Yachtie stitched up injured husband in sea drama

Rescued sailor Gary Blackwood shows his makeshift stitches. Picture / Fotopress
16.06.05 1.00pm
By Ian Stuart
A woman told today how she stitched up a gaping hole in her husband's forehead without anaesthetic after their yacht was knocked flat by a huge wave in the middle of the South Pacific last weekend.

Lisa Blackwood had no medical experience and while the cut, which ran from his forehead to the back of his head, was not immediately life threatening, she knew she needed to do something to stop the loss of blood.

As husband Gary held the huge gash together, Mrs Blackwood used the needle and put in 23 stitches -- using all the sterile sutures they had received from a doctor for their emergency medical kit before they left Whangarei last week.

"My mum would be proud because I don't even knit or sew," she said.

Mrs Blackwood, from Canada, was speaking after arriving back in Auckland aboard the Capitaine Wallis container ship. She and her husband were plucked to safety from their yacht Scot Free in atrocious seas about 250km south of Fiji earlier this week.

They had lost their storm sail, the engine room was flooded and their radio batteries were nearly flat.

The rescue got under way after the couple's emergency beacon alerted the New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Wellington.

About 9.30am on Tuesday they heard the four engines of a searching air force Orion.

"You could hear the airplane overhead. Gary opened the hatch and looked out. I could see him waving. We turned the radio on and made contact with them," Mrs Blackwood said

"Once we got into the conversation it was 'What do you want to do? Do you need more assistance? Do you want to abandon ship?'

"We had to take a couple of minutes and figure out what we were going to so that was a bit emotional.

"It was our home," Mrs Blackwood said from the rescue ship today as she struggled to hold back tears.

She said they were both worried that her husband's condition might deteriorate because of the cut in his head, putting both their lives in serious jeopardy.

"I had all the faith in the boat and in Gary. The only thing was with Gary's cut I wouldn't know what to do if he got sick."

She said it was the right decision to abandon the Scot Free, even though it was uninsured and it meant they would have to start again on their dream to sail together around the world.

Several hours after the Orion found the stricken yacht, the Capitaine Wallis arrived about 3am on Tuesday morning.

The first rescue attempt in the six to seven metre swells failed when the ship could not get in the right position upwind to shelter Scot Free enough to take off the crew.

On the second attempt, Capitaine Wallis skipper Jim Hebden - a 30-year veteran of the New Zealand to Fiji run - allowed his ship to drift downwind onto the yacht.

As the yacht surged up and down beside the ship in the seven to eight metre swells, Gary and Lisa Blackwood threw a few bags of gear and clothing over the ship's rail as the yacht sat on the peak of the waves.

However, in the haste to get off the yacht the most valuable bag of all was left on the Scot Free as it drifted away from the ship after the rescue.

"It had our passports, money, a bit of jewellery my parents and Gary had given me, some pictures of Gary and a few personal things."

She said it was an emotional sight to see Scot Free drifting away.

She said Capt Hebden and the crew of Capitaine Wallis were magnificent.

They plan to stay with a friend in Whangarei until they make decisions about their future.