alert to all fellow mariners:
Some of you may have heard of the sub-tropical storm Andrea that led to the sinking of two vessels off the coast of North Carolina
on May 7th. My s/v Sean Seamour II was one, the Flying Colors was the other lost
with all hands on board including two professional skippers. In our case we suffered an initial knockdown followed by a 360° roll, all of this is consigned in my log that can consulted on my blog : Art and Sea in Provence :: s/v Sean Seamour II - the final log entry
, those interested in the latest weather
data analysis from the NHC visit Robin Storm: The NHC Report on Subtropical Storm Andrea
The reason I am alerting the community concerns the EPIRB
that was launched right after the initial knockdown with the following background and results:
1. I purchased the unit in October of 2002, the UK vendor registered it with NOAA and supplied it to the vessel at the time still in the Mediterranean
. Once in Florida
all portables, from sails
to EPIRB, Life raft et-al has always been kept in an air conditioned storage
when the boat was not in use.
The EPIRB was always kept in its cradle
affixed to the inside of the companionway
whenever the boat was in use.
2. Prior to leaving for the May crossing back to Europe
I had the shipyard sent the EPIRB with the life raft for recertification, the accredited service
center informed me through the yard that the unit was fully operational and certified until next November.
3. The unit started to function normally when initiated at about 02:45hours on the 7th, betwen the knockdown and the 360 I put it back in its cradle
for safekeeping and accessibility should the need to abandon ship occur, less that 30 minutes later it ceased functioning.
4. The Coast Guard received the signal initially, but the hexadecimal code it received was that of another vessel in Alabama
.They never received a distress
signal from s/v Sean Seamour II as there appears to be no Sean Seamour II vessel registered in their database.
5. Once they ascertained that the ID code received was that of a non initiated EPIRB, under the principle that every EPIRB has a unique hexadecimal code plus the interruption of the signal, further search on this distress
signal was abandoned.
Had I not kept an 11 year old EPIRB (with its original battery
that functioned over ten hours) from one of my prior vessels my crew and I would be yet another set of lost
at sea statistics and all of the above would not be known.
This is much more critical when considering the information provided by the manufacturer who I initially contacted to attempt to understand what may have happened (my insurance
carrier could not understand why the reported vessel name was Lou Pantai, a vessel I owned ten years ago, but reported throughout the press and USCG due to EPIRB identification). In my discussion with one of the directors I was told "this has happened before".
I am of course extremely interested in any similar experience or knowledge someone may have that could corroborate my experience, I consider there are too many lives at stake for this to be swept under the rug as there are three issues at stake: (i) why did the unit mis function, (ii) if there was a technical flaw why was this not detected at recertification, finally, (iii) how could the hexadecimal number be attributed to another vessel. My decal from NOAA says Sean Seamour II with the ID code, the ID code is to another vessel. Any one of the above three faults could have cost the lives of the crew, let alone the three.
For anyone interested in reading the story in French, Voiles et Voiliers, the leading sailing magazine in France
has just published a four page spread with some dramatic photography
in the August issue.