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Old 21-11-2007, 08:04   #1
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Valiant 42 Abandoned at Sea - Two Crew Lost

In counterpoint to the David Vann story (see "Idiot or Hero?" thread), here's an experienced sailor with a blue-water boat (a Valiant 42) who loses his wife, a friend, and the boat in a fiasco that could have been avoided.

It appears that they departed Long Island for Bermuda, enroute to Tortola, on Oct 30. Weather forecasts clearly pointed to TS Noel turning north and intensifying at that point.

Nothing is said about the experience level of the crew, but the implication is that other than the skipper, they had little or no offshore experience.

When they first called the Coast Guard in distress, the winds were reported to be 42 kts, with 20-25' waves, conditions that the Valiant could easily handle with an experienced helmsman.

Conditions worsened, but panic seems to have spread amongst the crew even as things subsequently stabilized and perhaps even began to get better--they threatened the skipper with physical harm if he didn't set off the EPIRB.

Ultimately, all five onboard abandoned ship, and two were lost at sea in the process. Such a tragedy!

What would you have done differently?

SETTING SAIL INTO HORROR (New York Post article)
November 18, 2007 -- As Andy Pfanner brought groceries and other supplies onboard his new sailing yacht three weeks ago for a journey from Long Island to the Caribbean, he was preparing for a relaxed pleasure cruise with his wife and close friends.
He would soon face his own perfect storm.
Pfanner, 45, a master woodworker who lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has worked with a host of well-heeled clients and been featured in Architectural Digest and other magazines. His other passion is sailing. He's often ventured from his summer house in Cutchogue into the Atlantic, sometimes traveling as far south as Brazil, where he owned another home.
This trip would be different.

Click here for the rest of the story:
SETTING SAIL INTO HORROR
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Old 21-11-2007, 08:20   #2
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According to friends Andy Pfanner has sailed for years, and owned at least two other boats. They said he was supremely confident at the helm, having once steered through a tropical storm without incident.
Apparently his crew panicked twice.
First, when they insisted he set of the EPIB and seek rescue.
Second, when they disregarded the planned “hoist” rescue, and jumped in the water to swim to the rescue ship.
Sad.
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Old 21-11-2007, 08:37   #3
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tragedy

Since that storm was all over the news since it first became a tropical, I'm confused as to why he was out there. Even a cursory weather review would have shown the hourly possible trackings of its path broadcast by pretty much every news organization in the US. He had literally days if not a week's notice of potential danger, unless he simply failed to appraise himself of weather conditions which would be unlikely for an experienced captain. This really doesn't make much sense.


Further, I'm surprised by the failure to locate the bodies. Visibility was good within a few hours of their loss, they had life jackets on, and substantial efforts were undertaken to locate them in a known position. With ships, aircraft etc. participating in the search, one might surmise they were either predated, or somehow got into the props of the rescuing ship.

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Old 21-11-2007, 08:44   #4
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so the captain abandoned ship also? strange thing to do in 40' seas when his vessel was ok. going south to VI in october is risky business unless you take the thornless path. even in a valiant 42.
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Old 21-11-2007, 09:01   #5
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so the captain abandoned ship also?
I guess he felt responsible for the Passengers (idiots) on board.
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Old 21-11-2007, 09:06   #6
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Sad. How does a skipper control irrational ideas and actions from an inexperienced crew? Ultimately you can't.
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Old 21-11-2007, 09:52   #7
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Be careful who you pick for crew, not everyone belongs on a boat.
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Old 21-11-2007, 10:16   #8
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Sad to hear. I remember that boat it was for sale for several months on sailboatlistings.com.
I don't think jumping into the water would be even close in my mind
they where reporting breaking waves of 40 feet, I hate swimming in 8-10 foot seas. I would have tried to ride it out and make it to land. The storms usually only last about 12 hours or so at the most.
If you are not going to listen to the captain of the ship you shouldn't be on it.
I think the only reason the captain jumped ship cause he saw his wife in the drink. Something I am sure any of us who love our wives would do.
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Old 21-11-2007, 10:33   #9
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Absolutely tragic. Your heart has to go out to these poor folks...all of them.

They couldn't have had a better boat. The Valiant 42 and its predecessor V40 are marvelous machines. Properly handled, they should be able to take the reported conditions.

They could have had a better crew. Reluctant family members or friends don't make for the best crews, even in good conditions. In horrific conditions like these, they're just a time bomb waiting to happen. Remember the Satori incident during the 1991 Perfect Storm?

They could have paid closer attention to the weather. Not much is said about this...their communication capabilities and experience and practices. Evasion tactics? Storm tactics?

?The captain could have been more assertive? Don't know about this. We weren't there. Hard to do with a wife and close friends. But when the captain is threatened with physical harm (??), it may have been time to pull out the ship's revolver and 'clap 'em in irons'. Or at least act to constrain or restrain them in some way so they wouldn't do foolish things. Like jump overboard in 40' seas. Could any captain have done this? We weren't there, so it's very hard to second-guess.

Better judgment could have been used. The plan to have a container ship provide "cover" while transferring terrified crew in those conditions was no plan at all. Cudos to the ship's captain and crew for offering, diverting, and trying. But for the crew of a small sailboat in those conditions, it was a stupid thing to do, by almost any measure.

They could have been luckier. They weren't.

How sad, sad, sad....


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Old 21-11-2007, 11:47   #10
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this is a tragic story.
those who contemplate going to sea and aren't prepared for storm conditions without the option of 'getting off the boat' should take this story to heart and stay ashore.
as more 'sailors' rely on electonic communications (to the point of calling it 'folly' on this forum to venture offshore without means of calling for rescue) and keep the idea of 'rescue' in thier back pocket as a solution to thier distress encountering the ocean's ferocity we will see more and more of this type of story.
asking others to extricate one from a self imposed situation should not be considered as an offshore tactic.
fear can be terrible but panic is unforgivable at sea.
my heartfelt condolances to all concerned.
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Old 21-11-2007, 11:58   #11
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What would you have done differently?
I would have carried and deployed a properly rigged parachute sea anchor. They are a great tool for turning chaos into relative peace.

Never leave home without one. In this incident (and many like it....this isn't a first) things may have turned out much differently. Especially with inexperienced crew. I have heard this story so many times that I get sick about it, each time I hear it again. What a human tragedy that could have been so easily resolved by just having the right tools at hand. Once you get in that situation, it's too late to try and go out and get one. In extreme cases like this, all you can do is die (or experience others), wishing you had.
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Old 21-11-2007, 12:14   #12
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this is a tragic story.
those who contemplate going to sea and aren't prepared for storm conditions without the option of 'getting off the boat' should take this story to heart and stay ashore.
as more 'sailors' rely on electonic communications (to the point of calling it 'folly' on this forum to venture offshore without means of calling for rescue) and keep the idea of 'rescue' in thier back pocket as a solution to thier distress encountering the ocean's ferocity we will see more and more of this type of story.
asking others to extricate one from a self imposed situation should not be considered as an offshore tactic.
fear can be terrible but panic is unforgivable at sea.
my heartfelt condolances to all concerned.
You are exactly right. I see this as a growing problem and it can be leathal (as in this case).

Sorry......I mis-read your post at first.
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Old 21-11-2007, 12:24   #13
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so the captain abandoned ship also? strange thing to do in 40' seas when his vessel was ok. going south to VI in october is risky business unless you take the thornless path. even in a valiant 42.
My guess would be that the yacht may have been severely damaged (even dis-masted) during a ship-to-ship rescue. This is very common.

A small sailboat doesn't stand much chance of survival when it comes along side a large steel ship, in big seas.
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Old 21-11-2007, 12:26   #14
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Reminds me of the Westsail that was in the perfect storm. If I remember right it was the crew that sent out an sos or set off an epirb. the skipper didn't want to abandon ship but I think when the CG turned up they made him get off with some sort of threat or other. The boat ended up on the Jersey shore, all in one piece.
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Old 21-11-2007, 12:31   #15
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WOW!


Bill covered all my initial thoughts.

This is a difficult situation to project oneself into. Putting aside all the "why were you there given the weather information that was available" questions, how did the captain so totally lose control of his crew?

Why would the crew lose control of their own rational thought to the level of viewing abandoning a perfect sound vessel that was not in distress (ie, she was not sinking) for the option of an extremely risky "rescue"?

Do captains need to keep a taser and zip ties for restraint onboard to prevent mutiny in storms?

Unless the boat is sinking or every possible means of jury rigging or effecting repairs such that way can be made has been exhausted.... I am not getting off.



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