COME AND GET IT: Free Swan 48 Available

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Wolfhound adrift

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.

Wolfhound passage chart

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???

Wolfhound before rescue

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

Wolfhound alongside freighter

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

Wolfhound abandoned

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!

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15 Responses
  1. ALex

    Complete and total loss of all capabilities of ascertaining your position or making contact with your radios would leave me one option. Head west, your libel to hit something, like a Continent. Seriously!

    Now if they where logging there position every few hours they would have had some general idea of their relative position to the island. In that situation I would at least attempt to dead reckon to the Bermuda.

    It’s a Swan for gods sakes. It would ride out most conditions as long as all rigging stayed intact. As for the redundancy in equipment, that just goes without saying doesn’t it.

    I wish I was in the area.

    Too many boats are abandoned because of discomfort levels that are not life threatening.

  2. Richard D Elder

    Interesting that the mast has stood with no forestay and no fore and aft lowers–just a baby stay. Fly me to her with some low stretch line, hank on spare jib, Jumars to climb the mast, and a tool box and I’ll sail her back—-.!

    November delivery to St. Martin via Bermuda on a nice Oyster 53. The usual washing machine all the way from Newport. Two of the owner’s old prep school buddies on board as crew. 70 miles from St. Georges one of the crew says “are we close enough to be rescued yet?” Thought he was joking until I looked him in the eye. LOL

  3. Gareth

    I have delivered Swans through that bit of Ocean in February a few times, with no real problem. The 48 is a nice boat, I, like you, have sailed Avocation.

    All the Irish sailors I know are exceptionally seamen and women.

  4. Too many boats are abandoned because of discomfort levels that are not life threatening.

    Too right. I sailed in that area in 2009 near three Swan 53s in the Carib 1500 (I was crew on a delivery). Yes, it was rough, and no, I wouldn’t have left the boat or hit the Big Red Button.

    Of course, I brought a SEXTANT…Luddite that I am. I want to salvage that boat.

  5. Charlie

    @Marc: Sextant, bah. I think they could have found Bermuda with 15 percent iPad power. Just need to turn it on once in a while for a fix. Though that assumes they had paper charts!

    @Gareth: Good to see you here, mate! Avocation is the boat I mentioned in the last graph. I was the first to sail it south after Hank and Jan took it over.

  6. Richard D Elder

    Hi Gareth,
    I think you delivered Osprey south once or twice after the incident where the crew wanted to jump ship 70 miles from Bermuda that I related?

    Cheers,
    Richard

  7. T4100

    the crew had time to have the transom painted before leaving Westbrook but no time to register the Epirb or get AA batteries?!?! priorities.

    I guess if you can afford to buy a Swan 48 you can afford to lose it.

  8. dan

    Very interesting how this guy managed to lose two boats. His first boat is on the ground in Tomis, Constanta, Romania, the story is in the Afloat article linked here. Everyone with an interest in sailing in Romania knows that boat; some are even dreaming of buying it at a low price and fixing it…

  9. Simon

    There is a US coast guard video on youtube where they rescue a familiy of 4 (including a baby) from what looks like a Sundeer 64. in the video you can see how the boat slows down once the father releases the main befor leaveing ship….
    No visible reason for the rescue, and none statet by the coast guard in the video comment.
    By the way, the baby nearly drowns when the mother jumps ship with it to be picked up by the helicopter……..

  10. Simon

    Here is the link:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ym-ZXafoF0&playnext=1&list=PL38FE1C56B261C2C6&feature=results_main
    They updated it, as I had anuncommented video in mind. But it seems to bee the video I remember, just more complete now.

    It’s good to see that my friend and I were right with our guess about the reason for abandoning the ship, as statet here:
    http://gcaptain.com/hurricane-survival-place-absolutes/
    It just confirms all I have read and heard about having a jordan series drought or some similair way of securing the boat in a storm.
    As always, there is a lesson in every rescue.

  11. Michael Geagan

    We found and boarded her on 29 June 2013. She was approximately 600 nm east of Bermuda. Both checkstays (runners) are gone, but her mast is still standing. Her starboard side is damaged. She has water up to the cabin sole, presumably entering through the aft companionway as she rolls in heavy weather. She would be a marginal salvage case, as all of the electronics and the engine are likely ruined by salt water, and the damage to the hull, rig, and deck fittings is extensive.

  12. Lauri

    You better hurry up though, without a headstay she won’t keep that mast very long, and I would expect (a lot) more damage when that thing falls and starts thrashing about.

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