Max Young really does have a whale of a tale to tell.
The retired Antioch High School teacher and seasoned sailor was rescued Wednesday from his sinking 50-foot sailboat, Reflections, off the coast of La Playa, Mexico, several hours after the boat was thumped by a 55-foot whale. Young was on the last leg of an around-the-world voyage that spanned 12 years when the whale put an end to that dream.
On Friday, the 67-year-old Natomas resident was homeward bound on a Panamanian-flagged freighter that had rescued him, his wife said.
"He is fine and he is alive," Debra Young said.
That's not the case with the boat.
"It's going down," she said. "He kind of had a rough day yesterday realizing what has happened with our boat."
Although the boat is insured, it's unclear if getting hit by a whale is covered, she said.
The 51-year-old business owner had sailed with her husband from Panama to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, then returned home a few weeks ago. The last leg of the journey was from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego.
Debra Young first learned that her husband was in trouble when the Coast Guard called her late Tuesday night after he activated an emergency beacon.
"He said there was a whale on the stern and that it looked like it was 55 feet long," Young said, adding that it was too dark to see what kind of whale it was. "He said it left a little skin on the boat."
The impact from the whale, which was traveling
The Coast Guard District Command Center in Alameda got the call, dispatched a plane to the beacon's signal and found the boat. The sailor was baling water and had deployed a life raft in case he had to abandon the boat when radio communications were established at 2 a.m. Wednesday.
The Coast Guard requested rescue assistance from the Panamanian freighter that was 60 miles away and the vessel arrived at 4 a.m. He was taken aboard after sunrise, about nine hours after the whale hit his boat.
The couple had plans to sail around the world in 2000, but ended up doing the voyage in legs over the years, she said. During that time, Max Young has cruised the waters around Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti, Western Samoa, Tonga and Australia, to name just a few places.
"I would fly to different countries and meet him," Debra Young said.
Plans called for her to meet her husband in San Diego in August and sail the boat up to Emery Cove Yacht Harbor in Emeryville.
Max Young taught industrial arts at Antioch High School until he retired in 2000, but he came back in 2002 as a substitute and later taught full-time again before completely retiring 2007.
"I know him very well," said Antioch High School Principal Louis Rocha, who said he was teaching industrial arts back when was a student in the late '70s.
"Max has traveled a world. He's been an international sailor," Rocha said. "As soon as the school year ended, he would start off and have an adventure. ... He's always been a guy that's been passionate about life and kind of an adventurer."
To read a blog of Max Young's travels, check out http://maxyoungcircumnavigation.blogspot.com.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189.