My thanks to Kim Foster who shared this heroic tale from, of all places, the Daily Mail:
A most extraordinary Englishwoman went to the most extraordinary lengths to ensure her nine puppies survived after her crippled yacht, battered by heavy seas and gale force winds, began to sink off the Turkish coast.
A British woman stranded in a storm off the Turkish coast abandoned ship and swam 75 metres to the shore in a bid to save her nine puppies.
Laura Hughes, 28, a strong swimmer, balanced a milk crate containing the animals on her head and managed to save herself and all her puppies despite braving waves reaching five metres high.
Following a terrible mid-afternoon storm on October 21, Laura’s 14.5metre boat ‘Csavargo’ had been pushed around the Turkish coast by powerful gale force winds, leaving her close to the Greek island of Rhodes.
Laura, her boating companion John Cochrane, her two dogs Ragga Muffin and Tiger Lily, and the nine pups Ragga Muffin gave birth to while at sea, were all left completely helpless after a rope from the boat’s sails got caught in the boat’s propeller and caused an engine malfunction.
Laura, from Bedford, tried desperately to control the steering wheel there was no way of stopping the boat.
Laura said: ‘The gale force winds were rocking the boat from side to side. I felt as if I should have been wearing a harness.
‘The boat was filling up with water from waves washing over the side. I felt that if I didn’t get off the boat it would either sink or capsize. I had no option but to get off.’
After several hours, Laura found the boat stranded in a busy shipping lane three miles off the coast of Rhodes.
Worried that they would crash into another boat, Laura sent out a May Day distress signal over the ship’s VHF radio.
After being pushed miles around the coast and fearing her boat would sink or capsize, Laura had no other option but to abandon ship – and swim to the shore with the puppies in tow.
Alive and well: These puppies were saved when Laura Hughes decided to swim to shore, carrying them in a milk crate on her head
Laura added: ‘It was when we got into the shipping lane that I really started to become concerned.
‘I am quite a strong swimmer. My mum used to say I swam like a rat with just my head above the water.
‘I swallowed a lot of sea water when I was swimming but my main concern was to keep my puppies safe.’
A Greek cruiser liner answered their distress call and the captain told them that they had alerted the emergency services.
Laura Hughes was forced to abandon her yacht off the coast of Turkey but was determined to save the life of her nine puppies
Abandon ship: Laura jumped off her boat fearing it would sink or capsize – but not without her puppies
The cruise liner started circling around Laura’s boat to protect it from other oncoming boats.
By this point night had fallen and the waves rocking the boat from side to side were five metres high.
A rescue boat finally arrived, but because of the ferocity of the waves it couldn’t get near enough to Laura’s boat to rescue her.
A Greek tug boat rescue team also arrived, but they wanted to charge Laura 10,000 euros for rescuing them – and Laura didn’t enough money to pay them.
So, wearing a lifejacket, Laura jumped out of the boat, carrying the nine Rottweiler puppies ‘African-style’ by balancing the crate on her head and holding the side with one hand while swimming with the other.
Enlarge This map shows where Laura, John and their furry friends swam to safety
This map shows where Laura, John and their furry friends swam to safety
She had also attached a U-shaped buoyancy aid to the orange milk crate carrying the puppies and put a sheet inside it to soak up any sea water which splashed into it.
Laura explained: ‘A few of the puppies were a bit damp and their little legs were sticking out of the crate but they seemed to be none the worse for their adventure.’
John and the two adult dogs also jumped off the boat and swam to the nearest beach at the Greek resort of Lalyssos about 100 metres from their boat.
The pair were able to wade the last 25 metres as the water had become shallow enough for them to touch the ground.
When they got to the shore, exhausted, they were helped by German tourists from a beach hotel and members of the emergency services.
The British Embassy found Laura and John a hotel room for the night – and the puppies spent the night at a local Greek police station.
The next day local fishermen rescued Laura’s boat which had been washed up on some nearby sand dunes.
Laura’s boat is now moored in a marina while she takes a well-earned rest.
She is planning to sell her puppies.