I have a friend who was on that ship 3-4 years ago and he just sent me this
Maurice Tugwell wore clothes too small for him and carried a battered lifejacket when he arrived home in Nova Scotia
on Monday, days after he and 63 others survived the sinking of the SV Concordia off the coast of Brazil
The retired Acadia University economics professor was teaching onboard the seagoing school
, which went down in bad weather
in mid-afternoon Wednesday.
“It’s the best outcome that you could have had given the circumstances that we were in,” he told reporters gathered at Halifax
Stanfield International Airport
Tugwell and three other Nova Scotia-based employees of Class Afloat flew home after returning to Canada
a day earlier. The others — teachers Kate Braedley and Heather Fitzpatrick and chief mate Kim Smith — did not speak to media.Tugwell said he was in his cabin
below decks when bad weather
started playing havoc. He said the sails
had already been lowered to compensate for the weather when the ship rolled strongly to one side — apparently when a microburst blew downward at the ship with very high winds.
His lights went out and then emergency
lights went on. Eventually an alarm
sounded when the engine
He said it’s fortunate that many of the ship’s 48 high school
and college students were already in classes
on the deck
, so it wasn’t difficult to get them together near the life rafts and put them in survival gear
Tugwell had a tougher time below decks.
“Picture it, what used to be the wall is now the floor and you can hear things smashing and crashing. You had to essentially go up the stairs which were now on the side and the lights went out.”
Tugwell started the semester — his second tour on board — on Feb. 4 in Recife, Brazil
, and said there’d been three abandon-ship drills and numerous sessions devoted to wearing life jackets and survival suits since then.
The students appeared to have learned their lesson, he said.
“They were just carrying on as if it was another exercise.”
Soon the ship was completely on its side and everyone was sliding along the masts in order to drop into the covered, circular life rafts; some of which held up to 20 people, plus flares and power bars and water
for eight days.
Everyone was off the ship by 3:15 p.m. and it sank out of sight a little later.
One of the life rafts needed constant bailing, but that was more for comfort since it wasn’t going to sink, he said. They lashed three of the life rafts together and the separate one managed to stay within sight.
Staff and students sang and talked to one another through the rest of that day and night and well into Thursday.
Although they had a flashing emergency
beacon, they started to wonder if it was sending out a signal because no emergency craft were appearing.
At dusk on Thursday they heard the drone of a Brazilian military aircraft and three of the rafts sent off flares, he said.
“We gave them the rocket show,” he said, adding that the pilots flew close to indicate they’d been spotted.
“There was a lot of cheering,” he said.
However, it was still about 18 hours until a pair of Filipino cargo ships arrived.
He said the survivors bonded well in their harrowing circumstances and sometimes sang songs
like Farewell to Nova Scotia
to keep their spirits up.
Climbing out of the life rafts up a rope
ladder with weak legs wasn’t easy, he said.
The Filipino sailors gave him a replacement set of very small clothes, which he still had on Monday. He held onto his life jacket as a souvenir.
He praised the Filipinos and Canadian consular officials for helping them out.
He doesn’t plan to go to sea again, but the school will.
Kate Knight, the head
of school, said the current
semester will resume on dry land in Lunenburg in a few weeks.
They are grieving the loss of the ship they had built for the school in 1992, but are very relieved no one died.
“That’s the most important thing for us,” she said.
The school has full insurance
on the 57.5-metre vessel and plans to return to the water
in another ship.
“It’s our intention that Class Afloat will be going for the next 25 years,” she said.
None of the students aboard the ship are from Nova Scotia. Tuition is $41,500 for a full year and $28,000 for a five-month semester. The students are aged 16 to 19 and mostly from Canada
, but there are also students from America, New Zealand
, United Kingdom, Germany
and the French West Indies, she said.