A group of Israeli friends who set off last week to cross the Atlantic Ocean on their small sailing yacht suddenly found themselves involved in a rescue operation.
As they left the coast of Western Africa beyond the horizon, Daniel Tahor and his friends happened upon a small wooden boat crammed with desperate refugees.
“After four days of sailing, we suddenly saw something strange in the distance. We got a little closer and found that it was a refugee boat from The Gambia. They waved a red sheet as a sign of distress,” Tahor told Israel’s N12 news portal over the weekend.
The refugees, who included women and children, said they had been adrift for two weeks, and that several of their number had died of hunger, thirst and exposure.
“We immediately handed them the water and food we had, and called the rescue forces from Spain – so that they could arrive with a larger boat, because we had no way to take them,” Tahor continued.
Despite the Israeli goodwill, Tahor said it remained a tense situation. Until he decided to break the ice by offering the refugees a beer. “Everyone said yes, and the tension was immediately reduced a bit,” he recalled with a smile.
After receiving confirmation that the Spanish rescue ship was en route, Tahor and his friends continued on their way, and were later notified by authorities that the refugees had reached safety.
Over 7,500 migrants and refugees from Western African embarked on the dangerous journey to the Spain’s Canary Islands in 2021. At least 250 and as many as 2,000 never made it, though the numbers are difficult to pin down since most who are lost at sea are never found.