A Sailboat Crew Was Just Rescued In The Pacific Ocean After A Giant Whale Sunk Their Ship

Published March 22, 2023

Though their ship sank quickly after the whale strike, the crew was soon rescued thanks to a number of other boats nearby.

Crew Of The Raindancer

Rick RodriguezRick Rodriguez, Alana Litz, and the other two members of the Raindancer crew after the sinking.

Rick Rodriguez and three friends were 13 days into their dream sailing trip when disaster struck — literally. While sailing from the Galápagos Islands to French Polynesia, at least one whale struck their boat and sank it. Rodriguez and the others spent ten hours at sea before they were rescued.

“It just happened in an instant. It was just a very violent impact with some crazy-sounding noises and the whole boat shook,” Rodriguez recounted to NBC News. “It sounded like something broke and we immediately looked to the side and we saw a really big whale bleeding.”

As the Washington Post reports, Rodriguez and three friends — Alana Litz, Bianca Brateanu, and Simon Fischer — were in the middle of making lunch on March 13 when they felt something collide with their ship, the Raindancer.

“The second pizza had just come out of the oven, and I was dipping a slice into some ranch dressing,” Rodriguez told the Washington Post. “The back half of the boat lifted violently upward and to starboard.”

As the boat’s alarm went off and water began to pour through the hull, Rodriguez and the others rushed to gather the necessary supplies — food, safety and emergency equipment, and bottled water. Fifteen minutes later, they scrambled onto a lifeboat and a dinghy and watched as the Raindancer disappeared beneath the ocean waves “at an unbelievable speed.”

Then, Rodriguez and the others started sending messages asking for help.

Crew Members In Raft

Alana LitzRick Rodriguez and Simon Fischer in a life raft following the sinking.

“Tommy this is no joke,” Rodriguez wrote to his friend Tommy Joyce, who was 180 miles behind them on the same route. “We hit a whale and the ship went down… Tell as many boats as you can. Battery is dangerously low.”

The Guardian reports that Rodriguez also sent mayday messages via a VHF radio and sent a distress signal to a worldwide rescue network. Then, the four friends waited, powering down their devices to conserve power.

Fortunately, their messages were rapidly received. Peruvian officials picked up Rodriguez’s distress signal and notified the U.S. Coast Guard, and Joyce messaged back to assure Rodriguez and the others that help was coming.

“We got you bud,” Joyce wrote back, according to the Washington Post. “We have a bunch of boats coming. We got you brother.”

Rodriguez Message To Joyce

Rick RodriguezRick Rodriguez messaged his friend and fellow sailor Tommy Joyce, who reassured them that help was on the way.

In fact, there were a number of boats in the area — from yachts participating in a rally to a commercial vessel called Dong-A Maia. The closest boat was a 45-foot catamaran called the Rolling Stones which was just 35 miles from where the Raindancer sank. Its captain, Geoff Stone, messaged with Joyce and Peruvian officials to determine the Raindancer’s last known coordinates.

It took Stone and his crew nine tense hours to reach Rodriguez and the others. As Stone later explained, he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to find them in the open sea. “The seas weren’t terrible but we’ve never done a search and rescue,” he said.

Happily, Stone was able to find Rodriguez and the others and safely bring them aboard. In all, the Raindancer crew had spent ten hours adrift at sea.

Rolling Stones And Raindancer Crews

Geoff StoneThe two crews after the Rolling Stones rescued the crew of the Raindancer.

According to the Washington Post, there have been 1,200 reports of whale-boat collisions since records started being kept in 2007. However, such collisions usually don’t cause extreme damage. The last whale-boat collision that required rescue was in 2009, when a whale strike sunk a 40-foot boat off the coast of Baja California, requiring a Coast Guard rescue.

In the aftermath, Rodriguez expressed both gratitude for the rescue and sadness for the loss of his ship, where he’d been living since 2021.

“I’ve worked so hard to be here, and have been dreaming of making landfall at the Bay of Virgins in the Marquesas on my own boat for about 10 years,” he said. “And 1,000 nautical miles short my boat sinks.” However, he added: “I feel very lucky, and grateful, that we were rescued so quickly. We were in the right place at the right time to go down.”


After reading about the sailing crew that was rescued after their ship was sunk by a whale, see how two men and their miniature poodle survived 10 days at sea after their ship lost power. Or, discover the story of the woman who fell off a cruise ship and survived by treading water for ten hours.

author
Kaleena Fraga
author
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
editor
Maggie Donahue
editor
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "A Sailboat Crew Was Just Rescued In The Pacific Ocean After A Giant Whale Sunk Their Ship." AllThatsInteresting.com, March 22, 2023, https://allthatsinteresting.com/raindancer-sunk-by-whale. Accessed June 24, 2024.