Clark July 13th, 2015
This is the saddest, but most heartwarming, sailing story of the year. Something tells me the sailing community is going to rally around this salty hero (but in the mean time we should respect his wishes and save the questions and Monday morning quarterbacking for later, if ever). It’s all over the news, but here it is in Mr. Kanafoski’s own words, from his public Facebook page:
As im sure you all know by now my boat and everything i owned was on there. i All my tools, clothes, identifications, green cards everything was lost. I left Apalachicola on Wednesday afternoon heading to tampa to pick up my son from the airport on sunday for 6 weeks of sailing fishing and diving. Caught an amazing sunset leaving the cut in Apalachicola on Wednesday. Sailes and fished all night and all day Thursday. Filled the freezer with 1 amazing bull mahi. Friday morning, yesterday the wind had died around 10 am. I motored around and was bottom fishing ans swimming around the middle grounds. 80 miles offshore. Around 2 my outboard stalled and would not crank. I replaced the fuel filter and both spark plugs. Good spark and no fuel. The primer ball was mushy.. i had an inboard motor still inside with the fuel pump for that engine on the fuel tank plumbed to the outboard. I flipped on the electric fuel pump and was able to get the engine running.
I traveled due east trolling to the edges of the 120 ft mark. The motor died again. I reached for the fuel pump switch and flipped it and the bilge blower fan switch together. Boom. The back port hatch blew open with a massive fireball. The fire blew the dog off the boat and me out of the cockpit down into the companionway. I was dazed i could amell burnt hair. I jumped up and as the ringing in my ears subsided the roar of the fire became clear. I also heard a splashing. Dogs in the water. I immediately reached into the burning hatch to grab the fire extinguisher mounted next to the fuel tank. h burned arm. I discharged the first fire extinguisher and thought the fire was out. I grabbed the main sheet line and jumped overboard after the dog. The sails were up and the boat was slowly moving. The sheet was my lifeline. I grabbed the dog and swam back/pulled myself back on board. I got onboard and saw a small flame ao i popped extinguisher 2. I immediately started opening hatches and removing companionway atairs for access to the bilges and engine room. While i was looking around i found another small flame under the access hatch to the stuffing box. I grabbed fire extinguisher 3. When i hit the lever all i heard was a swoosh but no familiar yellow powder. The can was caked. The wind gust from the tank blew the small trash fire thru the entire fan tail sending little embers everywhere. I started the wash down pump and grabbed the remaining 2 extinguishers out of the v berth. By the time i got to them and dug them out from under the pile of tools and clothes and returned to the back of the boat it was too late. The flames were coming from the lose fiber stands of fiberglass resins that are laminated the floor to the hull. I pointed a full stream of sea water at 65 psi and discharged 2 more extinguishers. 5 in total. There was snoke but i saw no fire. I called the coast guard imformed them of my situation. I told them about the fire and how it was now out. 10 15 20 minutes passed and i had cleaned all the yellow powder out of the cockpit and started to try to find the sorce of the first explosion. Still amoke no fire. I went into the vberth to grab my multimeter and some tools. As i was digging in the tool bag whsn i heard a lite roar coming from the rear of the boat. I ran to the back to find the entire port hatch in flames. The same hatcn that was holding a 13 gallon plastic fuel tank half full. I pointed the water hose at the fuel tank, rurned OFF the bilge and called the coast guard back. But i was getting no response back. Within 30 seconds of calling i realized i had to abandon ship. I put out a mayday gave my position. Drift bearings, boat info, and name. No response just static. I started looking for the bailout bag. And started grabbing anything i thought i might need. And threw it between the book bag i had and the ditch bag. I called mayday again no response. Cabin was full of black smoke and the dog was missing. I threw the ditch bag over board. I then tied a life jacket to the bookbag and threw it overboard as well. I couldnt find the dog and there was only about a ft od clear air near the floor. I knew if i didnt find her quick that the smoke would get her. I tossed the entire vberth into the cabin floor so now i was tossing everything back on the v berth. I found her and she was ok. Terrified but ok. I opened the forward hatch to go out of the front of the boat. As soon as the hatch opened the black amoke rushed out and the flames followed the smoke right onto the right side of my arms and face as i was goign out the hatch. The dog had her wiskers and eye brows burned. My right arm and a little of my face were flame kissed. My beard and hairy arms were scorced but just the hair. I grabbed the dog and jumped into thw water. Swam to the back of the boat to untie the dingy. Then had to climb back on the boat to get into the dingy. Walker bays are piece of shit. You cant get into that boat from the water without sinking it. Me and dog are nownin dkngy i started collecting the stuff i thre overboard. Bags water towel hat. Bookbag. Etc. I couldnt find the ditch bag. It sank. I had no radio no gps no flares and no way of knowing if anyone even heard the abandoning ship mayday i never heard a respose. The boat burned fast and the sharks were there within minutes. They weren’t lying when they said sharks come to fuel oil and burned boats. They were small but there were 3. Thank god the Coast guard jet flew over within an hour and within another hour i was in a basket getting snatched out on the water. i didnt know if anyone heard my call. I made peace with my maker during the search thru the smoke for the dog. I though i was going to suffocate looking for her. I was thinking of my kid. Also when i was drifting. I realized my call may have not been heard. I was 70 miles offshore and vhf only runs about 30. I said a prayer and thought about the best times i had with my son. I mentally prepared myself to die not once but twice yesterday. I was adrift in a dinghy. I could barely breatha and had no water or shade or even a paddle.
Dire situation 1. Dog in water or flames. If i would have stayed onboard and sacraficed the dog the outcome would have been different. No regrets tho
#2 i opened all the hatches looking for fire and left them open. Unfortunately that is what lost the boat fresh air was being fed to the flames.
#3 ditch bag. I had vhf gps and flares first aid in the ditch bag. It was not a floating bag.
4# no automatic fire extinguisher in the fuel compartment.
Anyway. Im done. I would rather not talk about it for now as all i have been doing is crying when i think back on it and that bullshit isnt getting me anywhere. Save your questions for next week. Im at a thrift store trying to find shoes. Im walking out of st pete up 19 north. If you know anyone heading north tell them to stop and grab the guy carrying the dog and lifejacket. Im sure im the only one. i was able to receive a small wire transfer last night so i ate fed the dog and split a room with a street walker. Now im waiting on the thrift store to open and in trying to figure out how to get to rome georgia. Or anyplace safe to rest my burned feet.