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Meet One of My Heroes

If you are like me, you love your boat.  Sure, there are other boats that may be bigger, nicer or have more amenities, but even with whatever quirky idiosyncrasy it may have, there is something about your boat where you would not trade it for anything.  That is the case with Takayuki Nozawa and while I have never met him, this story is why he is one of my heroes. 

Many of us remember that Japan was hit with a devastating tsunami in early 2011.  Much of the northeastern coast of the country was devastated and many people lost their lives.  Takayuki Nozawa is a Japanese businessman and lover of boating.  After the waters swept through the Fukushima Prefecture, he spent time on the phone verifying that his friends and family were safe.  Then, his attention turned to his beloved Golden Bay, the 57 foot Bertram that he kept at Iwaki Sun Marina.
Takayuki Nozawa at the helm of Golden Bay

Unfortunately, the bad news came that the marina had been wiped out and all docks and boats had either been destroyed or swept out to sea.  That night, he couldn’t sleep.  Somehow, he knew that his boat was not destroyed and that it was out there somewhere.  The next day, he sat down and began making calculations of wind and current to try and determine where his boat would be if it in fact had survived the disaster.  If his baby was out there, he was going to find her!  Of course, the next question was how he was going to get out there to get her.  After some diligent searching, he was able to find a helicopter pilot that was willing to fly out over the ocean in search of a vessel when there was no guarantee that it would be there.

A day later Nozawa was in a Robertson R44 Helicopter headed out to sea.  They could see the devastation along the coast as they went and they passed over several fields of debris in the water along the way.  They headed in a direction chosen based on the calculations that Nozawa had done the day before.  His calculations were perfect because within an hour, they had found what they were looking for.  Golden Bay was still afloat!  The dock lines had snapped and were still attached to the cleats.  There was some damage but she was still floating.  Because of low fuel and search activity in the area, they had to return to Tokyo but they made plans to return the next day.

His beloved Golden Bay was several miles out to sea but still floating.

The next day, they returned to find that the winds had pushed Golden Bay an additional 7 miles north.  This time Nozawa was prepared.  Wearing a wetsuit, fins, and inflatable life vest, he had the pilot hover about 50 feet above the surface.  He jumped out of the copter and into the 44 degree water and swam to his boat.  He climbed aboard, pulled in the broken lines, did a survey of the vessel for damage and fired up the generator and engines.  It was soon evident that, due to damage below the waterline, he would not be able to head back at normal cruising speed and he settled in at 7 knots.  Low fuel forced the helicopter to return to the mainland but it would return later after refueling.  He was alone.  

The video below has no sound but it shows how Nozawa rescued his boat.

The trip back home took over three hours with the last two hours being in darkness.  He initially took the boat back to what was left of Iwaki Sun Marina to secure it overnight and make some quick temporary repairs and then went on to Yasuda Shipyard in Tokyo for a haul out and final repairs.  Today, Golden Bay is back in the water looking brand new.  
The 57 foot Bertram undergoing repairs.

So, the next time someone tells you they love their boat, ask them how much they really love their boat.  Do they love it as much as Takayuki Nozawa loves his?

Happy Boating

Captain Frank
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