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Extraordinary rescue - 8 Mar 12
This newsletter follows a different form than our usual.
It tells the story of the rescue of three people in a
yacht in the Pacific Ocean by a 273 metre long
It is told by Captain Kelleher who was the skipper of
the rescuing vessel, Horizon Reliance.
The complete story is too long to send so we have
taken some quotes from the complete report and with
them created the bare bones of the story, as told
by the captain.
It shows extraordinary understanding of the
difficulties faced by the small yacht and – memorably – by the captain himself. It is a
fine example of seamanship.
At the end of our extract of the rescue story there
is a link to the complete interview. We recommend
it to you most strongly.
Captain Kelleher's story
Shortly after 1800 on Tuesday the 7th [February
2012] I got a call from the mate on the bridge
telling me there was a sailboat in distress. It
was a 38-ft sailboat, and three persons onboard
ages 9, 27, and 31.
They were dismasted, all the sails were destroyed.
The engine was seized and they were basically
adrift in extreme conditions. The weather was very
bad. It looked to only get worse with the approach
of a cold front.
As luck would have it my Chief Engineer John
Williams is a very experienced sailing racer and
offshore sailor. He said first of all cut the
rigging and get rid of that mast.
Shortly after 2300 I was able to speak with Brad
on the sailboat. I told him what our plan was, how
I planned to approach him and what I expected to do.
Brad understood and he seemed very composed. I had
a good feeling. I thought he sounded good after
being out to sea in a small boat for 3 weeks in those
When I thought I was about 45 min away from their
position – this being a 34,000 tonne steamship
- I began our slow down procedures. I slowed the ship
down until about 0100. I had the ship down to
maneuvering speed. I could use the engines, ahead
We could see the boat now. It was extremely low to
the water. It appeared that it had taken on a
serious amount of water if it was that low.
As I made my approach into the wind I got closer
and closer and closer. The boat was very close to
me, broad on my port bow, my plan was to make a
slow turn to port and bring them into the lee of
Now doing this, this being a single screw container
ship, if I were to bring it around upwind of them
the vessel could set down upon them, I'd be able to
bring them alongside, hopefully I would be able to
control the vessel using the rudder, the engine,
and the bow thruster to bring them alongside.
Just as I slowly began this turn a much larger set
of waves came in … After we went over the second
wave - which was a very big wave - the ship rose
up and pitched down.
Now, my forward draft is 28-ft. and when we came
out of that second sea the bow came completely
out of the water, the entire bulb was exposed… as the bow came up it came up directly
underneath their sailboat.
They slid off as we pitched back down and then
the ship continued left and they slid aft right
along the starboard bow alongside the foc'sle
head down the starboard side.
Bradley and his son were pushed towards the ship
and forward and the next thing I know they're gone.
They went around the bow and they went over to the
port side of the ship. They're no longer visible
from the starboard side.
Now I had my whole crew up on the foc'sle head
and the starboard side, so we had plenty of eyes
on the one still on the starboard side, who
turned out to be Mitchell.
I immediately … maneuvered the vessel to hold
my position and get Mitchell onboard. That
whole evolution took another 15 or 20 minutes
until they got a line to him. They got a line
to him from the foc'sle head and we walked that
aft and we got him under the ladder.
The chief mate reported to me - "We've got one
man onboard". I said "Ok, great".
As soon as he said that I immediately ran into
the bridge. I rang the telegraph ahead, put the
wheel hard over, put the thruster hard to port.
I had to get the other two. I began turning the
ship and we still had them in sight. We were
losing them at one point but we had them back
Right at this moment the front hits. The sky goes
black, the rain starts coming down torrentially,
the winds kick up 50 or 55 knots and visibility
I kept asking the Chief Mate, Steve, "Are there
two people?" The next half hour of my life was just
pure hell. I didn't think that the kid was with him.
I thought it was just Brad. I had no way of knowing
at this point.
I didn't want to be up wind of him and put him on
the lee on my port side, because now I have people
in the water, this is not a boat.
If the ship would have set down on them we could
suck them under the ship and they would be finished.
My plan was to stay downwind and then bring the ship
around. I was able to accomplish that.
The only other thing that I knew to do was to start
backing and filling. I had to get the bow to starboard,
so I ordered the engine half astern and I got some
stern way on the ship.
He came closer and closer and closer. As he got close
enough, we still couldn't see them but we could hear
them. That's when we heard the kid, along with his
father and I knew I had them both. Boy I'll tell you
that was a moment.
You have to understand, I can't get too much headway
on the ship, I've got people in the water. I have to
keep the ship basically dead in the water but I have
to keep it moving in 30-foot seas and 50 knot winds.
It was something else.
You can read the full interview with Captain Kelleher here.
* * * * * *
Night-time arrivals not permitted + GPS navigation blamed for loss of yacht + John MacGregor - 21 Feb 12
Below you'll find a story about why it's not a good
idea to rely solely on a GPS for navigation.
1. Night-time arrivals not permitted
A very thoughtful regulation applies to any vessel
entering the paradise-like lagoon at the World
Heritage Lord Howe Island.
If you arrive at night, you have to stand off until
next morning. You have to sail up and down, or heave
to at a safe distance from the island.
When you do enter the lagoon, you follow closely
behind the local lead boat as it motors through the
narrow gap in the reef.
This careful regulation ensures that no damage is done
to either a yacht or the reef. The islanders are fiercely
protective of their beautiful location. In fact, to retain
its pristine state, the number of visitors allowed at any
time is limited.
And, if you ever get the opportunity to visit Lord Howe,
whether by sea or air, GO. It's a magic place with a
strong emphasis on its sustainability.
2. GPS navigation blamed for loss of yacht
The situation was vastly different for the 12-metre yacht
Okiana in New Zealand. With three aboard, it was sailing
from Wellington to Milford Sound. They planned to spend
the night at Torrent Bay and were relying on GPS for
On a dark night with only a little moonlight, they made
their approach. They believed what their GPS told them,
that they were in the middle of Torrent Bay just short
of their destination.
But the yacht struck rocks off Pitt Head, to the shock
of the crew. If we assume that the yacht was travelling
at 6-8 knots, it's amazing no one was hurt.
Fortunately for them, the yacht was well equipped
with safety equipment - EPIRBs, flares, grab-bags,
a VHF radio and two inflatable boats - which the crew
deployed. All three were rescued unharmed by locals.
The boat, however, was badly damaged and has since
There is a further twist to this story. At first the
vessel was believed to have been a 15-metre motor
launch also owned by Okiana's skipper. He had taken
both EPIRBs with him, just in case.
A Maritime New Zealand spokesman said that boat
owners should ensure their beacons were registered
with the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand.
He reminded them that their emergency contact details
should also be kept up to date. This, of course, is
true wherever you are.
To my mind, the most important thing to learn from
this is not to rely solely on what a GPS tells you.
Like any other instrument, it is subject to faulty
signals, which result in a faulty position.
I've written about this in an article, Don't let
your GPS mislead.
3. In their own words: John MacGregor
The perfection of a yacht's beauty is that nothing should be there for only beauty's sake.
We haven't been able to verify who John MacGregor was who wrote those words. He may have been a Scotsman (1825-1892) who pioneered the development of sailing canoes in England in the 1860s. He wrote A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe, which popularised the design and cruising as a pastime.
* * * * * *
Wet weather + Sponsorship and yacht racing + Mystery of missing captain - 3 Feb 12
1. Wet weather
I don't know what it's been like in your part
of the world, but here the weather has put a
real dampener, if you'll pardon the pun, on
cruising and other recreational sailing and boating - although there's still plenty of
racing going on.
Generally though, things have been very quiet.
The rain explains it here and, of course, the
northern hemisphere is in the depths of winter
which is always a quiet time.
It is a good chance though to have a thorough
look at your boat and see what work it needs.
Also, if your boat is on a mooring, it's a good
time to check and see that it is safe and doesn't
need pumping out. You'll probably also have to
spend a bit of time and energy getting rid of any
and all traces of mildew, mould or rot.
2. Sponsorship and yacht racing
It's also a good time to think. The recent Sydney-
Hobart race was marred, as was the one before, by
a protest by the race committee against the
ostensible line honours winner. This time it was
on the grounds that they had accepted outside help.
The situation was that, because it was a sponsored boat, several times had been set aside
for live radio interviews on the boat's progress
during the race. These interviews were then
broadcast to the public.
It was alleged that when the boat's skipper was
not available to do one of those interviews,
the interviewer spoke with another member of
the boat's crew, who happens to be a sailmaker.
During the interview the sailmaker asked about
the mainsail on the nearest competitor to the
eventual winner, which wasn't surprising since
he'd made it. This was the basis of the protest.
In any case the protest was dismissed but the
real damage had been done.
The protest was announced only minutes after
the first boat finished, during their excited
celebration of what they saw as their win. To
say the gloss had been taken off the occasion
for them is an understatement and highlights
what I think is an increasing problem with
The increasing intrusion of the requirements
of the sponsor as against the requirements of
the skipper and crew have brought about an
imbalance that needs correcting. Should there
be, for instance, a blanket ban on such interviews?
Should they be limited to one designated person
It would be naïve to think that sponsorship
should not occur at all. The expensive world
of yacht racing would collapse without sponsorship,
but it has to be, I believe, less intrusive than
it now is.
3. Mystery of missing captain
There was one incident locally that showed the
dangers of boating. At the time of writing the
skipper of a yacht is missing after his boat
grounded on a sandbar in the Hastings river near
Port Macquarie on the NSW north coast.
The 13 metre yacht was being delivered from Sydney
to Brisbane when according to reports it suffered
rigging damage and crossed the Port Macquarie bar
to enter the Hastings river and seek shelter. Some reports said that it lost power and hit either
the breakwater or rocks but the crew was able to
ground it on a sandbar close to a marina.
The yacht had contacted Marine Rescue to ask for
help but said they didn't need that help immediately
and could wait until high tide to be towed.
According to Marine Rescue, when its boat returned
about six hours later to take the yacht to the nearby
marina, two crew members on the yacht realised that
the 75-year-old skipper was missing. He was wearing
a lifejacket, wet weather gear and had an EPIRB,
A compounding problem of this already-complicated
situation is that following the huge downpour of
rain in that part of Australia since Christmas the
Hastings river is in serious flood and is running
at at least four knots. The water therefore is
full of debris and silt.
One fear is that the man has been swept out
to sea. The search is continuing.
* * * * * *