Two Northwest sailors rescued from sinking boat off California coast


Chuck Fleer (yellow coveralls), Tas Kai and their dog Sadie thank an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Astoria, Ore., after the aircrew rescued them from their sailing vessel. (Air Station Humboldt Bay / U.S. Coast Guard)

The U.S. Coast Guard on Friday rescued two Northwest sailors whose boat was taking on water in 20- to 30-foot seas about 120 miles off the coast of northern California.

The 52-foot sailing vessel Gypsy Soul called a mayday Thursday evening after taking on water from a broken hatch while traveling in rough seas near Cape Mendocino. The couple onboard, Tarra “Tas” Kai and Chuck Fleer, left Tacoma about 10 days ago and were on their way to Hawaii when they ran into trouble, according to Lieut. Taylor Andrews of the Eleventh Coast Guard District.

Andrews said the Coast Guard received a mayday call from the vessel at about 7 p.m. Thursday but were unable to establish contact with the crew until about 4 a.m. this morning. A helicopter was sent from the Coast Guard’s Astoria, Ore., station to rescue the couple and their puppy, Sadie.

The pair had been in rough waters for the past four days, according to an interview with Fleer on KIEM TV. They worked their boat closer into shore in order to get in touch with the Coast Guard.

Andrews described both sailors as “very experienced,” with at least 40 years of boating experience between them.

Although tired and nauseated and suffering mild hypothermia when rescued, the pair were unharmed and did not require hospitalization, said Andrews. The status of their boat, he said, is not yet known.

The waters around Cape Mendocino are notoriously rough, and the sailors were battling extreme conditions with winds gusting to 60 miles per hour, Andrews said.

“They were hit really hard,” he said.

Breaking seas on deck apparently damaged the hatch, and the couple couldn’t keep up with the amount of water flooding the boat, Andrews said.

Seattle sailor Nicole Maraschky met Kai and Fleer last weekend when she and her husband, Aaron, arrived in Newport, Oreg., on their way down the coast. The friendly, outgoing couple had them over for dinner the following night alng with some other  sailors, Maraschsky said, and told them about their sailing plans and previous experiences. Tai has sailed since childhood, she said, and Fleer has sailed the west coast before.

“They are very experienced,” she said. “This was going to be their biggest passage.”

Fleer recently got a job in Hawaii, she said, where he and Kai planned to live on their boat and eventually go cruising on it.

“It was a gorgeous boat,” she said. “They had all sort of plans for it.”

On Monday, Maraschky said, Tai and Fleer left Newport to head south. Forecasts were calling for high seas and strong winds, she said, so she and her husband decided to stay in Newport and wait for better weather. Over the next few days, she said, they wondered how Tai and Fleer were faring on the ocean. Hearing that they ran into trouble was a shock, she said, particularly given the couple’s experience level.

“It’s super scary,” she said. “I just feel sick inside.”

23 Responses to Two Northwest sailors rescued from sinking boat off California coast

  1. J Derochie September 16, 2011 at 11:03 am #

  2. Michelle September 9, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    Chuck Fleer is a philandering misogynist and completely incompetent sailor who had no business being on the open ocean. He should have to repay all us taxpayers for the cost of his rescue. By the way Tai, did you know he was also cheating on you with anything female that would succumb to his “charms”? Redeem yourself Chuck, and pay Wendy what you owe her.

  3. SevenSeas September 6, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    Ms. Poor.

    I am writing to help fill in some of the details of the story that you reported regarding the rescue of Chuck Fleer and Tas Kai from the sailing vessel Gypsy Soul.

    No doubt you have seen the comments posted below your article, and you might get some sense of the outrage that many of us feel here in Olympia, Washington regarding Mr. Fleer and his companion. They were certainly victims in this story, but they were only victims of Mr. Fleers’s gross negligence and irresponsibility. As a life long mariner who has sailed on ships of all sizes on just about every ocean on the planet, along with being an expedition participant to some of the remotest locations on earth, I am convinced that Mr. Fleer and his companion were ill prepared for the journey – to say the least – along with the ocean moods that they might encounter along the way. Their plight illustrates their incompetence all too well. The Gypsy Soul is a beautiful boat. She has all the vital accoutrements needed to take on any blue water voyage, along with rough seas, and high winds. What she did not have was an experienced sailor at the helm, instead she had a “captain” filled with his own blustery wind of hubris. He would not be the first of his ilk to kill himself, and perhaps Darwin’s theory would have served us all well in this particular situation. Sadly though, he not only risked his own life in fleeing across the ocean, but he risked the life of his trusting companion as well.

    The real victim in this story is Chucks ex-wife, Wendy. For the last year, Wendy has been living on the Gypsy Soul alone while Chuck was overseas working as a contractor. Wendy has put hundreds of hours of sweat equity into the boat, and at the same time, as those of us who have lived on and love boats know so well, she has also put a whole lot of her own soul into the decks, sails, and riggings of this magnificent ship. Chuck left America with the promise that upon his return, that if the boat was ready, Wendy and he would take off on a cruise around the world. They would begin with a stint in the Hawaiian Islands. Those of us who know Wendy, were excited for her, and we encouraged her and supported her as she toiled to make the boat ready. Unfortunately, a few months ago, just before his return, Chuck contacted Wendy by phone, said he did not love her, and said he wanted a divorce. He also said he was taking the boat. It is also important to mention that in order for Chuck to get the boat in the first place, he convinced Wendy to sign off on the note for the ship, making her personally responsible for well over a hundred thousand dollars of the Gypsy Soul’s worth.

    The story doesn’t end there though.

    When Mr. Fleer returned to the United States, he found that Wendy, in preparation for his arrival, had moved herself off the boat so that the ship could be sold, or bought out by Mr. Fleer, and Wendy could recoup her investment. Instead, Fleer took the opportunity to sail the Gypsy Soul out of the marina in the dead of night, and attempt to hide her in the San Juan Islands while he prepared to flee the country. At the same time he evaded Wendy’s attempts to find him and serve him with a court order for both divorce, as well as a court ordered demand that he obtain blue water insurance. He did neither, and the rest is history. When the Gypsy Soul was lost, so were all of Wendy Walker’s dreams. Chuck Fleer is the pirate who stole them all. The facts of this story are clear, and they can all be easily checked by visiting the residents of Swantown Marina in Olympia Washington. Checking the facts is something that you might have done when writing your article. You unfortunately took the word of pirates at face value, and although the story of the rescue was indeed heroic on the part of the coast guard, your story was filled with inaccuracies and outright lies. I am sorry that you were duped, and hope that perhaps a follow up story in your paper along with all of the other papers and news agencies that reported it – might set the record straight. Please recant the inaccuracies (like Kai living on the boat for four years) and tell the story in its truth, rather than the fabricated yarns of Fleer and Kai.

    • Marty McOmber September 6, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

      Thanks for the comment. Not sure what you meant by inaccuracies in the story. We didn’t write anything about the nature of the relationship of the crew of Gypsy Soul, or anything about who lived aboard the vessel. We also didn’t interview Mr. Fleer, although we did try to get hold of him. Perhaps you are refering to a diffent article?

      • SevenSeas September 8, 2011 at 7:52 am #

        My apologies…As I was copy and pasting replies to various articles in an effort to get the word out about Mr. Fleer, I copied my letter to a California newspaper into your reply field. I had a few windows open. Hence the opening that referenced a reporter named ” Ms. Poor.” And not your publication. Perhaps it is me who should be keel hauled?

        Anyway, perhaps you should delete my comment in the interest of fairness to your writers. Again my apologies. So many of us are just so outraged of the whole incident, that we hope at least one publication of the many that reported the story, takes the time to tell the real story.

  4. Bob Buelt September 6, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    We were sailing 30nm north of Cape Mendocino when we heard the first distress calls answered from Gypsy Soul. We had been monitoring the overall coastal and offshore weather very closely since we left Port Angeles, WA on our way to San Francisco on our 49 ft ketch and the forecasts were predicting gale conditions days ahead of time for offshore and high seas with gusts 45kts. We had moved to within 10nm of shore to avoid the gale and passed Cape Mendocino that night with light north winds. There were no surprises with the weather and we found the forecasts to be accurate.
    I personally know the “captain” of the Gyspsy Soul and can attest to the truth in Sam and Tara’s statements. He is still married to a woman he abandoned in Washington (5th marriage) and the boat still has her name on the loan papers. He was leaving (and thus stealing her interest in the boat) without her permission. Now she has liability on payments on a boat that was stolen from her and sunk. Please pray for her.

  5. Sam Thayer September 5, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    There is a God.
    Chuck Fleer was taught to sail by his CURRENT wife (yes, he is marries). He was fleeing Washington jurisdiction to avoid being served with a separation agreement and divorceis papers which would’ve prevented him from going offshore until his WIFE was no longer on the bank note or he had cruising insurance (which he did not). He had been CHEATING with that bimbo for four years. Don’t feel sorry for that sleazebag; his karma caught up with him.

  6. Marty September 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    Tara. The story says nothing about the couple’s status. You may be referring to the last paragraph. But the “husband” in that paragraph is referring to Mr. Maraschky not Mr. Fleer.

    • Tara September 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      I know Chuck Fleer personally…and although your article only call them a couple others articles call the woman and Mr. Fleer engaged….he is currently married to my very good friend…and left the state of Washington not quite legally or insured. On top of that he is not an experienced sailor as my friend sailed from Portland to Olympia with him less than a year ago and they where caught in “weather” that time too and had to be recscued but the USCG. Seems Mr. Fleer is unawar of weather…

  7. Tara September 4, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Chuck fleer is NOT engaged to that woman he is in FACT married to my friend…took the boat without her consent (lawyer has proof)…he is Still married, cheated on my friend with this woman…left his dog….but hey got a “new” puppy with his mistress (not fiance)…he is a loser and should have gone down with his boat.

  8. Tom September 4, 2011 at 12:57 am #

    My name is Tom Brown too, but you sound a lot smarter than me. In closing, I agree with you wholeheartedly, bro Brown.

  9. bob September 3, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    ahhh…no credit for the USCG C-130 that found them! bummer… glad the sailors are safe!

  10. Tom Brown September 3, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    Weather forecast are just that, a forecast, an educated guess. Mother Ocean has a way of changing things up on you, despite what the National Weather service tells you. Having just spent a considerable amount of time at the Humboldt Bay NWS, they made it very clear that they do not consider forecasting, more than 60 miles of shore to be very accurate. There are just two many variables than effect the patterns out that far.

    With the SW swell that was generated by the large storm in New Zealand last week working it’s way to the west caost, I have no doubt that there were caught off gaurd, and can thank their lucky stars that that there were able to limp the boat back into contact range with the Coast Gaurd.

    Thank goodness they are safe, and a round of thanks to the Coasties!!

    • Bill Ray September 5, 2011 at 10:14 am #

      Actually this forecast sounded spot-on, at least enough to give Aaron and Nicole pause.

      There is going to be difficulty with detail 60-miles out. General ocean area forecasts have 30-nm grids and do not usually take into account terrain like the Cape. Also you want to use forecasts that have been processed by a human forecaster like the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center charts, rather than raw GRIB which are much lower reliability. But quality public forecasts exist when added to some weather understanding.

      • Bill Ray September 5, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

        I checked the NOAA OPC archives for two days before the 9/1 and their forecast for that area was gales, 35 knots sustained winds and 4-5 meter wind-waves (on top of any swell). Cape Mendocino is well known to accentuate to open water conditions.

  11. Frank Billera September 3, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    The first requirement for “experienced sailors” is to pay attention to the weather forecast.

  12. Nigel Barron September 3, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    Glad they are okay.

    Whenever I am helping people get boats ready for offshore passages, one thing I always suggest is taking a read of the offshore safety requirements for the races. I suggest they keep in mind that for the most part safety requirements are reactive, not proactive. In essence, think about what bad thing befell someone for that now to be a safety requirement. In reading this story, I was reminded of this particular safety requirement:

    2.2 Hatches or ports permanently fastened to yacht and capable of being solidly secured, essentially leak-proof.

    2.5- Where windows exceed two sq. ft. in area or where the least dimension exceeds 9 inches, covers of strength equal to 3/8˝ minimum thickness plywood shall be carried aboard for all such windows. One set will serve either side of yacht.

    • Frank Billera September 3, 2011 at 11:25 am #

      The first requirement of “experienced sailors” is to pay attention to the weather forecast.

  13. Aaron September 2, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    Wow, they were moored right next to us in Newport before they left. Great people, we’re glad to hear that they survived.

    • Wendy Walker September 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

      Clearly you had only just met them.

      • Jim Lussier September 10, 2011 at 8:32 am #

        Sorry to learn this.

      • Lisa August 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

        I can not believe this guy is still preying on women. He needs to be stopped!

    • J Derochie September 16, 2011 at 11:04 am #

      People also thought Ted Bundy was a great guy..

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