A British sailor stranded in the Caribbean was rescued after he sent a text message to his dad in Birmingham saying: ”Help me – I’m in the shit”.
Former IT consultant Paul Mountjoy, 39, lost control of his yacht when the steering failed as he sailed between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
He sent out a MayDay call which went unheard by local authorities so he tried to ring his father Keith, 61 – in Dudley.
The call wouldn’t connect so Paul sent him a text message on his mobile phone explaining his predicament and giving his exact location.
Paul wrote: ”Basically I’m in shit. I’m between Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, the steering gear is shot and operating (just) on the emergency tiller but only for short periods at a time. My American crew member is sick and can’t help. Can’t raise anyone on VHF and nearest port of refuge is out of reach. Just managed to get back into phone range although it’s on and off but it’s now dark and the coastline is hazardous. My best shot is the US Coastguard as Dominican services non-existant (sic). Position: N 19.22.143, W069.08.921 can you call someone (like the UK coastguard) and see if you can get me some help. Text reply. Paul.”
Keith immediately saw the SMS at 8.30am on Tuesday and dialled 999, who advised him to contact coastguards to help mount a rescue.
He then used the internet to find a number for Falmouth Coastguards in Cornwall, who used the mobile number to call Paul.
Fifteen minutes later Paul texted his father back and said Falmouth had been in contact – and help was on the way.
Paul, of Stourbridge, Worcestershire, was then found by Navy coastguards from the Dominican Republic and towed to safety.
Keith said: ”I was woken up when my phone went off. I had a text from Paul saying he was ‘in the sh*t’. He said he was in trouble, his crew member was ill and the steering was shot on the boat.
”He said he had put out distress signals but no-one was responding and he asked me for help.
”I called 999 but being in the Midlands there was no option for coastguard so I looked up the Falmouth coastguard on the internet.
”They told me not to worry and they got in touch with Paul straight away, and found his position before alerting the coastguard in the Dominican Republic.”
Paul began calling for help after he was left drifting in his 45 yacht ‘Distraction’ he bought to sail around the world following a career break.
Keith, a retired IT worker, said: ”His steering was gone. Nobody on the local frequency was listening, he was in the dark and drifting around aimlessly.
”Luckily he was close enough to land to pick up a mobile signal. I wasn’t too worried because I know my son. He’s tough and he knows what he’s doing but I got onto 999 straight away.
”We had to go half way round the world but the UK stepped on the go button and we got him help. Fifteen minutes later he texted back and said he was being towed to dry land.”
A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said Paul was drifting 50 miles from shore.
He said: ”We were called to help an English sailor who was stranded thousands of miles away.
”The man lost rudder control of the Dominican Republic coast and was unable to contact local authorities for help.
”He texted his father who contacted Falmouth coastguards who co-ordinated an operation which saw the Dominican Navy tow the boat into port.”