Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Yacht "Sails" 550 NM in 17 Days Without It's Crew

A cautious cruising community put out the alert:  "Venezuela, Morrocoy National Park: Yacht found adrift with no crew on board".  

Because of recent attacks on cruising sailors, this story had the stamp of piracy all over it.  What happened to skipper and crew?  Who was the unfortunate owner?  

This is a story that has a happy ending.  As it turns out, no piracy was involved at all.  Instead, Andrew W. Connell writes in his blog:

"If your wondering what happened? Here it is My sailboat broke loose on the evening of the twelfth, from Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy.


Corcovado, a 40ft Standfast 

I was delivering a sailboat, at the time from the Bahamas to St.Barts a thousand mile upwind slog.  When we got news of my boat missing from St.Barts, we were off Puerto Rico, and my phone came to life. Keep in mind the days are still clicking by.

When our delivery ended in St.Martin, 24 hours later,it had been three days afloat, or drifting fast to the south and west.

The wheel being locked center line, also I believe, is the reason it moved south so quickly. If the wheel were locked with a little angle to it, it would have done circles, meaning drift in the current/ wind much slower. I think the boat was sailing 35 miles a day. JUST IN WHICH DIRECTION?

My phone rang on that Saturday I believe? It was the coast guard from France who had info for me, from a Dutch Curacao dash 8 aircraft. The coast guard had pictures of my boat, and knew about the alert of an abandon sailing vessel.

They gave me a position, or coordinates, for an attempt of a rescue,,
130 or so miles South West of Guadeloupe, near the Venezuelan islands of Los Aves. 

Over 200 miles from us at the time.

I instantly found a sailboat, and a good friend with a sat phone,who would go on a mission, knowing the dash 8 aircraft out of Curacao, which was still sitting on the tarmac in St.Maarten, was heading back to Curacao. Perfect, the chances of retrieving my boat are looking, okay!

Corcovado Photographed from French Dash-8
From Andrew Connell's blog

The next morning the dash 8 did not find my boat. damn!

We left with the feeling that the aircraft would fly again in a few days.
Okay, We provisioned this 38 foot German sailboat for 7 days, with two people on board. 

We took off towards Los Aves, directly south 100 miles or so first.
The next day we called the pilots and heard the grim news of no sightings and that the aircraft, which is payed for by the Dutch Government, will be on the ground in Curacao till Wednesday.


We had 5 or 6 days to go before we had a possible, aircraft sighting.
The second or third night out in rough weather at around 2 in the morning, Hans went forward of the mast, to take the inner fore stay off to enable a better tack, with the head sail.

We rolled hard to weather, and he was gone.

Instantly I turned into the wind and pinned the headsail on the opposite side of the boat and hoved (sic) too.

The next thing was a halyard over the side and Han De Bruyn Kops was dragging in twenty knots of wind and bigs (sic) seas behind my stern, doing 4 or so knots.

It was not easy to get him on the boat!

Our goal was to create a sort of goal line between Curacao and Puerto Rico, where the boat would eventually drift. 

Hans and I sailed back and forth from North to South for days, looking 300 miles away from St.Barths, (sic) down wind and to leeward of the Lesser Antilles.
My anchor light was on when I left, so I thought it would be easy at night, to find her.

After countless hours of, strong sun rays and tedious hours at the helm with no auto pilot, twenty plus knots of wind and north swells, we were exhausted and thoroughly disappointed.

None the less Hans was eager to carry on looking for my lost 40 footer.
Eventually it was time to think about our safe and long upwind passage, from 245 mile's north of Curacao back to St.Maarten.

We made it back with very little to eat or drink. It took three or four days of upwind slow sailing.

The trip was exciting, dangerous fun and horrible at the same time.
If the coast guard had flow another day, we would have been close to my boat.

I believe were were close to my boat. I took into consideration current charts which Hans had on board, and the waves and wind, at 35 miles a day.
We plotted a sort of projected corse, considering the 120 miles the boat moved in 4 days.

It is a huge body of water.

The two of us made it back to Simpson Bay St.Maarten, last night.

Im in St.Barts now, wiped out sad and still in dis belief.

Huge effort, no luck. 

I believe it is still out there and someone will find her.

Thanks for everyones support, peace out"

As it turned out, the boat drifted over 550 nautical miles to the coast of Venezuela's Morrocoy National Park.  The authorities found a business card with the owner's name inside the boat.  A very elated skipper was soon to be reunited with his boat.

You could spend a lifetime studying the ocean currents to figure out where things drift to over time.  Many RCC organizations use sophisticated SAROPS software to estimate the time and drift of people and boats in the water.  Yet as Andrew points out, something as simple as a jammed rudder can throw a monkey wrench in all of those figures.  They might call drift modeling a science, but really, finding anything adrift in the ocean is an art.  You have to have a lot of talent combined with a healthy dose of luck to be successful. 

At least, we don't have another incidence of piracy on our hands.

1 comment:

  1. Hello! This boat looks awesome! I cant wait to go to sea this summer and rent a yacht!


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