There she is folks… yours for the taking. This empty Frers-designed Swan 48 of mid-90s vintage, worth I’d guess $500K or more, was adrift approx. 800 southeast of Bermuda as of this past weekend. She was abandoned just north of Bermuda by her Irish owner, Alan McGettigan, and three crew back in February. At the time it was believed she may have sunk soon afterwards, but one Martin Butler recently snapped this image and sent it to the Irish sailing comic Afloat, which is running an account of the boat’s abandonment in its current issue.
What the heck were those guys doing out there in February? Twas a race delivery… believe it or not. McGettigan bought the boat in Connecticut last fall, didn’t get it put together as fast as he hoped, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, but was intent on racing it in the Caribbean 600. So he and three buddies from Ireland jumped aboard and departed Westbrook bound for Bermuda on February 2.
McGettigan’s passage chart. He and his crew initially had strong easterlies, forcing them south and a little west, then caught westerlies out to the Onion Patch
What went wrong was predictable enough. It was exactly the sort of stuff that usually happens when you’re shaking down a boat you’ve just bought. A newly installed inverter/charger didn’t work properly and the engine got gunked up with dirty fuel. So there they were 70 miles or so north of Bermie with no house power and no engine and a handheld VHF with a rundown battery. Their only working nav equipment was an iPad that was down to 15 percent of its battery life. Then the weather got rough again, and they suffered two knockdowns.
What would YOU do in these circumstances???
McGettigan and crew ignited their EPIRB, which was not registered, at 1530 hours on February 8. Fortunately for them, they were located that night by a US Coast Guard C130 out of Norfolk, the crew of which took this photo of the boat through a FLIR camera
The crew evacuated the boat on February 9 and boarded M/V Tetien Trader, which had diverted 80 miles to their position. This photo was snapped by McGettigan from the freighter’s deck as his boat lay alongside. You’ll note some cockpit fixtures got banged up a bit
McGettigan snapped this last photo of his boat as Tetien Trader steamed away from her
I could launch into my routine tirade about unnecessary rescue calls, but I’ll spare you that. (You’ll find many such opinions in this forum discussion, if you do care to moralize.) Fact is, I can’t promise I wouldn’t have done the same thing in this situation, though I do like to think I would somehow have gotten into Bermuda unassisted.
The one object lesson learned I will offer is this: always carry basic back-up electronics that can run off simple double-A batteries. (Also, carry lots of double-A batts!) Top two items in my ditch bag are a handheld GPS and VHF, both of which can run on double-As.
In case you are interested in the yacht, I am very familiar with Swan 48s. Great boats! Well worth salvaging. Looks like this one snapped its headstay (presumably it was compromised somehow while lying alongside the freighter), but otherwise it seems to be in pretty good shape.
Also, remind me to tell you sometime about the just-purchased Swan 48 I delivered down to the W’Indies several years ago for Antigua Race Week. We had all sorts of problems on that passage!