St Helena Online

Tag: yacht

Rescue crew goes 20 miles to aid yacht with cracked hull

St Helena’s new rescue boat has been taken far out into a heavy Atlantic swell to aid a yacht crew whose vessel had begun taking in water through a crack in its hull.

The unnamed yacht had begun leaking heavily after setting out from St Helena on Wednesday (29 May 2013).

Alan Thomas, the deputy fire chief, told Saint FM: “We got a call from Cable & Wireless to say that a yacht needed assistance.

“The distance from the island when we had that call was about 40 nautical miles. They said that they was okay for a while because they were doing constant checks.

“It’s quite a long way out, and they said there was heavy swell and heavy wind as well.

“The operator from Cable & Wireless was keeping checks, so I made the decision that when they get 20nm from the island, that we would go there to assist them, and that’s what we did.”

Alan thanked veteran fisherman Trevor “Otto” Thomas for joining the five-strong crew on the mision. “Because we were going out that distance I decided to call on Trevor’s expertise to assist us.”

Crew member Jason Lawrence took up the story: “When we got out there we circled around the boat trying to find what was wrong. Apparently there was a crack in the port hull that was going into the emergency hatch.

“We were chatting to them to see if they needed a tow or to take them off and they say no they are going fine at three to four knots so we decided to just assist them and go alongside.”

Alan added: “We escorted them in, basically. It was a heavy seaway out there and what they were thinking about was the heavier the swell get, the more force the hull would take, therefore it could make the situation worse.”

He said he believed the yacht was headed for Brazil. Once back in James Bay, the crew said they would assess the vessel before deciding whether to have it lifted ashore for repairs.

Alan said the operation was a good test. “I know the rescue boat has come under a lot of criticism by members of the public out there, but rest assured it is fit for purpose.

“It has proven it again today, 19-20 miles out, all up-to-date navigational equipment, in heavy swells.

“We asked for their co-ordinates, we  punched them into our GPS [global satellite positioning] system, and we went straight to them.”

Yacht disaster that highlighted sea safety failings

Click the pic to see Bruce Salt's extraordinary images of the loss of the Queequeg
Click the pic to see Bruce Salt’s extraordinary images of the loss of the Queequeg

The wreck of the yacht Queequeg in James Bay brought home the failings in St Helena’s ancient marine laws, says the man in charge of reviewing them. 

The 40-year-old racing yacht, built by a celebrated Australian designer, was about to be sailed away from the island in late 2011 when its mooring snapped. The crew were ashore buying provisions.

Within minutes, the vessel was being pounded by surf on rocks by the Needle’s Eye, close to the Jamestown landing steps.

St Helena Government eventually agreed to pay compensation of £228,000 after it emerged that the crew had been directed to use temporary moorings that had been declared unfit.

Hedge Shuter’s company, Marine Maven (T&T) Ltd, oversaw the installation of “world class” new moorings below Ladder Hill Fort, in time for the arrival of the Governor’s Cup fleet in December 2012.

“I think the Queequeg did highlight the need to have proper regulation,” said Hedge – a qualified yachtmaster who carried out the police investigation into the wrecking.

And he told Saint FM listeners that laws may have to be changed following the marine review he is now carrying out for the government.

“Our Harbour Ordinance, 200 years old some of it, may not be relevant for today,” he said. “It may not be relevant for the future.

“SHG conducted an audit of the maritime sector. That report showed that some things that should be working aren’t working.

“The laws and stuff we’re working with are so out of date, they’re not applicable or they’re difficult to work with in this day and age.

“And that highlighted the need to actually conduct a review of the sector.”

Recommendations will eventually go before executive councillors. 

Yacht wreck owner gets £200,000 pay-out
GALLERY: The wreck of the Queequeg

Yacht wreck owner gets £200,000 pay-out

The hull of the Queequeg breaks up in a swirl of white water
BREAKING UP: The Queequeg was blown on to rocks within minutes

The wreck of the classic yacht Queequeg in James Bay in 2011 has resulted in an out-of-court settlement approaching a quarter of a million pounds.

The veteran racing yacht broke its mooring and was blown onto rocks at the Needle’s Eye within five minutes while owner Graham Elliot and his two crew were ashore.

They were just clearing Customs, ready to sail for Ascension, when the alarm was raised.

View across James Bay to the yacht on the rocks
ON THE ROCKS: Queequeg came to grief on Munden’s Point

An investigation found the St Helena Government’s moorings had been condemned as unsafe months earlier.

The Attorney General, Ken Baddon, has confirmed to Saint FM radio station that a settlement of £228,000 has been accepted.

St Helena Government has advertised a contract to lay – and maintain – new moorings in time for the Governor’s Cup yacht race at Christmas.

Yachtsmen have spoken of being unable to relax while at the island because of unreliable moorings, and it is not uncommon for drifting yachts to be retrieved by the ferry crew.

The Queequeg was built by a famous designer in Australia in 1972 and had competed in the Sydney-Hobart race. Mr Elliot bought her only 18 months before the wrecking and had her fully restored in Thailand.

She had arrived at the island on passage from South Africa to the UK, five days before she was wrecked.

Local ferry staff had directed her crew to a mooring, not knowing it had been declared unfit for use.

The Queequeg lies on its side, barely visible through white surf
WHITE WATER: The Queequeg could not be towed clear

It later emerged that the moorings had been commissioned only as a short term project by St Helena Tourism a year earlier.

No one was made responsible for supervising the moorings and they were not rated for the size or weight of vessels using them. No maintenance schedule was put in place.

Within weeks of the moorings being laid by a diver it was noticed that they were starting to fall apart because copper wire fittings were corroding.

Parts were replaced, but by January 2011 – eight months before the wreck of the Queequeg – all 20 moorings had been affected and the installer said they should all be taken out of use.

A police investigation found that despite this, no updated advice was published by the Tourism Department, and yachts continued to use the moorings.

Examination of the wreck found a rope had broken from the shackle attaching it to the chain on the seabed. A diver found shackles had corroded.

The wrecking was triggered by a change in weather conditions on the day.

Wreckage is lifted ashore by crane, showing the wooden frame of the yacht
SALVAGED: The yacht’s timber construction shows as wreckage is craned ashore

The police investigation was carried out by Sergeant Chris Shuter, a qualified yachtmaster and former yacht club commodore.

He made a number of recommendations, including that any new moorings should be professionally designed.

Queequeg owner Graham Elliot and his crew spoke of wrecking on Saint FM the day after it happened.

“We rushed to the dock and saw the mast waving from side to side as she was trounced on the rocks,” said Graham.

They had watched as the rescue boat crew tried to tow her free, but the swell had lifted her above the surf-line.

Laptops, cameras and other electrical equipment were destroyed but a couple of bags of clothes floated free and were salvaged.

“There’s no point in crying,” said Graham. “We can be thankful that we’re all safe and there’s nobody hurt.”

One of the crew, named Ted, said: “I’ve worked on boats for the last 40 years and this is the first time I’ve seen a boat break up. I’m devasted for Graham because he’s lost everything.

The yachtsmen said the understanding shown by Saints had been “very, very kind”.

GALLERY: The wreck of the Queequeg (pictures by Bruce Salt)

Saint FM / St Helena Independent