From: Dave Hall
Sent: Wednesday, July 08, 2009 3:47 PM
I was the skipper/owner of Maelstrom a British built Camper and Nicholson 33.
On 20th June 09 we were dismasted at position 40deg05'N 54deg18'W. The incident was caused by the catastrophic failure of a 15mm thick stainless steel rod that connected the Starboard chain plate to the cap shroud through deck fitting. This pulled away leaving a hole in the deck and the mast sheared away at deck level. It crashed into the Port side of the hull. I have attached pictures and a copy of the log.
We set of the "SPOT" at approximately 1330 and were plucked from our waterlogged sailboat at 2330 by the Astro-Saturn. The captain of the tanker informed us that he had been contacted by the coastguard in Norfolk using Amver and being relatively close by, had steamed to our position. Maelstrom was taking on water at a substantial rate because of damage to her deck and hull and it was doubtful if she could have remained a hazard to navigation for long after we abandoned her.
I'll never be able to thank you and your staff sufficiently for coordinating our successful rescue. The next time I am in Little Creek I would cherish the opportunity to thank you all personally.
Thank goodness for AMVER. Dave Hall
From the logbook:
THE SOLID STAINLESS STEEL BAR THAT JOINED THE STBD SHROUD AND LOWER TO THE FRAME OF HER HULL HAD PULLED APART AT THE LOWER THREAD ADJUSTER. THIS BAR IS 5/8’’ 16mm THICK YET IT HAD SNAPPED A CLEAN BREAK NOT A FAILURE THROUGH CORROSION.
AS THE MAST WENT OVER TO PORT IT SHEARED OFF AT DECK LEVEL AND SMASHED DOWN ON THE PORT RAIL. THE RAIL JOIN SUFFERED THE FULL IMPACT WITH CRACKS IN THE HULL EXTENDING WELL BELLOW THE WATER LINE.
OVER 1100 MILES OUT IN MID ATLANTIC, NO MAST –HOLED TAKING ON WATER. WHAT TO DO?
MAELSTROM PROBABLY SANK AS SHE WAS TAKING ON WATER AS FAST AS WE COULD PUMP OUT. I DIDN’T SEE HER GO DOWN BUT A FULL STORM HIT THAT NIGHT SO WITH HER SO LOW IN THE WATER AND HAVING TWO GAPING HOSES IN HER DECK? WHO KNOWS.
AFTER LUNCH WE SET OFF THE SPOT, THE POSITION TRACKER BY HITTING THE’’911’’ BUTTON.
BY LEAVING IT RUNNING ALL AFTERNOON IT SENT OUT OUR POSITION CONTINUOUSLY VIA SATELLITE TO SPOT HQ WHO IN TURN INFORMED THE US COAST GUARD WAY BACK 1108 MILES IN NORFOLK VIRGINIA. THEY’D CONTACTED ALL THE NEARBY SHIPPING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ATLANTIC THAT A POSSIBLE SITUATION HAD ARISEN.
AS THE SPOT SENT OUT CONTINUOUS POSITION REPORTS AROUND 9PM VHF TRAFFIC WAS HEARD. I'D HIT THE DISTRESS BUTTON AND THEN ISSUED A MAYDAY ON CHANNEL 16 WHICH WAS ANSWERED IMMEDIATELY BY THE ASTRO SATURN .A 250 METRE OIL TANKER ON ROUTE TO THE BAHAMAS FROM TALLIN ESTONIA. ONCE WE SAW THEIR LIGHTS WE SET OFF FLARES TO GUIDE THEM TO OUR POSITION.
THEY HAD BEEN 80 MILES PAST GOING SOUTH WHEN THEY WERE INSTRUCTED TO COME TOWARDS OUR LATEST SPOT POSITION AND REPORT WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN THE AREA IF ANYTHING.
AT 11:30 PM WE CLIMBED UP THE LADDER ONTO THE DECK AND WERE GIVEN CABINS IN THE OFFICERS QUARTERS.
THE ONLY TIME I GOT WET THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE INCIDENT WAS WHEN I STEPPED INTO THE SHOWER AND WASHED OFF TWO WEEKS WORTH OF SWEAT AND SALT SPRAY BEFORE SETTLING DOWN IN A COMFORTABLE BED.
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPRESS ADEQUATELY THE FEELING OF RELIEF ONCE VHF CONTACT HAD BEEN ESTABLISHED WITH THE ASTRO SATURN.
UNTIL VHF CONTACT WE WERE ALONE HELPLESS AT THE MERCY OF THE ELEMENTS IN WILDERNESS OF AN OCEAN. WE DIDN’T KNOW IF OUR DISTRESS SIGNAL HAD BEEN RECEIVED OR HAD BEEN ACTED UPON.
THE ASTRO SATURN UNDOUBTEDLY SAVED US FROM AN UNTHINKABLE END. MAELSTROM WOULD NOT HAVE SURVIVED ANOTHER DAY AND PROBABLY SUNK DURING THE NIGHT. THE MIDDLE OF ATLANTIC DURING A FORCE 10 GALE IS NOT THE PLACE TO BE IN A SINKING SAIL BOAT.
WE WILL ALWAYS REMAIN ETERNALLY GRATEFUL TO THE CAPTAIN AND THE DEDICATED CREW OF THE ASTRO SATURN FOR SAVING US.
WITHOUT A MAST WE GAVE NO RADAR ECHO AND ONLY BY THEIR DILIGENCE AND EXPERT SEAMANSHIP WERE WE FOUND.
THE RESCUE WAS CARRIED OUT IN TOTAL SAFETY BY A TEAM OF DEDICATED PROFESSIONALS WHO TOOK TOTAL COMMAND OF A MOST DIFFICULT SITUATION AND PLUCKED MYSELF AND CREW FROM OUR FLOUNDERING SAILBOAT AND BROUGHT US SAFELY ABOARD DURING TOTALLY DARKNESS FROM WINDSWEPT SEA.
DURING OUR STAY ABOARD AS GUESTS OF THE CAPTAIN AND CREW ON THEIR ONWARD PASSAGE TO THE BAHAMAS. WE HAVE SCRUTINIZED EVERY ASPECT OF OUR JOURNEY FROM NORFOLK VIRGINIA AND THERE IS NOTHING WITH HINDSIGHT WE WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY. OUR PASSAGE LOG GIVES NO INDICATION OF THE CATASTROPHIC EQUIPMENT FAILURE THAT WAS TO COME.
THE INITIAL CONTACT WITH THE ASTRO SATURN INSPIRED US WITH CONFIDENCE, WE KNEW THAT ONCE UPON THE SCENE WE WOULD BE SAFE. THEIR APPROACH OUT OF TOTAL DARKNESS WAS DONE WITH ABSOLUTE PERFECTION .
THE CAPTAIN STOOD OFF AND ASSESSED THE SITUATION. THEN SLOWLY MANOEUVERED HIS MASSIVE SHIP WITH PERFECT PRECISION. AS WE WERE BEING THROWN ABOUT VIOLENTLY, BEAM ON IN A BREAKING SEA. THE CAPTAIN APPROACHED US FROM ASTERN, ON OUR WINDWARD SIDE. PLACING THE GIGANTIC BULK OF HIS SHIP BETWEEN US AND THE BREAKING WATERS. ONCE IN THE LEE OF HIS SHIP WE WERE IN RELATIVELY CALM WATERS. FURTHER TURNING TO LEEWARD BROUGHT US SAFELY ALONG SIDE AND HE LITERALLY CRADLED US WITH HIS GIGANTIC SHIP PROTECTING US FROM BOTH THE WIND AND ANGRY SEA.
HIS SKILL AND SEAMANSHIP SAVED THE LIVES OF TWO SAILBOATERS.
HE WILL ALWAYS BE A HERO IN OUR EYES AND HAS EARNED THE GRATITUDE OF OUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS FOR ALL TIME.