For Geoff Stone of Muskego, it’s a once-in-lifetime dream, circumnavigating the globe aboard his 45-foot catamaran the Rolling Stones.
But on March 13 in the Pacific, Stone’s dream turned into something more: a lifesaving adventure.
Stone and his crew rescued four sailors who were forced to abandon a 44-foot sailboat named the Raindancer as it was journeying from the Galápagos to French Polynesia.
The Raindancer wasn’t rocked by the sea. It was struck by a whale and sank, the sailors quickly hustling into a lifeboat and dinghy and activating a GPS beacon, with the captain sending a text message to a friend.
Nearly 10 hours later, the Rolling Stones arrived.
The daring nighttime rescue has become an international sensation.
Stone, reached on his vessel while heading to an island in French Polynesia, told the Journal Sentinel the last few days have been “a real humbling experience.”
“The right place at the right time to help them out was just by chance,” he said. “I’m really glad and happy that we were able to do that.”
Stone and his family are sailing around the world a chunk at a time
Stone is a year and a half into his journey. But the dream has been with him for more than 20 years, even though he put it aside for work (he’s in real estate) and starting a family.
But he finally made it happen, convincing his wife to come along for the ride.
Stone has been taking this ’round-the-world journey a chunk at a time with his wife, Meghan, and their young children Charlie, Eaylen and Lachlan. They started in Florida, spent a winter in the Bahamas, went through then Panama Canal and then it was on to the Galápagos.
Stone’s wife and kids weren’t on the boat during this latest 21-day leg to French Polynesia. Instead, they flew ahead with Meghan’s mother, who was with them in the Galápagos.
Stone was with his father-in-law, Mark Moriarty, a retiree who worked for 30 years in sales and marketing for Rockwell Automation, along with his brother Alex, originally from Elkhorn and friend Cory Bergendahl, originally from Muskego.
“It’s a very calm and common crossing for people navigating around the world,” Moriarty said. “There were actually around 30 boats going around the same time as we were crossing.”
Crew was 60 miles away, used coordinates and beacon to locate boat in nighttime rescue
On the day of the rescue, Moriarty recalled “the four of us were just sailing along, making another day of it,” when Stone’s brother Jeffrey came across a post in a social media group that a boat “was submerged.”
They checked out the alert and realized that they were the vessel closest to where Raindancer sank, around 60 miles away.
“It was going to take us a while to get there, but we were going to change our course,” Moriarty said.
The crew didn’t hesitate.
“They were people in the sailing community that had a bad, unfortunate situation,” Moriarty said. “It’s what good people do. You go and help them.”
As they made their way to the last known location of the Raindancer, Stone was apprehensive about how to perform the rescue.
“I thought for sure the hardest part was going to be locating them,” Stone said. “Luckily with the new technologies … the latest coordinates we were given was all very accurate.”
Stone could even see the direction the Raindancer crew was drifting.
As they neared the dinghy and lifeboat, they spotted a beacon and a flare and the crews communicated via radio.
Stone said getting the others off the dinghy wasn’t as hard as he anticipated.
“Luckily, because we have a lot of capable people on our boat and they’re very capable as well, everyone physically was able to just like jump onto the back of the boat,” he said.
Rick Rodriguez, the captain of the Raindancer, told the Washington Post: “I feel very lucky, and grateful, that we were rescued so quickly. We were in the right place at the right time to go down.”
Stone also expressed his good fortune with being able to play a role in saving others, providing food, showers and safety for a crew in need.
“It’s my dream to make it back to Florida” where the trip began, Stone said. “But I’ve already got enough of this dream already. If we don’t make it to Florida, that’s OK with me.”