LAGAANA (ANNANCALE VII) – In a remarkable turn of events, champion sailor Gurashi Bhatt and his three-man crew have been found alive two weeks after they were reported missing and four days after rescue operations were called off.
Bhatt is the captain of the The Enchanted, a racing sailboat that set the record for circumnavigating the planet two years ago. The crew was attempting to break that record when they were overtaken by a sudden hurricane.
Following the storm, which was unusual but not unheard of this time of year, maritime officials were unable to reach The Enchanted. A massive search was begun, expanding outward from the vessels last known coordinates.
Because The Enchanted’s automatic emergency transponder never activated, there was hope that the craft was still intact and afloat. The unit begins signaling automatically if it is submerged for longer than five minutes.
After 10 days, however, the official search was called off. In all, maritime naval and volunteer vessels had covered more than 20,000 square kilometers of open ocean. There was no sign of The Enchanted or her crew.
Although the maritime search was suspended, orbital satellites continued to run scans of the ocean planet’s surface and yesterday a suspicious image launched a second, brief search. With coordinates to zero in on, rescuers found The Enchanted in a few hours.
Bhatt, a five-time winner of the “Jahaaz Chalaana” regatta, was piloting the damaged vessel alone, as all three of his crewman had suffered injuries in the storm. With his navigation equipment damaged, he was navigating by memory using several stars as guides.
The Enchanted was apparently carried on the leading edge of the storm and taken much farther than anyone thought possible. Based on Bhatt’s estimate of how far he had come to correct his course, the ship was likely taken some 1,600 kilometers off course.
In a brief statement to the press, Bhatt called the ordeal “the purest thing I have ever experienced.” He went on to say that for his next voyage he will be using a vessel with no onboard navigation, radar or weather tracking equipment, opting instead for dead reckoning and perhaps a few stellar charts.
“I have seen a new way to interact with the water,” Bhatt said. “It has always spoken to me, but before I was too busy with gadgets to really hear it.”
Admiral Hapti Mallikarjun, who overseas maritime rescue operations for the Lagaanan Oceanic Navy, subsequently issued a statement discouraging boaters from attempting long distance trips without proper equipment.
“These sailors were very lucky and among the most experienced in the world,” he said. “Trying to duplicate the events of the last two weeks for thrills is extraordinarily dangerous and, for lack of a better word, suicidal.”