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Barry Demak

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Sector San Diego rescued us after our sailboat sank 197 miles southwest of San Diego, Wednesday morning, October 28, 2009. We were participating in the event called "The Baja Ha-Ha."

We were fifty miles off the Baja Peninsula - five people aboard a 40-foot sailboat when we happened upon a pod of humpback whales. One collided with our boat and caused severe structural damage. The rudder became completely dislodged and tremendous amounts of water began pouring into the disabled vessel.

Fortunately, we were well prepared to do our part to enable our rescue, as the boat was equipped with outstanding safety gear: PFDs, an offshore life raft and an EPIRB.

Some 40+ minutes after the impact, we were entering the water, boat disappearing beneath our feet and scrambling into our life raft. Approximately four hours after we activated our EPIRB we heard the sound of the Jayhawk in the distance. We made radio contact, launched a flare and the helo came right to us. They lowered a swimmer and conducted a stellar, textbook evacuation hoisting all five sailors safely aboard for transport to San Diego.

There have been and will be other detailed accounts of this incident. I write this entry to express my sincere gratitude for the men and women of the United States Coast Guard. They said - and will say - they were just doing the jobs they were trained to do. However, they did it with exceptional professionalism and heroism. They choose to put themselves in harm's way, enabling our survival. While we profoundly remember the Commander, Copilot, Rescue Swimmer and Mechanic of the Jayhawk, we know of all of the people behind the rescue: SAR, communications, the C-130 crew, and the investigators who compassionately welcomed us to safe harbor in San Diego.

Sincere and lifelong gratitude to the men and women of the United States Coast Guard!

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