Bad Things Really DO Happen at Sea

© 2004, Kim Davis
This article originally appeared in
the
Extraordinary Jobs for Ordinary People online newsletter.

For several years now, I’ve been writing about working aboard yachts for a living.  I’ve explained how to get started, where to train, and where to look for work.  However, I have not said much about the scary stuff.  And it should at least be acknowledged that some scare stuff does happen at sea.

I wrote this one morning in 2014 after I received this e-mail:

As a clearer picture and more reliable reports come in we are glad to report that Mirabella V has not gone under as one report that came in yesterday had reported.

The latest information is that the wind and sea state have dropped from the Force 6-7 which was blowing yesterday and Mirabella V is sitting upright again. Today Mirabella V sits amongst the rocks with known keel and rudder damage as well as some damage to the hull as they work on the plans and wait for the tugs to free her from the tight grasp of the rocks hopefully before the big blow.

Again hats off to the 206ft M/Y Big Roi and 282ft M/Y Ecstasea which stood by Mirabella V to assist in saving the vessel and in the evacuation of the crew.  One report states that during one of the attempts by Big Roi to free Mirabella V a 40-tonne bollard was pulled out of her aft deck.

I called Greg Mullen for more information.  This drama is all unfolding in the Mediterranean, at the entrance to the Beaulieu sur Mer Marina, at St. Jean Cap Ferrat.  There was a Mistral blowing through that region of the Med last night, and the crew of Mirabella V, lead by captain Johnno Johnson were on board.  They were evacuated safely with the help of the two big motor yachts who came to their aid, and stayed with Mirabella trying to hold her off the rocks through the night.  The French navy arrived around midnight last night.  To the best of Greg’s knowledge, they’re still working on pulling her off the rocks while keeping her afloat.  The good news is that the winds have dropped.

Several things came to mind for me as I talked with Greg.  First, I feel strong “thank you” vibes going out to the crews of Big Roi and Ecstasea.  That’s what we train for, and God bless them for getting out there and braving the storm to help another crew in trouble.  They stayed out in moderate gale force winds straining the ships’ engines and parting their lines all night long as they tried to rescue Mirabella. When those big towing lines part, it is extremely dangerous.  The crews who were on deck last night were literally putting their lives on the line. This strong camaraderie among yacht crews is a big part of the magic of the industry. As Greg Mullen pointed out, this is what all that safety training is about, and the reason we do safety drills.

Finally, Greg and I discussed the issue of stability that keeps coming up with regard to the new super sailing yachts that are being built.  Mirabella V is huge for a sloop.  She was designed by Ron Holland, and she’s 246 feet long with a retractable keel.  The keel goes down to 32 feet when it’s fully extended and up to 12 feet when it’s retracted.  I’m not sure how tall that single mast is, but very, very tall to be sure.  That’s the problem with the big sloop designs.  The mast is so tall and heavy, that a very deep keel is required to balance it.  In optimal conditions, the sloop rig is very fast under sail, but that begs the question, what about when the conditions are not optimal?  Are the uncertainties about the ship’s stability worth the risks?

The take-away? Keep up to date with your safety training.