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CHEEKI RAFIKI: Hull Found Again, Post Mortem

Cheeki hull again

The fate of the four crew members aboard Cheeki Rafiki was confirmed on Friday when the U.S. Navy again found the overturned keel-less hull and inspected it closely enough to determine that its liferaft was still onboard. So with much drama and angst and effort we have at least confirmed what the U.S. Coast Guard initially surmised when it first suspended its search for survivors. I don't think the effort was wasted or useless. Given the enormous interest in the fate of these four men, I think it was well worth it to achieve closure on that point.

I would hope some people who criticized the Coast Guard rather harshly for suspending the search might now express some regret (I noted, for example, that Brian Hancock, a well-known racing sailor, accused the Coasties of abandoning the search "without really trying"), but I'm not holding my breath on that. What's more important is to focus on what we can take away from this tragedy to make sailing safer.

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CHEEKI RAFIKI: USCG Caves to Pressure, Search Resumed

Malisi under sail

After a truly amazing public appeal by a number of British public officials, well-known sailors, and 200,000 random civilians who signed an online petition, the U.S. Coast Guard yesterday resumed its search for Cheeki Rafiki, a Beneteau First 40.7 that went missing on Friday while returning to the UK after racing at Antigua Sailing Week. Joining the search are elements of the World Cruising Club's ongoing ARC Europe rally, led by the Outremer 64 catamaran Malisi (see photo up top). Yachting World's technical editor Matthew Sheahan has also posted a detailed description of the search areas now involved and is urging any yachts transiting the area to join in the effort.

It makes perfect sense, of course, that people on yachts should help find the four missing crew from Cheeki Rafiki. But there is an element of risk involved--the overturned hull found by a container ship on Saturday, which presumably was Cheeki Rafiki, is certainly a hazard to other yachts. I would hate for anyone to find it by running into it.

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CHEEKI RAFIKI: Hull Found, Search Suspended

Cheeki upside down

The U.S. Coast Guard are coming under major pressure today after they announced yesterday they were suspending their search for possible survivors from Cheeki Rafiki, a Beneteau First 40.7 that went missing in the North Atlantic about 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod on Friday. On Saturday a container ship participating in the search, Maersk Kure, found an overturned hull, with no keel (see photo up top), that most likely was Cheeki Rafiki, but they were unable to inspect the hull closely and found no other debris, no liferaft, and no other signs of survivors. Various luminaries, including Robin Knox-Johnston, the crew's families, and tens of thousands people who have endorsed an online petition are pleading with the Coast Guard to resume the search.

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ABANDONING BE GOOD TOO: The Builder Responds

Alpha 42 under sail

Back when I published my blog post about abandoning the Alpha 42 Be Good Too in January, I told Gregor Tarjan, president of Aeroyacht, builder of the boat, that I would publish in full any statement he cared to make about the incident. He declined at that time, but he has decided to make a statement in response to the story about the incident (which I also wrote) that has appeared in the current print edition of SAIL.

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DEADBEAT CRUISERS: Primadonna Wrecked and Looted

Primadonna aground

As the saying goes: what goes around comes around. Last time I posted about French cruisers Pascal Ott and Monique Christmann, they had finally been towed away Oriental, North Carolina, and then quickly disappeared in time to evade a court judgment that had been entered against them for defrauding a local chandlery manager. Since then it seems they made it to the Bahamas, where they somehow ran aground on a reef during the winter and were taken into custody by Bahamian authorities for failing to check in. They've been detained for months now, awaiting deportation, and meanwhile Primadonna, their decrepit steel ketch, has recently been plundered by a carefree rookie cruising family on a Leopard 38 catamaran.

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REBEL HEART: Deck Joint Damage and Sat Phone SNAFU

Rebel Heart evacuation

Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, who evacuated their boat Rebel Heart last month with their two young children, at last broke their media silence and have described some of what happened onboard to Ira Glass in a radio interview on This American Life. You can read the transcript or stream the broadcast here. The substantive facts of immediate interest to cruising sailors are a) they were taking on water due to hull-deck joint damage suffered during a broach; and b) their sat phone suddenly stopped working because the manufacturer or service provider shut it down remotely. On purpose.

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THOMAS TANGVALD: Declared Lost At Sea

I really really hope this turns out not to be true. You'll recall I published a rather long post last spring about Thomas Tangvald, son of the famous traditional-boat cruiser Peter Tangvald. Thomas, who lost his dad and half-sister Carmen on reef off Bonaire when he was just 15, had started publishing a series of articles in All At Sea about a voyage with his own son and pregnant wife from the Caribbean to Brazil aboard a traditional Puerto Rican nativo sloop, Oasis, that he had refit and reconfigured for ocean sailing.

Unfortunately, I recently received word from Jacques Mertens, Thomas's step-grandfather (it's a complicated family, read the earlier post to figure it out) that Thomas was reported missing at sea two months ago and now has been officially reported lost at sea by the Brazilian coast guard. Thomas had been sailing singlehanded from French Guyana to Brazil aboard Oasis, having set out in late January. He had been working in Cayenne, French Guyana, designing fishing boats for a local company there.

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EXPLODING BLUE WHALE: They're Standing By in Newfoundland!

Bloated dead whale

What do you do when a dead 81-foot blue whale washes up on your beach? Hold your nose and wait for it pop. So it goes in Trout River, Newfoundland, when the local population of 600 souls has been has been waiting on pins and needles for their whale to burst since it washed up in town last week. There's even a dedicated website: hasthewhaleexplodedyet.com

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MID-ATLANTIC CRUISE: Bareboat Chartering in the Azores

Sailing to Sao Jorge

While dawdling about the North Atlantic in my old Alberg 35 yawl Crazy Horse I spent nine months in the Azores in 1995 and '96. The beautiful nine-island archipelago just sucked me right in. With its dramatic volcanic topography, verdant sub-tropical foliage, sumptuous mid-ocean cloud formations, amazingly friendly people, low food prices, and exquisite architecture it seemed to me a paradise on earth. But if you had told me back then there would one day be a successful bareboat charter operation in the islands, I would have laughed at you.

Not that the sailing is bad. Much of the time it is perfectly splendid, with interestingly variable breezes and occasionally challenging conditions to keep you honest. The big problem was parking. The islands have virtually no natural harbors, anchoring along the steep-sided shore is usually impossible, and the few moorings you were apt to find in those days were grossly unreliable. During my time there I did manage to visit and explore seven of the nine islands, but I had a few skin-of-my-teeth experiences in some of the tiny man-made harbors, and one acquaintance of mine actually lost his boat after he left it in the harbor at Vila do Porto on Santa Maria on a seemingly solid mooring that failed.

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