The owner and three crew were evacuated by helicopter in a $20,000 rescue on Wednesday night. The 7.9 m yacht was sailing from the Bay of Islands to Nelson down the East Coast of New Zealand.
The crew who apparently had limited experience set off the EPIRB against the skipper’s instructions.
One suggested the boat was ill prepared for such a trip. The battery was flat and they could not start the motor with the crank. The lights and radio failed because of lack of power. Although the coast is exposed to the force of the Tasman with very limited shelter, the weather has largely been settled but at the time was reported as 25 knots and 5m waves. They had tried to set a sea anchor but reported part was missing – the warp and shackle.
Evidently insurance does not cover recovery of the boat and the owner is considering suing the crew for his loss.
Those are the reported facts. Of course there may be another side as the owner has made little comment.
Some comment may be helpful. Although comment is often made on the use of small boats offshore, both NZ coasts can be very exposed. Such a trip in what is probably a sound small coastal cruiser is a significant undertaking with a good chance of meeting heavy weather at some point. It is probably about a 7 day trip non stop in such a boat, and could be 50 to 100 miles offshore. Technically that distance requires an offshore clearance and equipment, although most would not consider that as they could say they would coast hug.
There may have been a lack of readiness – the flat battery fits there. I would have thought the anchor warp could be used on the sea anchor. Crew may find it desirable to satisfy themselves as to the state of the boat. For a comprehensive and useful account of how one delivery crew member does so see GUIDE TO OFF SHORE PASSAGE MAKERS for sailing yachtsman sailing offshore and CREW RIGHTS
The crew after 3 days or so reported a lack of sleep. One of the problems with crew with limited experience particularly offshore is the danger of one or more freaking out. It is required here to have at least one experienced person onboard; two may make it easier to provide reassurance. If it became say 3 nervous crew against one there could be a major problem. Their concern in this case may or may not have been justified. However, even on a well prepared boat there is always the possibility of something going wrong. There is also potentially the problem of sea sickness.
There have been other instances where the crew seem to have initiated rescue against the captain’s wishes see the Perfect Storm for one. While the captain is responsible for the safety of his ship and crew, including their sea readiness, he also has authority, so setting off the epirb against his instructions could be considered mutiny. That would be interesting if the claim for damages went to court. There seems to be a suggestion that the boat should have been able to handle the conditions encountered. Certainly 25 knots is not uncommon and one would not expect the use of a sea anchor to be considered.
I guess it illustrates the hazards of such delivery trips for both owner and crew.