For those of you who are interested in the detailed story of our ''adventure'', here it is:
This text is extract from the letter I wrote to the owner of Sanctuary, the day we arrived in NYC
onboard Norwegian Gem.
We arrived this morning in New York
City, NY, onboard the Norwegian Gem, the ship that saved us from certain death.
We started from Sandy Hook on Tuesday, October 25 with a favorable weather forecast
for the next few days (NE wind
10-15 kn) which allowed us to cross the Gulf Stream
in direct route
to St. Maarten, NA.
After a pleasant first night, a wind
SW 30 KN forced us to diverge from our direct route
, given the wind and the sea conditions. The next day, we were hit by a severe depression with winds of 40 kn and more. Running before the wind with genoa
rolled up to 85%.
During the night of Thursday to Friday, we experienced winds up to 60 KN with rough, huge seas. I took the wheel
all night because I was the only one who could handle the breaking waves. The crew were on 2 hours watch, to inform me of the waves coming from behind. It was a night of new moon, no visibility.
Around 23:00, we were hit by a huge breaking wave, twice as big as the others. It came from port, while all others were coming from starboard. It hit hard and the boat was capsized, the mast
in the water
. I had water
at least two feet above me and I was torn from the wheel
. I was attached and I found myself on the stern, against the outboard motor
. When the waters went away, the boat righted herself and the mast
was still standing up. The boat continued on, driven by fierce winds. Eric’s portable GPS
recorded boat speeds up to 17.6 KN ...
Inside the ship, it was horror. Eric who was sleeping in the saloon
, went through the saloon
table and ended up against the fridge on the other side of the boat. The other two teammates who were sleeping were also thrown violently. All cabinets were emptied and there was stock all over the floors, including glass and debris of all kinds.
We realized that there was also a leak of diesel
spare reservoir that had emptied into the bidge. We also realized that the boat was taking on water.
We were subsequently struck by two lightning
storms. With hyper violent winds. We also were hit by two other big breaking waves, one of which ripped-off the "life raft". The shock of the sea waves caused structural damage to the hull
and possibly delaminating the fiberglass
. Inside the boat, in Andr้’s cabin
, the cabinet was smashed and could not open anymore. To my surprise we survived - boat and crew - this apocalyptic night.
The next day, the wind was calmer, but the sea was still very confused, with a nasty cross swell, residual of the storm. We made an inventory of damages to the boat. I tried to contact you with the Iridium
and I hit your mailbox again, where I left you a message. We set our course to Bermuda
in order to stop and repair. It was unthinkable to go to St. Maarten, NA in these conditions. We were at that time 357 nautical miles North of Bermuda
On the evening of Friday, around 18:00, we started the engine
to recharge the batteries. I immediately felt a burning smell and smoke coming from the engine
compartment. We stopped the engine and made an investigation of the engine compartment. We believe that there was an electrical
short with possible wire melt down and blown fuse. Impossible to start the engine any more...
An Easterly wind rose and we made direct route to Bermuda. As it was impossible to recharge the batteries, it was necessary to reduce our electrical
. We then established shifts for steering
and other shifts to pump manually the boat that was taking on water.
On the morning of Saturday, the wind came from the SW 30-35 kn. It was impossible to sail to Bermuda anymore. Our batteries were very low and a new storm was beginning. The Iridium phone
was charged at 50%. I decided to contact the USCG and request assistance. I also activated the DSC
on the VHF
. The Norwegian Gem cruise ship
told me later that she never received the distress
The United States Coast Guard sent a Hercules aircraft on our position and found a ship that was cruising at 50 NM from us. We established shifts for pumping the boat manually every two hours to prevent the water from rising above the floor.
There was diesel
all over the boat and it was very dangerous for slipping on floors.
The Norwegian Gem agreed to divert her course and came to us for assistance. The Hercules airplane of the United States Coast Guard circled above us and made a radio
technical liaison between all parties. When we saw the ship, we were contacted by VHF
and we began to plan the rescue
maneuver in a strong wind and rough seas with waves of 10-15 feet. A rescue
boat was launched and she came close to the boat. The transfer of the crew was extremely difficult and dangerous. There have been several violent impacts between the two boats.
We went on board the rescue boat with few belongings. We had prepared our passports and a bag of clothes.
The approach maneuver back to the cruise ship
was extremely difficult and dangerous. Several collisions occured between the rescue boat and the cruise
ship while we were hoisted.
The officers of the cruise
ship took care of us and we all went to the infirmary where we were examined by doctors. We were offered cabins and were able to shower
and feed. For more than three days, we had almost nothing to eat and drank little, given the state of the sea and the sailboat’s condition.
The Norwegian Gem has resumed her voyage to New York
City. The next day, we cleared customs
, met the NYC
press and celebrated with the cruise ship officers and the rescue team that saved our lives.