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Old 06-10-2015, 17:30   #1
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Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

Not wanting to get into arguments about "what caused" El Faro to sink / break apart, etc....I thought it better to start a new thread about the weather / weather forecasts, and the decision making of merchant vessel's captains...

So, here goes:

Regarding the M/V El Faro's final voyage...
Using US NHC forecasts / advisories, and El Faro's time/position data from Marine Traffic...

I understand that merchant vessels sail to meet schedules....
And, I understand that a forecast of a Tropical Storm might not detour a merchant vessel, that is trying to make its scheduled off-load...
But, there was forecast a building / strengthening storm prior to El Faro's departure, and the route sailed by El Faro seems like the normal rhumbline course (or slightly west of the rhumbline as they neared the storm, due to Marine Traffic's last posted position is about 15nm east of the southern end of Cat Island, between Cat Island and San Salvador....which is 60nm - 100nm west of the rhumbline), and this would place El Faro directly in the path of this strengthening storm.

{And, even en route, prior to encountering the truly severe weather / entering the eye wall of the hurricane, the weather info / forecasts clearly showed further strengthening, and the vessel seems to have continued on into the heart of the storm, rather than change course (such as changing course about 12 hours into the voyage, when still north of the Bahamas, head west towards Florida and either go south when west of the Bahamas (bucking the Stream, or head into Ft. Pierce, etc.....or even 6 - 8 hours later, 18- 20 hours into voyage, when east of the NE Providence Channel, head West thru the NE Providence Channel / NW Providence Channel, away from the storm)....}



A CNN-reported quote from one of El Faro's owners (Pres and CEO of the company who owns El Faro), is true / partially true, but doesn't really tell the whole truth / whole story!
Quote:
"When the ship sailed on Tuesday evening, the storm was nowhere near what it was at the time that the vessel became disabled," Chiarello said.
If you actually look at the forecasts, prior to departure and at time of departure, an argument can be made that this might have been "no worries" for a big ship / experienced crew, but just 12 hours after departure, the picture got far worse....and certainly prior to their encountering propulsion / maneuvering issues, there were opportunities to change course and mitigate the effects of the storm!


I thought some might be interested in the the official US National Hurricane Center's Forecasts, for Tropical Storm Joaquin / Hurricane Joaquin, the evening and entire day preceding El Faro's departure from Jacksonville, FL, and while en route, along the rhumbline course from Jax FL to Puerto Rico:

This info taken directly from the NHC page...
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archiv/2015/JOAQUIN.shtml?

Here are the official NHC Forecasts disseminated PRIOR to El Faro's departure...and while en route...
Departure reported as "sometime on Tuesday 29 Sep 2015", but it seems was likely very late Tuesday night, approx 0132z to 0229z (from Marine Traffic: JACKSONVILLE [US] (2015-09-30 01:32:00 and 2015-09-30 02:29) when the NHC forecast from 0300z Wed would have been hot in the hand of the El faro's captain)....
http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/details/ships/shipid:454389/mmsi:368208000/imo:7395351/vessel:EL_FARO

Marine Traffic's last posted position of El Faro was on 0401z Thr Oct 1st, at 24.2747*N / 74.94522* W...and 3 and 1/2 days later, the USCG spotted/recovered debris at 23.4*N / 73.9*W on the afternoon of Oct 4th...


--- As of 11pm Monday night (0300z, Tue Sept 29 2015):
TS Joaquin current position:
26.7N 70.4W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE SOUTHWEST OR 230 DEGREES AT 4 KT
ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 1002 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 35 KT WITH GUSTS TO 45 KT.

FORECAST VALID 30/0000Z
27.1N 72.0W
MAX WIND 40 KT...GUSTS 50 KT.

FORECAST VALID 30/1200Z
27.2N 72.8W
MAX WIND 45 KT...GUSTS 55 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/0000Z
27.4N 73.4W
MAX WIND 50 KT...GUSTS 60 KT.


--- As of 5am Tue morning (0900z Tue Sept 29, 2015):
TS Joaquin current position:
26.6N 70.6W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE WEST OR 270 DEGREES AT 4 KT
ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 1002 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 35 KT WITH GUSTS TO 45 KT.

FORECAST VALID 30/0600Z
26.7N 72.2W
MAX WIND 40 KT...GUSTS 50 KT.

FORECAST VALID 30/1800Z
26.8N 72.8W
MAX WIND 45 KT...GUSTS 55 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/0600Z
27.1N 73.2W
MAX WIND 50 KT...GUSTS 60 KT.


--- As of 11am Tue morning (1500z Tue Sept 29, 2015):
TS Joaquin current position:
26.5N 70.8W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE WEST OR 260 DEGREES AT 4 KT
ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 1001 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 40 KT WITH GUSTS TO 50 KT.

FORECAST VALID 30/1200Z
26.3N 72.4W
MAX WIND 45 KT...GUSTS 55 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/0000Z
26.2N 73.1W
MAX WIND 50 KT...GUSTS 60 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/1200Z
26.1N 73.7W
MAX WIND 55 KT...GUSTS 65 KT.



--- As of 5pm Tue afternoon (2100z Tue Sept 29, 2015):
This Forecast / Advisory was likely the next to last one available, or possibly the last one available, prior to departure.
And, the El Faro's skipper seemed to lay a course that would take him directly into a building / strengthening weather system (where winds were forecast to be 75kts, gusting to 90 kts, and seas in excess of 25' - 30', by morning of Oct 1st, just ~ 36 hours ahead)


TS Joaquin current position:
NEAR 26.0N 71.0W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE WEST-SOUTHWEST OR 240 DEGREES AT 4 KT
ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 990 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 55 KT WITH GUSTS TO 65 KT.

FORECAST VALID 30/0600Z
25.8N 71.6W
MAX WIND 60 KT...GUSTS 75 KT..

FORECAST VALID 30/1800Z
25.5N 72.5W
MAX WIND 65 KT...GUSTS 80 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/0600Z
25.1N 73.3W
MAX WIND 70 KT...GUSTS 85 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/1800Z
24.8N 73.9W
MAX WIND 75 KT...GUSTS 90 KT.





EDIT::
Tues night the NHC started interim advisories every 3 hours....so, more updated info was also available...


--- As of 11pm Tue evening (0300z Wed Sept 30, 2015):
This Forecast / Advisory was likely the final one available, prior to departing Jax / heading out the St. John's River mouth.
And, the El Faro's skipper seemed to lay a course that would take him directly into a building / strengthening weather system (where winds were forecast to be 80kts, gusting to 100 kts,
and seas in excess of 25' - 30', by morning of Oct 1st, just ~ 30 - 36 hours ahead)

TS Joaquin current position:
25.8N 71.7W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE WEST-SOUTHWEST OR 240 DEGREES AT 4 KT ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 988 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 60 KT WITH GUSTS TO 75 KT.

FORECAST VALID 30/1200Z
25.5N 72.4W
MAX WIND 70 KT...GUSTS 85 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/0000Z
25.2N 73.3W
MAX WIND 75 KT...GUSTS 90 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/1200Z
24.8N 74.1W
MAX WIND 80 KT...GUSTS 100 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/0000Z
24.9N 74.5W
MAX WIND 85 KT...GUSTS 105 KT.



--- As of 5am Wed Morning (0900z Wed Sept 30, 2015):
TS Joaquin current position:
25.4N 72.5W
MOVEMENT TOWARD THE WEST-SOUTHWEST OR 245 DEGREES AT 5 KT
ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 988 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 60 KT WITH GUSTS TO 75 KT

FORECAST VALID 30/1800Z
25.1N 73.0W
MAX WIND 70 KT...GUSTS 85 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/0600Z
24.7N 73.8W
MAX WIND 75 KT...GUSTS 90 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/1800Z
24.7N 74.5W
MAX WIND 80 KT...GUSTS 100 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/0600Z
25.2N 74.7W
MAX WIND 90 KT...GUSTS 110 KT.



--- As of 11am Wed Morning (1500z Wed Sept 30, 2015):
This was approx 12 hours after departure, when El Faro was still north of the Bahamas, approx. 150nm east of Ft. Pierce, FL...

Hurricane Joaquin current position:
24.7N 72.6W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE SOUTHWEST OR 230 DEGREES AT 5 KT
ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 971 MB EYE DIAMETER 50 NM
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 70 KT WITH GUSTS TO 85 KT

FORECAST VALID 01/0000Z
24.3N 73.2W
MAX WIND 80 KT...GUSTS 100 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/1200Z
24.1N 74.0W
MAX WIND 85 KT...GUSTS 105 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/0000Z
24.4N 74.4W
MAX WIND 90 KT...GUSTS 110 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/1200Z
25.3N 74.5W
MAX WIND 95 KT...GUSTS 115 KT.



--- As of 5pm Wed Afternoon (2100z Wed Sept 30, 2015):
This was approx 18 hours after departure, when El Faro was east of the NE Providence Channel, Bahamas....(by probably 50 - 60nm), but probably encountering Gale force to Storm force winds being 120nm - 150nm from the center of Joaquin, and possibly having initial maneuvering / propulsion issues?? But, still continued on, toward the path of a building/strengthening storm?? (this was 7 hours prior to their last Marine Traffic posted position, and ~ 10 - 12 hours before their distress call.)

Hurricane Joaquin current position:
24.3N 73.1W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE SOUTHWEST OR 225 DEGREES AT 7 KT
ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 967 MB EYE DIAMETER 45 NM
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 75 KT WITH GUSTS TO 90 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/0600Z
24.0N 73.8W
MAX WIND 85 KT...GUSTS 105 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/1800Z
23.9N 74.5W
MAX WIND 90 KT...GUSTS 110 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/0600Z
24.5N 75.0W
MAX WIND 95 KT...GUSTS 115 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/1800Z
25.8N 75.0W
MAX WIND 100 KT...GUSTS 120 KT.



--- As of 11pm Wed Evening (0300z Thr Oct 1, 2015):
This was approx. 24 hours after departure. (and near the time, they had propulsion issues)Notice the rapid strengthening in the past 6 - 9 hours, and the forecasts for even further increased strengthening in the next 12 hours!If they had propulsion / maneuvering issues now, and had a 15* list, and had already had flooding...this was the point where things spiraled out-of-control of the ship's crew, and they were probably (hopefully!) were preparing for disaster...

Hurricane Joaquin current position:
23.8N 73.1W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE SOUTHWEST OR 220 DEGREES AT 5 KT
ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 951 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 100 KT WITH GUSTS TO 120 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/1200Z
23.5N 73.8W
MAX WIND 110 KT...GUSTS 135 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/0000Z
23.6N 74.5W
MAX WIND 120 KT...GUSTS 145 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/1200Z
24.7N 74.8W
MAX WIND 120 KT...GUSTS 145 KT.


--- As of 5am Thr morning (0900z Thr Oct 1, 2015), (before their distress call):
Hurricane Joaquin current position:
23.4N 73.7W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE WEST-SOUTHWEST OR 240 DEGREES AT 4 KT ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 948 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 105 KT WITH GUSTS TO 130 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/1800Z 2
3.1N 74.2W
MAX WIND 115 KT...GUSTS 140 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/0600Z
23.4N 74.8W
MAX WIND 120 KT...GUSTS 145 KT. .

FORECAST VALID 02/1800Z
25.0N 74.8W
MAX WIND 120 KT...GUSTS 145 KT


--- As of 11am Thr morning (1500z Thr Oct 1, 2015), (after their distress call):
Hurricane Joaquin current position:
23.0N 73.9W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE SOUTHWEST OR 220 DEGREES AT 5 KT
ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 942 MB EYE DIAMETER 30 NM
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 110 KT WITH GUSTS TO 135 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/0000Z
22.9N 74.2W
MAX WIND 115 KT...GUSTS 140 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/1200Z
23.7N 74.6W
MAX WIND 120 KT...GUSTS 145 KT.

FORECAST VALID 03/0000Z
25.2N 74.4W
MAX WIND 120 KT...GUSTS 145 KT.


--- As of 5pm Thr afternoon (2100z Thr Oct 1, 2015), (many hours after their distress call):
Hurricane Joaquin current position:
23.0N 74.4W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE SOUTHWEST OR 235 DEGREES AT 5 KT
ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 936 MB EYE DIAMETER 25 NM
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 115 KT WITH GUSTS TO 140 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/0600Z
23.2N 74.7W
MAX WIND 120 KT...GUSTS 145 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/1800Z
24.4N 74.7W
MAX WIND 120 KT...GUSTS 145 KT.

FORECAST VALID 03/0600Z
25.9N 74.1W
MAX WIND 120 KT...GUSTS 145 KT.


{I've included a couple of Joaquin's positions / forecasts, after El Fero's distress call, so that everyone can see what the USCG and USAF were flying in while also looking for this vessel!}


Using my almost 50 years of experience with boating/sailing, including some 40+ years on/off sailing offshore, and my passion for weather, etc., I cannot wrap my head around the decision making done by the El Faro's captain??
Notwithstanding my caveat right upfront, regarding merchant vessels needing to sail to meet their schedules, and the initial forecasts being much different than those when en route, this decision making just doesn't make sense to me...

Any merchant skippers here, please enlighten me!
Thanks!


Fair winds to all...

John
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Old 06-10-2015, 17:40   #2
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

You're the one with 50 years experience, I can't help I'm only 39

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Old 06-10-2015, 17:57   #3
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

Family Van,
Thanks for trying!
Quote:
Originally Posted by FamilyVan View Post
You're the one with 50 years experience, I can't help I'm only 39

Perhaps I should've just posted this:
If this was your departing forecast, would most merchant vessel captains still head out on a course directly for the forecast path of this storm???
Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
--- As of 5pm Tue afternoon (2100z Tue Sept 29, 2015):
This Forecast / Advisory was likely the next to last one available, or possibly the last one available, prior to departure.
And, the El Faro's skipper seemed to lay a course that would take him directly into a building / strengthening weather system (where winds were forecast to be 75kts, gusting to 90 kts, and seas in excess of 25' - 30', by morning of Oct 1st, just ~ 36 hours ahead)


TS Joaquin current position:
NEAR 26.0N 71.0W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE WEST-SOUTHWEST OR 240 DEGREES AT 4 KT
ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 990 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 55 KT WITH GUSTS TO 65 KT.

FORECAST VALID 30/0600Z
25.8N 71.6W
MAX WIND 60 KT...GUSTS 75 KT..

FORECAST VALID 30/1800Z
25.5N 72.5W
MAX WIND 65 KT...GUSTS 80 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/0600Z
25.1N 73.3W
MAX WIND 70 KT...GUSTS 85 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/1800Z
24.8N 73.9W
MAX WIND 75 KT...GUSTS 90 KT.



--- As of 11pm Tue evening (0300z Wed Sept 30, 2015):
This Forecast / Advisory was likely the final one available, prior to departing Jax / heading out the St. John's River mouth.
And, the El Faro's skipper seemed to lay a course that would take him directly into a building / strengthening weather system (where winds were forecast to be 80kts, gusting to 100 kts,
and seas in excess of 25' - 30', by morning of Oct 1st, just ~ 30 - 36 hours ahead)

TS Joaquin current position:
25.8N 71.7W
PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE WEST-SOUTHWEST OR 240 DEGREES AT 4 KT ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 988 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 60 KT WITH GUSTS TO 75 KT.

FORECAST VALID 30/1200Z
25.5N 72.4W
MAX WIND 70 KT...GUSTS 85 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/0000Z
25.2N 73.3W
MAX WIND 75 KT...GUSTS 90 KT.

FORECAST VALID 01/1200Z
24.8N 74.1W
MAX WIND 80 KT...GUSTS 100 KT.

FORECAST VALID 02/0000Z
24.9N 74.5W
MAX WIND 85 KT...GUSTS 105 KT.


Thanks again!

John
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Old 06-10-2015, 18:04   #4
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

Nice thread, good summary of the forecasts and outline of the changing weather.

I wondered the same thing about this incident.
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Old 06-10-2015, 18:06   #5
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

The Ship Owner's claim the Captain's intent was to depart and skirt the storm, however mechanical problems prevented him from doing this.

That is not unusual as it can be cheaper to depart and maneuver to avoid THE WORST OF THE STORM, rather than build up Port Fees.

Who knows what departure pressures the Captain was under.... buy he felt he could either run slow, allowing the storm to pass or speed up/take weather tacks to pass ahead.

I would need to look at a series of storm prognosis plots together with the ships positions to guess the Captains intent, ......but the bottom line is, he took a risk and Murphy showed up.
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Old 06-10-2015, 18:12   #6
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

Okay, so I politely tried to brush the conversation off with a joke. Clearly I'm not as witty as I thought.

I'll try a different angle. 33 families are still hoping for good news, any good news. Some are likely scouring the internet for information. So maybe analysis of the skippers decision making process could wait?

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Old 06-10-2015, 18:23   #7
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

Wow, thats a lot of info.

This was a JAX based shipped running regular service between there and San Juan. I doubt port fees were an issue on either end.

There is no defense to having set sail when they did. Its really tragic those people died ands since it was a us flagged vessel the families will at least get a nice settlement.

One option suggested on another thread would have been to run down the straits of Florida and then to the N of Cuba.
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Old 06-10-2015, 18:29   #8
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

Alright guys, have at it, I'll unsubscribe and go back to fighting about alchohol vs propane

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Old 06-10-2015, 19:21   #9
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

There is nothing to be gained by this thread. We do not know all the circumstances that brought about the foundering and I doubt that we will ever know. The NTSB is now investigating with a very experienced ex Chief Engineer in charge. Why don't we wait and see what they come up with.
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Old 06-10-2015, 19:23   #10
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

Yes, it was a big ship run by a corporation. I'm sure they did everything right.
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Old 06-10-2015, 19:41   #11
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

Well, a couple thoughts have occurred to me, particularly since I am just south of Jacksonville, and this has been a major issue on local media.

The captain may not have had access to the later pre-departure forecasts, and instead based his planning on the 11:00 am Tuesday forecast. If so, his departure does not appear particularly risky.

The bigger issue in my mind is why he didn't alter course in the vicinity of New Providence when things really go pear shaped. At that point in time and space I would have run for cover. And that barometer of 936 mb is downright frightening! I wonder if things were falling apart already? If steerage was impaired?

The vessel also bears scrutiny. Originally constructed 40 years ago as a RORO, it was converted in 2006 to carry more deck-mounted containers. Once the vessel started to list, and 15 degrees sounds substantial, even if the below-decks cargo stayed in place (questionable due to so many wheeled vehicles), the added weight of all those containers on deck would have led to a very precarious situation. If broadside to the waves due to failure of propulsion...

If they only could have swung further west.
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Old 06-10-2015, 19:50   #12
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

Nothing like second guessing a dead person's decisions, eh.
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Old 06-10-2015, 19:54   #13
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

No, Boatguy, it is not that anyone wants to protect the corporation. It is that there are many of us here who think that those people who have family involved, and and frightened for them, deserve our silence for a week or two, before the feeding frenzy starts.

I don't remember if you were around here when the crew of Rebel Heart were rescued, but particularly the less experienced sailors came on very know-it-all, and the skipper and his wife vilified. It was pretty ugly, and Family Van, and myself, at least, will have no part of it.

It's like you learned when you were a kid: you don't kick the other guy when he's down.

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Old 06-10-2015, 20:06   #14
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

Ann, I rarely disagree with you, but as the NTSB is already doing an inquiry, I see no problem with those who wish to analyze the facts as they come out.

Commercial captains do have to deal with corporate pressures, so that is a valid conjecture that I am sure will be investigated.

The key is to be respectful and not jump to conclusions.
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Old 06-10-2015, 21:37   #15
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Re: Hurricane Joaquin vs. M/V El Faro's final voyage, weather and decsion-making...

Quote:
Originally Posted by El Pinguino View Post
Nothing like second guessing a dead person's decisions, eh.


Don't be so quick to judge others. If this is directed to me, and apparently it was, I am merely thinking out loud, trying to understand what happened.

As far as I can tell, nothing I said was pejorative. I made no judgements. I simply voiced some questions that I have had, especially as the souls lost were fellow mariners, and many lived just minutes from my current berth.

Are we okay???
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