Tuesday 12 May 2015

Cheeki Rafiki Sinking With Loss of Crew UK Marine Accident Report Released

You will all recall the tragic loss with all crew of the racing yacht Cheeki Rafiki in May last year. She had spent a week racing at Antigua Race Week and was enroute back home to the UK with a delivery crew of four.

Cheeki Rafiki racing
In bad weather she lost her keel and capsized almost immediately. Presumably the four crew were thrown into the water and sadly have never been found. When the inverted hull was found several days later, the liferaft was found still lashed in it's cockpit well. Obviously the crew never anticipated such a catastrophic event as that which occurred so quickly and they paid the ultimate price. 

If, with a little forethought, in the heavy weather they were sailing in at the time, and had the liferaft taken out and strapped to the foredeck for example, they may have had a chance and possibly been here today to tell the tale.

Here is a synopsis of the report with a link to the full 76 page report: 

Almost a year ago the Beneteau First 40.7 Cheeki Rafiki was found capsized 720nm off the coast of Nova Scotia. 

Her four crew, delivering the cruiser/racer back to UK, were never found. The upturned hull of the boat sunk before it was able to be recovered. 

The yacht's liferaft was found strapped into its well in the aft end of the cockpit by divers from the US Coastguard. 

The relevant UK Government agency, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch has completed its investigation into the incident and released a 76 page report. 

The report says its purpose is not to apportion blame, but rather to provide a factual record of the incident and make recommendations for the appropriate regulatory bodies. 

In the absence of survivors and material evidence, the report says the causes of the accident remain a matter of some speculation. However, it is concluded that the yacht capsized and inverted following a detachment of its keel. 
Cheeki Rafiki inverted hull
The focus of the investigation centred on the keel which had broken away from the upturned yacht. From photos it was apparent that the after keel bolt of the four was rusty, and could have been fractured. 

Emails to and from the crew on the ingress of water into the yacht are featured in the report, along with messages from the yacht's owner - some of which were not received. 

The keel design and specifications were referred to Southampton University's Wolfson Unit, who compared the specifications with current required design standards. They found the keel and specifications generally complied with the current standard, except that the keel washers were 3mm too narrow in diameter and thickness. They believed that with the after (rusty) keelbolt fractured, that the keel would not have stayed attached in the event of a 90 degree knockdown. 

The key safety issues identified were: 

Where bonding is used to secure a matrix of stiffeners into a hull, it is possible for that bond to break down leading to weakening of the overall structure. Importantly, break down of the bond can be difficult to detect. 

A ‘light’ grounding can still cause significant undetected damage to the matrix bonding. 

Regular inspection of the hull and internal structure should help to provide early warning of possible keel detachment. 

Ocean passage contingency planning and careful routing can significantly reduce the risks of weather-related damage occurring. 

When flooding is detected, all possible sources of water ingress should be checked, including the area the keel is attached to the hull. 

An ability to send an alert and to abandon to a liferaft is essential in the event of capsize and inversion. 

The following is the Synopsis from the report, which can be read in full by clicking https://www.gov.uk/maib-reports/keel-detatchment-and-capsize-of-sailing-yacht-cheeki-rafiki-with-loss-of-4-lives 

At about 0400 on 16 May 2014 the UK registered yacht Cheeki Rafiki capsized approximately 720 miles east-south-east of Nova Scotia, Canada while on passage from Antigua to Southampton, UK. Despite an extensive search that found the upturned hull of the yacht, the four crew remain missing. 

At approximately 0405 on 16 May an alert transmitted by the personal locator beacon of Cheeki Rafiki’s skipper triggered a major search for the yacht involving United States Coast Guard fixed-wing aircraft and surface vessels. At 1400 on 17 May, the upturned hull of a small boat was located; however, adverse weather conditions prevented a closer inspection and the search was terminated at 0940 on 18 May. 

At 1135 on 20 May, following a formal request from the UK government, a second search was started. At 1535 on 23 May, the upturned hull of a yacht was located and identified as being that of Cheeki Rafiki. On investigation, it was confirmed that the vessel’s liferaft was still on board in its usual stowage position. With no persons having been found, the second search was terminated at 0200 on 24 May. Cheeki Rafiki’s hull was not recovered and is assumed to have sunk.
Cheeki Rafiki hull minus keel
 In the absence of survivors and material evidence, the causes of the accident remain a matter of some speculation. However, it is concluded that Cheeki Rafiki capsized and inverted following a detachment of its keel. In the absence of any apparent damage to the hull or rudder other than that directly associated with keel detachment, it is unlikely that the vessel had struck a submerged object. Instead, a combined effect of previous groundings and subsequent repairs to its keel and matrix had possibly weakened the vessel’s structure where the keel was attached to the hull. It is also possible that one or more keel bolts had deteriorated. A consequential loss of strength may have allowed movement of the keel, which would have been exacerbated by increased transverse loading through sailing in worsening sea conditions. 

The yacht’s operator, Stormforce Coaching Ltd, has made changes to its internal policies and has taken a number of actions aimed at preventing a recurrence. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has undertaken to work with the Royal Yachting Association to clarify the requirements for the stowage of inflatable liferafts on coded vessels, and the Royal Yachting Association has drafted enhancements to its Sea Survival Handbook relating to the possibility of a keel failure. 

A recommendation has been made to the British Marine Federation to co-operate with certifying authorities, manufacturers and repairers with the aim of developing best practice industry-wide guidance on the inspection and repair of yachts where a glass reinforced plastic matrix and hull have been bonded together. 

A recommendation has also been made to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to provide more explicit guidance about circumstances under which commercial certification for small vessels is required, and when it is not. Further recommendations have been made to sport governing bodies with regard to issuing operational guidance to both the commercial and pleasure sectors of the yachting community aimed at raising awareness of the potential damage caused by any grounding, and the factors to be taken into consideration when planning ocean passages. 

Article courtesy Sail-world.com and UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

A cruising sailboat is designed to sail in practically all kinds of weather and therefore her keel attachment is going to be much stronger than a racing boat keel. However this cautionary tale with a tragic outcome reminds us that regular checks and inspections are a necessary and vital practice for all sailors to carry out on their boats at the very least annually.

Published as a regular blog by www.sailboat2adventure,com

Sunday 19 April 2015

FPB (Fast Patrol Boat) Concept Vessels the Future for Cruising Sailors?

With the groundswell of debate on FPB's (Fast Patrol Boats) ever rising along with the increasing number of these boats hitting the water, it is a subject all cruising sailors are going to become embroiled in at some point. 

It is a bit of a stretch to label recreational yachts of this design FPB's, also known as Fast Power Boats, Fast Pilot Boats. The more conservative Functional Power Boats is probably more suitable for recreational sailors. Basically designers have taken the FPB concept and scaled it down for recreational craft with much smaller power output units, but to give the cruising sailor a very economical boat with an acceptable cruising speed and a lot more comfort. Boat builders are already labelling them FPB's, so no doubt this term will stick.

Another builder Dickey Boats, labels them LRC which stands for 'Long Range Cruiser' and which I think is a more accurate description.
Dickey Boats Artnautica LRC 58
 With our love of sailing using just the wind for motive power and therefore keeping the use of fossil fuels to a minimum, we pride ourselves on being environmentally conscious in our cruising voyages locally, offshore, or even to circumnavigating the globe. For decades we have cast aspersions on those gas guzzling gin palaces chewing through vast amounts of diesel fuel just to go short distances, let alone offshore cruising, and using fuel tanks with the capacity of a small liner!

We are all set in our ways and many cruising sailors will look in horror at the concept of FPB's as a potential alternative to our lovely traditional sailing boats. Like the debate over renewable energy sources versus fossil fuels most of us would like to move faster in that direction, but resistance to change and cost always becomes a major factor in our decision making process. But as the cost margins narrow, more and more folks begin to look at the alternatives in closer detail. 
Dashew FPB 64
Such is happening now with the growing proliferation of these craft. Another segment of this arena for serious consideration is for older cruising sailors who in advancing years, definitely wish to keep up their cruising life, but find it more difficult to operate their boats and in addition would like a little more comfort. Here, the FPB concept fills this market admirably. 

Here are two boat builders that have entered this recreational boating field already:

Artnautica Yacht Design at http://www.artnautica.com/ and Circa Marine & Industrial at http://www.circamarine.co.nz/marine/boats/dashew-motor-yachts.

Here is a video of the Artnautica 58 to whet your appetite and get cruisers of all ages thinking:

Dicky Boats build the Artnautica LRC58 and Circa Marine are building the Dashew range of boats.

At first look these craft certainly have a very radical appearance, but reading various reviews and studying the the whole concept, what these boats can do and where they can go, one begins to see the benefits. Any 60ft vessel that can handle virtually all sea conditions and cruise around 10knots at 1800rpm's, burning 6 - 7 litres per hour has got to be a consideration for a replacement vessel. Adding in the 'voyaging in comfort' factor, one begins to see where open ocean cruising may go in the future.

Images and videos courtesy Dickey Boats and Circa Marine    

You can read much more about cruising and the cruising lifestyle in my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise', downloadable from my website www.sailboat2adventure.com 


Tuesday 17 March 2015

Sailors Use Tomnod to Help in Search for Missing Sailboat

Being lost at sea is probably the most stressful event that can happen to sailors, families and friends alike. The very fact of not knowing injects a huge amount of worry and stress into everyone directly involved with the situation. Therefore the fastest solution with a satisfactory outcome of the sailors being located and rescued is imperative.

Enter Tomnod, a crowd searching tool that anyone can use from their computer at home, to assist in the search and help to bring it to a rapid and happy conclusion.

We currently have just such a situation with a South African catamaran missing on a delivery voyage from Cape Town to Phuket in Thailand. Read on: 

The public can help search for a missing South African catamaran crew through an online tool, their families said on Wednesday. 

The families fear for the yachtsmen's safety, as they last made contact via satellite phone on 18 January and missed their estimated date of arrival. 

The catamaran, Sunsail RC044-978 set out from Cape Town for a delivery trip to Phucket, Thailand, on 14 December. The delivery was for US-based world maritime leisure business Tui Marine. 

Missing yacht S/V Moorings
'The current 'Lost Catamaran & Crew At Sea' enables people all over the world to search satellite images that are loaded by Tomnod for this specific campaign,' the families said in a joint statement. 

The aim of the campaign is to search for the Leopard 44 catamaran that was being delivered to Phuket, Thailand, by Anthony Murray, Reg Robertson and Jaryd Payne. 

On the Tomnod website, people are asked to tag objects as either ship or boat, life raft or 'other' in images. 

Tomnod is run by commercial satellite company DigitalGlobe. 

'The crowd sourcing theory operates on the belief that untrained observers who pick the same target can be as accurate as an expert. 

'Anyone with access to a computer and the internet can join the online search party.' 

Here is the link to Tomnod video to get you started:


On 12 February, Murray's family reported to the maritime rescue co-ordination centre (MRCC) in Cape Town that the catamaran was overdue after it missed its expected arrival date 10 days before. 

The yacht's emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) had not been activated. 

Missing yacht's routemap
If a signal from the EPIRB is detected then search and rescue will be activated, the extent of which is dependent on resources available in the area at the time. 

The Australian maritime safety authority issued an urgent broadcast to shipping about the missing yacht, which remains in place until the end of the month when it will be reviewed. 

Skipper Murray, aged 58, has over 25 years' experience at sea, including multiple international catamaran and yacht deliveries. 

Robertson, aged 59, is also an experienced yachtsman and a member of the Royal Natal Yacht Club. Payne is 20 years old. 

You can help in the search on Tomnod's website.

Here is the link again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clC9TYUtZTg

Best of luck and let's hope that collectively we can locate this vessel quickly.

Published by www.sailboat2adventure.com

Monday 2 March 2015

Galapagos Islands Tighten Environmental Restrictions for Cruising Sailors

The Galapagos Islands, famous for its incredible natural wild life, and largely brought to the attention of the world by the research and writings of Charles Darwin, has long been a Mecca for cruisers on the Pacific route. 

The government of Ecuador in its efforts to preserve this state of nature under the ever increasing pressure of so called 'environmental tourism', has to continually tighten up restrictions on visiting vessels, which of course includes cruising yachts.

Galapagos Islands
Here is an article from Sail-World.com and Noonsite.com highlighting the latest move to hold back the possible introduction of foreign marine life into their fragile ecosystem:

The report explains that all yachts planning to visit the Galapagos Islands must have their hull professionally cleaned before leaving their previous port. On arrival in the islands, it will be inspected, possibly by a diver, to ensure there is no foreign marine life which can endanger the native ecosystem. 

Anchorage at Puerto Aroyo
If the inspection is not satisfactory, the yacht will be sent away from the National Park. This involves going 30 to 40 miles out to sea. Where, if conditions allow, further cleaning of the hull can take place. 

In addition, the yacht must be fumigated. Preferably before arrival, but it can be carried out on arrival. Ensure that an approved product is used and that you have a certificate. 

The new requirements also specify that two notices be posted on the yacht. 

One, on the outside stating ‘Do not throw garbage overboard’ and another on the inside by the engine compartment saying ‘Do not discharge Black waters into the sea’.

When I sailed into Puerto Ayoro, whilst similar restrictions were in place, the general administration of them was certainly more relaxed than it is today. We didn't have a 'Autographo' and therefore neither a 'National Zarpe', but being aware of the regulations figured we would not be allowed to stay much more than the 72hr. allowance.

Tere Moana at anchor looking very small
Here is an extract from my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' which tells what happened to us as a result of a visit to the then Port Captain first thing in the morning following our arrival:

"Dawn breaks a murky grey sheet over the town. The bugle blast of the navy reveille is the first sound to be heard, and her crew stumble into the cockpit. Peering into the mist they realise they are moored directly off the local navy base. Without a military vessel in sight, crisp white uniformed ratings line up in the quadrangle, and salute the Ecuador flag as it is hoisted up its staff. Our crew remind themselves that Ecuador is indeed a democracy and they have no need to worry – however, following on from what they saw the previous evening, the nagging doubts firmly lodged in the corner of their minds will not disperse. 

Seals (and others) on the beach, Galapagos
These islands are so unique, and classified ‘eco tourist’ by the Ecuadorian government, there are strong warnings and procedural advice for visiting yachtsmen. Visiting areas other than designated ports, is not allowed, and if caught will face immediate arrest and probable confiscation of vessel. Visits are only allowed for a maximum of forty eight hours on an emergency basis, repairs and/or provisioning, with visas issued to this effect. All printed material stresses this, so her crew are acutely aware of this protocol as they put ashore in the dinghy to visit the Puerto Capitano.

In their smartest casual gear they manage the tricky landing on the stone wall, stepping ashore with the minimum amount of mud and salt water stains on their clothing. Straightening their garments as best they can, and the captain, importantly carrying their waterproof doco/passport bag tucked under one arm, they set off down the quay. Arriving at the lovely old colonial stone building which is the Custom house, and Puerto Capitano’s office, all varnish and gloss inside, they are ushered into his office. A handsome fortyish officer, with a level gaze, stares at them bleakly from the other side of a huge desk. Varnish must be cheap in this country as this piece of furniture is positively glowing. 

Sea lions at play
Our crew are not easily intimidated, but with his cool, silent stare, and two matelots one each side standing to attention behind, this comes close. Our captain compliments him on his fine building, and his incredibly crisp and brilliant white uniform. He cocks his head slightly, breaks into a raffish grin and says:

‘And how long is it you would like to be staying in our country?’.
Our captain, momentarily taken aback, but having risen early, replies that ten days would be very nice indeed, thankyou.
‘Not a problem’, a now very relaxed Puerto Capitano replies.
Visas are produced, with passports being stamped accordingly, entry fees paid, and our crew shuffle backwards out of his office almost bowing as they go. Our captain is on the point of inviting the Port Captain to join them for a beer at some point at his convenience, but considers this might be pushing their new relationship a little too far! Instead, they march straight faced down the sea wall, eyes to the front, out of sight round the first corner and suddenly leap into the air, fist punching in their exhilaration. Ten days to explore these fabulous evolutionary islands. A local fruit seller looking out from his stall gives them a quizzical glance – crazy foreigners! Events as we shall see will extend this time to eleven days. Later, checking their entry fee dockets, our crew discover that it was somewhat less than they had calculated."

Visit the Noonsite website and you can find a wealth of information on the necessary documents, fees and restrictions that need to be complied with to legally sail amongst these fabulous islands. Here are two links that will help you : 



You can find out about the events that led to our stay being extended in my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' available from my website http://www.sailboat2adventure.com and much more about the cruising lifestyle on passage.