phil and the pilot could see the distinctive blue hull. The hatches were still shut, the battery voltage was good, and the bilge was nearly dry! A dream come true.

Capt. Dominguez and Capt. Rychlicki had to wait until high tide to pull Eclipse to freedom. They dragged her about one mile across the shallow sand and rock of the shore until the water was deep enough for her to float on her own; lifting the weight off Phil's shoulders.

Although it seemed as if all hope was lost, Phil never gave up. With the help of the boating community and Sea Tow Key Biscayne, the Eclipse returned home just as it left. While also learning a hard lesson - always make sure your vessel is tightly secured with the proper lines before you leave the dock or mooring.

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