Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Night Passages

A yacht named Kersti, was holed and sank the other night while on a passage from San Blas to Cartagena. The crew in their liferaft was picked up by another yacht sailing in company. But the boat is gone, and with it, I'm sure, the confidence and serenity of the crew, as well as all their personal stuff.

Then, a day later came the report from another vessel which had in view a "large white ship's mooring" mooring measuring about 15 feet x 20 feet, drifting around on the rhumb line from San Blas to Cartagena. The report was radioed in and apparently will reach a US Coast Guard vessel in the area, which will deal with the obstacle.

I remember one of the most frightening nights of my life - years ago, in Arion, somewhere in mid-Atlantic. We were rollicking along, headlong into one of the darkest nights (but starriest) imaginable. All I could think of was a report I'd heard about a number of refrigerated containers that had supposedly been swept off the deck of a cargo ship in a storm. I was certain that the sharp corner of one was hovering about two feet below the surface and we would be upon it at any moment. I was miserable until sunrise, and then, although the containers may still have been there, I regained my balance.

I've buried those particular containers under a pile of other things I might worry about. The other night we were moving along the coast of mainland Honduras on a mainly clear but moonless night. There was a rock and a reefy area to avoid, and an isolated rain squall, whose boundaries I checked on radar. As it passed, a persistent little blip remained just behind us, and as I looked for it, a light went on. Apparently we had nearly run over an unlit fishing boat, provoking him into showing a light. A few minutes later another light suddenly appeared maybe a quarter mile off.

Other items for the worry list include logs washed down rivers, and whales, (although if I hit a whale I'd consider that it had the right-of-way and I had just drawn the wrong card )

Of course we stand watches all night, on the coast and offshore. But it's impossible to see everything. We place a lot of faith in the odds that whatever danger lurks ahead is not directly ahead on the little line we draw across the ocean. For the men in the unlit lancha it worked out, for Kersti, it didn't. For us, well, it remains to be seen. I'm expecting the best.

UPDATE: follow these links for a bit more information about Kersti
UPDATE: read about a more recent incident of container ships going overboard here:

Arab proverb to the effect that you don't truly own anything that you can lose at sea.
UPDATE: read about 30 containers lost in the Gulf Stream off Key West. Refrigerated containers have insulation which keeps them floating.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too, used to worry all the time about the possibility of hitting something, especially in the night. I'll be saying a little prayer that the little line you draw does not meet any danger.