Blue Water Rally yacht sinks - cruisers to the rescue

Route of the Kersti - they almost reached Cartagena
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A British flagged yacht just about to participate in the renowned Blue Water Round World Cruising Rally has sunk, with its crew being rescued in remote waters by fellow cruising sailors.

Just before daylight on Friday (November 27) yacht Kersti of Swansea, a 15m Juneau, with Jeff and Ruth Morris on board, were on a passage from the Eastern Lemons atoll in the San Blas to Cartagena in Colombia.

Blue Water Rally organiser Richard Bolt takes up the story:

'The sea and wind conditions were described as ‘pretty bad’. Jeff noticed that they seemed to be sailing slightly bow down - and went below to find the floorboards in the forward cabin floating. He switched on the electric bilge pump, Ruth started frantically pumping the manual bilge pump and Jeff bailed with a bucket. They soon issued a pan pan.

Jupiters Smile Jay and Barb
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'Luckily they had a swift response from a yacht(Jupiter's Smile) about 10 miles away who was sailing in company with 4 others. All 5 altered course towards Kersti. Eventually, Jeff and Ruth gave up the struggle, issued a Mayday and took to the liferaft. They were soon picked up by the Jay and Barb on American yacht Jupiter's Smile.

The assistance that they received was as follows:
Jupiter's Smile - rescued them from the liferaft and brought them to Cholon
Pelican's Flight - tried to pass a pump to them in the high seas and got the painter of the dinghy in the rudder
Mariposa - nearby and gave good advice on creative ideas for assistance
Sea Star - used their sat phone and talked to the Colombian and US Coast Guard constantly for them
Tempest - SSB radio contact and assistance, doctor assistance if needed
Infinity - also near to offer assistance
Jumbie - further south, but with the group
Glide - brought Jeff and Ruth from Cholon to Cartagena
Valentina - provided assistance once they reached Cholon Bay.

'Ruth reports that both their liferaft and EPIRB performed exactly as they should in emergency. Their signal was swiftly relayed to the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, in Falmouth, who reported the circumstances to relations of the Morris family and the Blue Water Rally.

The excellent support provided by the cruising fraternity in the vicinity was praised by Ruth. The cruisers involved stressed how vital it was to have good communications and emergency equipment. VHF, SSB, Satellite phones and EPIRB were all used to good effect in the rescue.

'In Cartegena they were declared to be free of injury, but were deluged with paperwork. They managed to salvage laptop and vital documents, but needed to go shopping for underwear. They were receiving welcome hospitality from fellow cruisers but were somewhat shell-shocked.'

In the meantime, the Cruisers' Network Online, chaired by Eddie Tuttle on M/V Tothill, has appealed to all cruisers in the area to give whatever assistance they can.

Just long range cruisers doing what long range cruisers do best - come to the aid of each other.

Editor's Note: The fact that there was no obvious collision involved in the demise of Kersti points to the fact that it was a skin fitting that gave way or the vacuum effect from a head wrongly shut off. The incursion of water was not noticed until the boat was noticeably 'bow down'. The question for cruisers is 'What lessons can one take from this situation, which could easily happen on any yacht?'

The Blue Water Rally circles the globe every 2 years. They are due to transit the Panama Canal in early February 2009, they will be joined by more yachts in Australia in autumn 2010, on the ‘Oz-Med Rally, and will finish in Crete at Easter 2011.
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Letter from Reader:

Sender: randall boiko

Message: I have been following your posts with interest. As a marine surveyor and insurance adjustor in Miami, Florida and friends of Peter and Margie Benziger on 'Peregrina' (who is presently sailing in the Blue Water Rally); I found the 'editor's note' [What lesson can one take from this situation, which could easily happen on any yacht?] at the end of the article particularly relevant, not only for cruising vessels but for any vessel while sailing or at her slip.
On every survey; pre-purchase to insurance survey that I write up, I always include a recommendation that a high decibel high water alarm be installed in the vessel. Often the first signs that a vessel is taking or has taken on a substantial amount of water; is that the vessel begins to have a sluggish feel to her, the bow may be higher or lower or a crew member may actually see water above the floorboards. The difficulty of finding the source of the water ingress at this point becomes exponentially more difficult. A vessel equipped with an alarm or alarms when the bilge pumps cannot keep up with the rising water level, greatly increases the crews chances that the source of the problem can be located and addressed.
This also holds true to vessels at their slip or when the owner or crew is off the boat. I have done many insurance loss claims where vessels have taken on water at the dock. I feel most of these losses could have been avoided or at the very least mitigated, if nearby marina personnel or fellow boaters were given an early warning of a boat beginning to take on water.
The old adage, 'for want of a nail a shoe was lost' seems an applicable lesson on this issue.
I wish you everyone a pleasant and safe cruise.
randall boiko, s.a.m.s./ aca

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