Max Young

Whale ruins Natomas man's round-the-world sail

Published: Friday, Jun. 15, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 26, 2012 - 9:28 am

A Natomas man's 12-year sail around the world was sunk about 900 miles from his final port when a whale crushed a hole in his boat off the Mexican coast.

"It has always been a dream of his to circumnavigate the world in a sailboat," said his wife, Debra Young. Although her husband, Max Young, didn't quite make it, the experienced sailor came close.

Max Young, 67, was rescued from his sinking sailboat about 40 miles west of La Playa, Mexico, on Wednesday.

His 50-foot, single-masted sailboat had been clobbered by a whale, with the behemoth destroying the rudder and punching a hole in the vessel.

The former Antioch high school teacher activated an emergency beacon, and the distress signal was picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard then directed a merchant ship to head to the sailboat 60 miles away.

Young was picked up by the freighter and was heading to Panama on Thursday, glad to be alive.

His wife said she first learned something was amiss from the Coast Guard on Tuesday night.

"They called and asked me if he was really out there," said Debra Young, a business owner. "He had left Cabo San Lucas Sunday morning. … So he should have been halfway to San Diego."

She described the boat for the Coast Guard and told officials her husband was an experienced sailor who would not have set off a distress signal unless something was truly amiss.

Early Wednesday morning, the Coast Guard told her a plane had spotted him – and the freighter was responding from five hours away.

"He was out there waiting to be rescued from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. while the sailboat was sinking," she said. "He was trying to bail it out, but the whale knocked a pretty good hole in it."

Max Young had inflated a lifeboat just in case. The freighter arrived and its crew lowered a rope ladder to the tired mariner.

"I looked at that ladder and didn't know if I could make it up," he later told his wife. "But I made it up! I'm calling you!"

Debra Young said her husband was so happy about being rescued that the shock of his experience had not set in. She was extremely happy to hear his voice.

Max Young began his around-the-world trip in May 2000 after retiring from his teaching job the first time. His epic voyage had taken longer than expected as the Youngs had to stop sailing and resume working in order to finance the trip.

Along the way, Young, sometimes accompanied by his wife, sailed to Hawaii, Tahiti, Western Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Australia.

The boat stayed in Australia for three or four years before a different crew sailed to Malaysia.

From there it went for a long stay in Thailand.

Young sailed to the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean. He kept the boat in Turkey for a couple of years and in Rome a year.

He eventually sailed across the Atlantic and the boat was kept in South Carolina for the last 2 1/2 years.

This year, the Youngs were trying to get it back to the West Coast.

Debra joined her husband in Panama, sailing the Panama Canal last month. Debra Young got off the boat in Mexico.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Bill Lindelof



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