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Newsletter Archive

Here's an archive of the Newsletters written by Jim Murrant and Ann Reynolds for The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship.

2012 Newsletter index

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2010 Newsletter Archive

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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 containership.

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 conditions.

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 and astern.

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 my vessel.

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 in sight.

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 shuts down.

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.

© 2012 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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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 navigation.

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 been salvaged.

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.

© 2012 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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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 major sponsorships.

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 only?

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, police said.

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.

© 2012 Bevanda Pty Ltd

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