Gunboat 55 Rainmaker Dismasted and Rescue Updates

UPDATE 1/9/2017: Rainmaker is currently at the Multihull Centre in Cornwall, England, ready to head into her refit. See pictures here. 

UPDATE 8/10/2016: To read Rainmaker's salvage listing, click here. To read about Gunboat's bankruptcy, click here.

UPDATE 3/14/2016: She's been located and towed, and is currently at a mooring in Bermuda.

Photo courtesy of Hugh A. Davidson's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Hugh A. Davidson's Facebook page.

UPDATE: She's been spotted! And she's held up way better than you would have thought...

From Gunboat CEO Peter Johnstone's Facebook page: Five months after the owner and crew abandoned her, Rainmaker continues to take care of herself. Months of North Atlantic wintertime gales. Spotted June 16 at 5pm at Lat 35.36.282 N, Lon 062.17.187 W. Thank you Capt Reinhard Peer aboard the Hapag-Lloyd containership Chicago Express for the info and pictures. Rainmaker owner and insurance have been given the info. Let's go get her!! Rainmaker deserves better than this!

Peter Johnstone is eager to get Rainmaker back, so get out there and find her! The fact that the hull is still intact is incredible. Carbon fiber is amazing.   Originally Posted February 2, 2015 She’s a boat who’s captured our attention from Day One, and an owner who has become a vibrant spokesman for the company. We profiled the Gunboat 55 in our January issue as a boat we’re looking forward to seeing more of on the Bay this year, so our hearts are going out to the crew who were onboard Rainmaker, Hull #1, who sustained a significant dismasting off the coast of Cape Hatteras January 30. 


Promotional shots of Rainmaker from the Gunboat website

Rainmaker was only 36 hours into her passage from the Gunboat yard to St. Maarten, when conditions became severe. While wind speeds were reported in the 30-40 knot range, gusts were said to be much higher. Waves were reported in the 13 to 15-foot range, with air temperature 61 degrees and water temperature listed at 71.4 degrees


“It’s not uncommon for the cold northwest winds to accelerate over the Gulf Stream to windspeeds well above what may show on grib files,” wrote Gunboat CEO Peter Johnstone in a Facebook update. “A full whiteout squall hit that initially looked no different than the other squalls.” The boat had been triple reefed with a storm jib up, and when the squall hit, all sails were up. “A wall of wind hit at up to 70 knots. There was no opportunity to get the sails down. The mast came down with the wall of wind.” 


Rainmaker's crew included professional skipper Chris Bailet, owner Brian Cohen, Cohen's son, and two other professional crew.

While there was no damage to the hull when the mast came down, lines got tangled in the prop which kept the boat from motoring. In a move to safeguard the lives of the five crewmembers onboard, a mayday call was placed to the Coast Guard at 1:50 p.m. The USCG 5th District Command Center in Portsmouth, VA, issued an urgent marine broadcast and prepared aircrews for the response. But Rainmaker wasn’t out of danger’s way yet.

Around 4 p.m., a nearby 350-foot cargo vessel, Ocean Crescent, volunteered to be a part of the rescue effort and arrived on the scene. But in the rescue process, Ocean Crescent was unable to come alongside the catamaran and instead collided with the boat. Rainmaker was dangerously close to being sucked into the ship’s propeller. The crew was lifted off the boat around 5 p.m. by a USCG Jayhawk helicopter. The crew made it back to the North Carolina shore, not far from their point of origin, at 8:10 p.m. A tour of the beauty that is Rainmaker.

“The mission today was challenging for our crews due to the distance from shore and the weather conditions,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Allen Facenda, an operations specialist in Portsmouth who worked on the case. “The crew we rescued had a registered and up-to-date emergency position indicating radio beacon that told us their exact position. All five people were wearing life jackets and were prepared to abandon their vessel in a life raft. We were happy to get there before that became necessary.” Today, the boat is still at large, with Monday’s conditions not helping the salvage effort.