Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sailboat Washes Up On Beach After Crossing The Tasman

A sailboat washed up on Brunswick Heads Beach, New South Wales, Australia after floating at sea unmanned for 134 days.  

On September 11th, 2011, the three man crew, including owner, Andrew Glover, left North Island from the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.  Somewhere presumably West of Norfolk Island, the crew ran into heavy seas.  They encountered 60 plus mile per hour winds and 20 foot seas.

Scotch Bonnet in New Zealand with New Teak decks

"We decided to run under about 1.5m of head sail and were making 6 - 8 kt boat speed. The seas were up to about 6m (20 feet) with occasional breaking waves. Apparent wind was a fairly steady 45kts before the needle pressed hard against the 50kts + (60 + MPH) stop and the water turned white. We had these conditions for no more than a minute when the mast disappeared, one second it was there the next gone, broken 8 - 10 feet above the deck."

With worse weather yet to come, a collective decision was made to abandon  the yacht.  She had become unstable because of the loss 
of her mast and was rolling wildly.

"We talked through the options," he said.

"But we just didn't have enough fuel any more to make it back to New Zealand or to get to Sydney.

"It was devastating to have to leave her out there."

"We later learned that 3 ships had joined in responding to the distress signal, 1 ship called us on the vhf and said they thought they were in the vicinity and could we see them, they were about 4 miles off and we set off some flares. They came alongside and slow steamed to bring us into their lee, at about 6kts they were as slow as possible to maintain steerage and we were full throttle to keep up, they lowered a rope ladder with approximately a 6m swell peak to trough with the bottom rung of the ladder reachable at the height of the swell.

You Can Help and Be A Part. "How?" you ask.

Help us help the families by making a donation today:

PLEASE, do two (2) things: 1. send in your donation as below and 2. cc: send an email 
to that the funds are designated for the Nina Search. Thank you and the five (5) families of the seven (7) lost loved ones and adrift thank you.

Texas EquuSearch SV Nina Search Fund
P.O. Box 395
DickinsonTexas 77539
Office: (281) 309-9500
Fax: (281) 534-6719
Toll Free: (877) 270-9500

Or, mail checks directly to:
Texas EquuSearch SV Nina Search Fund
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DickinsonTX 77539
Attention: Ms. Alicia White
(281) 337-9390


To reiterate another well worn lesson, abandoning ship is in itself a very dangerous option. We were fortunate and made it safely on board the 28,000GT container ship, the Captain told us in another hour he wouldn't have been able to take us off like that and the conditions were already too bad for the smallest of the 3 ships, 14,000 GT, to have picked us up."

You would think that would have been the end of the Scotch Bonnet, a 41 foot Sparkman and Stevens Swan.  However, on December 12th, 2011, the cruise ship Sun Princess came across the yacht in the Tasman Sea.  The officers on the ship dutifully turned the ship around and put out a boarding party.  It was quickly determined the yacht had been abandoned.

Nina Vigil Page

When the owner found out about the yacht, he wanted to see if he could recover her.  She was lying off Norfolk Island, in the same vicinity now being searched by the family of the missing yacht Nina.  However, a severe storm was brewing.  The ship that had spotted the boat lost sight of her.  

For nearly three months, the Scotch Bonnet bobbed her way to Australian shores.  She was out of sight and unreported for all of that time.  

Scotch Bonnet Washed On Australia Shores

On March 15th, 2012, the yacht was spotted in the surf coming ashore on Brunswick Head Beech about 1000 feet from the bar. 

"I swam out to it at midnight on Wednesday and it was really eerie. It had been in massive seas and the sails were trailing behind it." Said Mash Virgo, who had spotted the yacht coming in through the surf.

Ash Virgo, 38, and Colin Jones, 47, who lived nearby, were hoping they could claim salvage rights to the yacht. 

"The inside looked like it had been ransacked, with stuff everywhere and doors ripped off, but everything was still there from clothes, bedding, radios, computers, flares, ropes and even an esky (sic) of rotten food."  Virgo continued.

Unfortunately for Virgo and Jones, owner Andrew Glover had found out about the landing in Australia.  He had been searching for her since abandoning her.  He even sent out search flights trying to locate her.  Once on the beach, he hired a salvage company and reclaimed the $150,000 Swan 41.

Having been abandoned East of Norfolk Island, the Swan 41 bobbed it's way across the Tasman over a five month period.  During all of that time, there was only one sighting of the yacht.  When Glover abandoned the Swan, he left the main hatch door open.  After the cruise ship boarded her, the forward hatch was left  open.  Despite two huge holes in the deck, the Scotch Bonnet still made it across the Tasman Sea.

Moral of the Story
What does the Scotch Bonnet have to do with the Nina?  Some people say the Nina sank without a trace.  The event was so sudden the crew did not have a chance to set off the EPIRB, send a text on the satellite phone or set off the Spot Tracking device.  The event was so sudden and catastrophic, some speculate, there was no time to get to a life raft.  

If the Scotch Bonnet disappeared into the Tasman Sea with no one sighting her in three months, why couldn't the Nina have disappeared into the Tasman Sea with no sighting her?  In calculating probabilities about whether the Nina remains intact with her crew, it is good to use actual statistics rather than mere predictions.  The Scotch Bonnet represents actual, verifiable information about the survivability of a sailboat severely damaged in the Tasman Sea.  


Although the Scotch Bonnet is not an identical model to the Nina, and is much newer, they are both sailboats compared to trawlers, for example.  Sailboats are designed so if the unthinkable happens and they roll, they are more likely to come back over than a flat bottomed trawler will.

While the Nina could easily follow the path of the Scotch Bonnet, five months at sea is a long time for people to be at sea.  As a result, the search for the Nina should be paramount.  The yacht is likely floating, and the crew is waiting for help from their families who have not lost hope.  

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