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Old 06-10-2014, 16:15   #1
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The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

I was just setting out from Cowes after an aborted lift, back to my mooring on the Hamble, across the Solent, with night falling, when the mayday came across. I could hear it on my handheld -- a good radio, a good antenna, and a very calm, methodical skipper, passing his message exactly according to protocol.

"Mayday, mayday, maday. This is x, x, x. Trimaran, white hulls. Y souls on board. Our position is x,y,z. We are about to capsize and require immediate assistance. I repeat, . . . "

The position read out is in the middle of the English Channel, just between Cherbourg and the Needles.

I arrived on my mooring, and continued to monitor the flurry of traffic which ensued -- lifeboats, navy ships, helicopters, ships and yachts passing by.

Mayday relay, mayday relay . . .

Debris is reported. A single orange life jacket with three reflective stripes.

Eventually, the coast guard starts to dismiss passing vessels offering help . . .

Now, seven hours later, the radio has gone quiet.

God help the sailors. There but for the grace of God . . .

It is a bit of water I have passed through scores of times. It is harsh -- it's the English Channel, after all, above 50 degrees N
-- but familiar, and you just assume your boat can stand up to it. We had a F9 in the morning, but by the time of the mayday, the wind had piped down a lot. So what if one day the boat doesn't stand up to it? And if even there, in the dense net of French and UK rescue services, they can't find you?
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Old 06-10-2014, 16:23   #2
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

more boats out there than ever,
people out there sailing to schedules,
stuff is going to happen
god rest there souls
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Old 06-10-2014, 16:32   #3
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

Poor buggers... she is a foul temptress...
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Old 06-10-2014, 16:36   #4
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

Lifeboats being stood down

One warship remaining on station . . .

One more helicopter search pattern being run at 01:00 BST . . .

Doesn't look good.
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Old 06-10-2014, 16:49   #5
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

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Lifeboats being stood down

One warship remaining on station . . .

One more helicopter search pattern being run at 01:00 BST . . .

Doesn't look good.
a bit squally till about an hour ago here in falmouth,but only F4-5 WSW in the channel,pretty normal conditions,though big tides so overfalls as you enter the shallower water.
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Old 06-10-2014, 16:52   #6
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

Would be great to hear that they are found and rescued soon. If they be taken, May their souls be at rest till the sea give up her dead.

I sail with full knowledge that the most routine day can turn tragic in an instant and I could be the one being discussed. Live life with no regrets so that when it is our moment to pass, we do so on good standing with ourselves.
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Old 06-10-2014, 17:09   #7
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

Sad news indeed.

How cold is the water there now? Is it common to call off a search so soon?

Please forgive my ignorance, but as a mono-hull sailor I do not understand the "about to capsize" -- unless they were swamped, how would they know that capsize was imminent, and yet not be able to prevent it?
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Old 06-10-2014, 17:13   #8
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

Yes, it would be interesting to see how it all came about. Must have been unreal listening to it on the radio... humbling.
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Old 06-10-2014, 17:20   #9
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

accomplice; cant speak for those guys but i've had the experience on a 30ft trimaran of a combo of wind and sea conditions where every time i came off the top of a swell the hull would sit up in the air deciding which way to go - I was lucky, I still had control of the boat and managed to get her about without capsizing and had sea room to run off to shelter. Add some loss of control, worse conditions, run out of luck. They must have had terrible bad luck to be in their situation on a modern cat.
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Old 06-10-2014, 17:21   #10
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

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Sad news indeed.

How cold is the water there now? Is it common to call off a search so soon?

Please forgive my ignorance, but as a mono-hull sailor I do not understand the "about to capsize" -- unless they were swamped, how would they know that capsize was imminent, and yet not be able to prevent it?
about 14 Centigrade
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Old 06-10-2014, 17:22   #11
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

Not good and presumably the position report was accurate (no reason for it not to be) and still no way of finding life (or bodies).

The sea is big and we are small and even smaller when things go wrong!

Perhaps a PLB (with embedded GPS) would have made body recovery more likely.
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Old 06-10-2014, 17:23   #12
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

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Originally Posted by charliehows View Post
accomplice; cant speak for those guys but i've had the experience on a 30ft trimaran of a combo of wind and sea conditions where every time i came off the top of a swell the hull would sit up in the air deciding which way to go - I was lucky, I still had control of the boat and managed to get her about without capsizing and had sea room to run off to shelter. Add some loss of control, worse conditions, run out of luck. They must have had terrible bad luck to be in their situation on a modern cat.
FWIW, it was a Tri.
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Old 06-10-2014, 17:32   #13
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

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Please forgive my ignorance, but as a mono-hull sailor I do not understand the "about to capsize" -- unless they were swamped, how would they know that capsize was imminent, and yet not be able to prevent it?
If one of the amas (floats) had been holed or otherwise opened up and was taking on water then the trimaran could easily capsize.

A trimaran was recently abandoned as it was sailing from Hawaii to San Franciso. It hit something and started flooding, and was in serious danger of capsizing. The crew was rescued by a passing ship: Latitude 38 - 'Lectronic Latitude
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Old 06-10-2014, 17:33   #14
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

Maybe they had broken the akas on one or both sides and knew it was just a matter of time till they went over?
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Old 06-10-2014, 17:51   #15
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Re: The Sea is a Harsh Mistress

Modern technology is amazing, and with the coverage available in the English Channel you can see the tracks of many of the SAR vessels:

Live Ships Map - AIS - Vessel Traffic and Positions - AIS Marine Traffic

and yet with all that, and a position that is presumably accurate it is still a needle in a haystack. A harsh mistress indeed, our thoughts are with them.
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