Soundings Online - Survival, with a twist

Published online: Sep 23, 2010 News Chris Landry - Soundings Online
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It was one heck of a summer for 46-year-old Kristy Lugert.

The Alameda, Calif., resident bought a 32-foot sailing catamaran (her first large boat), which flipped in 15-foot seas on its delivery voyage. When they thought they were going to die, Lugert and her boyfriend declared themselves married. A week after a Coast Guard helicopter plucked them from the overturned cat in a rescue basket, they were legally married but divorced a short time later. Her saga came to an end when she helped her brother tow the boat home after he salvaged it.

"Wow, it's been so crazy," says Lugert, who bought the 1999 PDQ 32 with her father, Jerry Lugert, in mid-June in Sidney, British Columbia. "There's been so much drama from the very beginning."

It all began when Lugert, who has primarily sailed catamarans in the Gulf of Mexico, fired the delivery captain and sailed the boat - along with her boyfriend, Steve McCarthy, 42, and Greg McCuen, 40 - on the last leg of the passage, from Crescent City, Calif., around Cape Mendocino to Alameda.

The boat capsized July 3 about 20 miles off Fort Bragg, Calif., in heavy seas and 45-knot winds. The crew had been sailing for about 24 hours before the incident. "We got hit by a rogue wave, and it was a lot steeper and a lot deeper than anything else we had been dealing with," Lugert says. "It hit on the port side ... and the boat went up on its side and turtled immediately."

All three sailors - along with Lugert's border collie, Jakey - were in the cockpit when the cat went over. McCarthy was at the helm. "The wave hit us like a train, basically T-boning us," he says. "The wind came underneath the boat and finished the role."

McCarthy, Lugert, McCuen and the dog were trapped under the boat in the space created by the cockpit. McCarthy activated the EPIRB - a GPS-enabled model rented from BoatU.S. - and McCuen, the strongest swimmer, swam to the surface with the beacon, where he tied it to one of the 9.9-hp Yamaha outboards. All three were wearing life jackets, but Lugert and McCarthy had to remove theirs so they could swim beneath the boat and out of the cockpit. McCuen was able to keep his PFD on. Lugert swam out after McCuen, and then McCarthy followed.


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