I am setting this up for a very dear friend of mine. His name is John Deer and he is a single-hand sailor, meaning he sails his 40-foot sailboat alone around the world. He was on his way from Cartagena, Colombia to the
San Blas Islands when he went overboard.
It was a calm sail and he just caught a fish. He misstepped and went overboard when he was ready to deploy his lure again. With full sails up his boat sailed off without him. At the time he was 9 nautical miles, about 17 km offshore heading for a little anchorage near Border Town. Knowing he would die if he started panicking he swam towards shore. It was 5 pm when it happened so it was getting dark too. He couldn't tell for how long he was swimming. He remembers reaching a pile of rocks and must have passed out after arriving safely but completely exhausted. The next morning he flagged down a local fishing boat who took him to the authorities and tell his story. They found his boat Julieta washed up on the rocks, completely submerged. Sails still up.
Everything John owned was on this boat. What's left is the shorts and shirt he wore while it happened.
We want to help him out by raising money to cover the costs of salvaging Julieta, get his legal documents back and travel back home to his family.
At this point we have no idea what it will cost, but I know it's not cheap and penalties, if you don't salvage a sunken boat can be in the hundred thousands.
Let's show John some support. Just know, every single Dollar, Euro or Swiss Frank will make a huge difference to John. He is stranded in a foreign country with absolutely nothing left.
All of the raised funds will go into salvaging Julieta, (if anything is salvageable) legal fees, new legal documents and and a ticket home to Australia once everything is taken care of. It is still unclear what amount he is looking at exactly. At the moment they are trying to find out what can and need to be done. I will update on our social media and on this page of course.
Thanks to John's friend Tirian who took him in on his Catamaran he also has access to his Insta account. If you have questions you wanna ask John about or you help with salvaging a boat in Panama get in contact with him directly on Instagram. @cleverdeer.
Thank you a million times for your help!
Here is how it all went down in Johns own words:
“It is with mixed emotions that i write this post.
Elation and joy to be alive at having survived, mixed with the devastation of having lost my floating home that has taken me half way around the world over the last three years.
Towards the end of a 30hr passage to Panama from Colombia, in a moment that happened in a split second (yet as if in slow motion) I fell off the back of my sailboat while underway, on autopilot with both sails up and the motor running. I had just caught a little tuna and had gotten it off the line when I turned around to redeploy the lure and somehow slipped and fell. The seas were flat and calm. Not even a light swell.
Having talked about this many times with fellow sailors as the worst imaginable thing to happen, suddenly I found myself in the water, my boat and home and safety sailing away from me at an alarmingly fast rate. I was 9 nautical miles offshore - about 17km. I had no life jacket on.
I was convinced I was dead. No one knew I was there. It was 5pm and the sun would set in an hour. I panicked and screamed out “Nooooo!!!!” as I watched my boat sail away gaining more and more distance with every second.
I struggled with the realization of my imminent death for a few minutes not wanting to accept what seemed my inevitable fate, so I decided to give up that idea and determined to swim for shore. I usually wouldn’t attempt to swim 200m let alone 17km, but I was gonna give it a go. What other option did I have? Just give up and drown.
I knew I’d need to stay calm and conserve my energy if I was to have any chance of survival. So began a routine of alternating breast stroke and back frog stroke.
I was moving so slow it was hard to tell if I was making any progress towards the shore. But I just had to keep going. Using the straight side of the moon as a navigation aid while it was above and then the stars later.
As soon as night set in I felt a nibble at my feet. I went into a frenzy of panicked thinking it was a shark, screaming and kicking and punching in all directions trying to scare it off. But again I couldn’t afford to waste energy so decided I had to keep swimming at any cost. Fortunately not a shark, those damned fish stayed with me, biting me almost the whole way to shore.
I was extremely lucky. There wasn’t a strong current taking me offshore and the water was warm. For the most part it was quite calm. A light breeze picked up for a few hours on two occasions from my side and then from head-on. Despite the relatively small chop they created, it made it so much more difficult to keep my head above the water. And I had to fight against the headwind. I prayed to the universe for glassy conditions and both times after a few hours the breeze died down again and the waves eventually subsided.
After what I guess to be about 10hrs, I finally made it to a rocky outcrop and managed to scramble up on the jagged rocks in the faint starlight. The moon had already set. I immediately felt the exhaustion upon feeling my own weight and gravity for the first time in so many hours. I had been running on pure adrenaline. My body immediately shut down and I passed out asleep for what felt like 20mins.
In the morning after swimming around to the next point at first light, I realized I was in no-man’s land without any way out. Jagged rocky cliffs fringed by dense impenetrable jungle. I was going to have to be rescued from here.
I found a decent sized stick and attached my t-shirt to the end of it to use a signal to flag down any boats going past.
They were few and far between. The first one didn’t see me, so I scrambled to a more visible spot higher up. The second boat saw me and waved back but kept going. And eventually a third came to my rescue and agreed to take me to the border town I was originally heading for after seeing the desperation and tears welling up in my eyes.
I asked them if they had seen my boat, and they reported that it had run into rocks and was underwater. I had guessed as much, although I a small part of me was hoping it would have ended up on a soft sandy beach.
They dropped me to the police station where I told them my story and they took me out to see the boat. It was completely destroyed and fully submerged. Everything was gone. I literally now only have the t-shirt and shorts I was wearing when I fell overboard.
Now comes the daunting task of dealing with the boat, which in the blink of an eye has turned from my greatest asset, to an enormous liability. I couldn’t have wrecked a boat in a more remote place.
Above all I’m glad to be alive. Possessions come and go. And it’s been a hell of a journey up until now. From Greece to Panama in 3 years. It’s sad I won’t be able to continue the journey back to Australia as planned. But I guess life had different ideas for me.
Thanks to everyone who’s sent messages of support so far. I still don’t have a phone but am so grateful to be traveling with my mate @tirianmoran who has given me a bed and fed me cold beers and food yesterday and bought me a toothbrush.
Glad it all wasn’t over just yet.”