Lost at sea 5 months without comms

Started by vwflyer, October 28, 2017, 01:16:16 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


My curiosity is killing me and it's probably too early to get all my questions answered by the news. But I know that there are some sailors in this group so maybe there are some good theories among you. How did these two ladies wind up without comms at sea?  I've read several news stories looking for the answer. Several said their comms died shortly after losing the engine. Sounds to me like maybe the battery died because the generator was engine driven. Would that be right?  Do many sail boats not have solar power so that you don't have to run the engine to charge the battery? It is supposed to sail after all. Even so, would they not have made the distress call on the HF  before the battery died?  Is it possible they didn't have an HF radio on board? Are they not required on ocean going vessels? One article said they lost the sat phone overboard the first day out. Does having a sat phone on board qualify for comms requirements at sea and that's why they didn't use HF?  Many articles stated that they made distress calls for 92 days but were too far out for anybody to hear them. From this I surmise that their VHF radio still worked. Perhaps an HT which is why it still had juice. If so that HT battery has good life. So many questions, I'm afraid I'll have to wait for more interviews from them. Glad they made it. I imagine they'll do a few things differently the next time out.

Steve 7931

All information thus far would suggest that these two were not sailors and were ill equiped to undertake such an adventure.

Total lacking in any basic navigation skills, demonstrated by their eventual pickup point.
To get my ticket, I had to take exams for celestial navigation and extensive practical navigation skills.

It is of course possible to sail the Oceans today without all the electronic aids, Lord Nelson did it ,as did many others, but it would be a bit foolhardy not to have a least the Emergency sat beacons available today onboard.  I would think any sailor worthy of the name would have been so disappointed at the lack of equipment he  would of found on their boat.




The article says:
QuoteThen the ship lost its communications capabilities.
No details...

Losing all communications, like Steve says, means you were not prepared adequately. I also don't want to be sexist here, but given the gender inequality in our hobby, it is clear that women have no interest in radio, which is surprising given that women like to communicate more than men, but of course, there is little communication going on on the airwaves today. So I am not surprised that they would have only the minimum gear and little inclination to maintain it or have backups.

On my boat I had nine HF radios, four VHF radios and a satellite communications system (Delorme Inreach), not to mention 86W of solar power with redundant controllers. There was no way I could have ended up in the same predicament. When I go back to sea I'll have probably at least three HF radios, and the Inreach, which I still have. I would even have an HF handheld like a Mizuho to use in a life raft, or better yet, one of my PRC-320s in manpack configuration. Not only do you need HF for safety but also for human contact and morale.

Unfortunately there are countless people at sea who have no business even taking a canoe out on a river, much less sailing out of sight of land. Yet they end up there, and don't always come back... Those two were very lucky, didn't even have to eat the dog :o



It sounds like two people with a lot of money, who bought a power boat ( that happened to have sails) . An engine is least reliable at sea, so I'd never cross thousands of miles of open ocean in a small boat without sails.  The article I read said that they were 'making distress calls for 2 months'; were they ONLY equipped with a VHF marine radio, like they'd use near shore???  IT's entirely possible.  I knew one 'graduate' of a marine academy who depended entirely on her cell phone for coastal 'boating' (she was NOT a sailor). Any ocean crosser - unless they prefer to be fully independent, should have an EPIRB or something like it - hit the button and it's MAYDAY sent into the satellite constellation - then prioritize what you MIGHT be able to take with you when you leave your boat. Any rescue vessel will take you and maybe a bag or two, and leave your boat adrift.

Navigation at sea is double tough.  Cel-Nav (sextant, chronograph, star index and charts ) is the best back-up, if not primary.  GPS is wonderful, especially for trained navigators who fully understand what a marvel it is, but it's politically controlled.  One BANG! on the world scene, and it can be no longer available in your area of the sea. The sun, moon and stars, on the other hand, are beyond political control.

>>>>===> Even a QRP rig and the skill to tap code would have solved this problem. They are fortunate to be alive at all.

>RadioRay  ..._  ._
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry

Steve 7931

I shall keep my ear to the ground, in order to determine more of their story.
I think I heard that they had thee months worth of canned food abord, so they were obviously expecting a long trip.
Even in the south pacific navigation by the Sun is straight forward for those with training, and even equipped with a plastic simple lifeboat sextant, reaching a land mass like New Zeland would not be so difficult.
The moral here is.   Don't go to sea without one and some simple training.



I don't think we can fault their navigation at this point. For all we know, they had a working GPS and/or sextant and knew exactly where they were the whole time. They were adrift and at the mercy of the ocean currents for at least three of the five months which is why they wound up so far off course. Their engine swamped during a storm and they couldn't restart it. My guess is that they killed the battery trying to restart the engine and had no way of recharging the battery. As Gil pointed out, they lost communications around the same time, so I'd bet that if they did have an HF radio they killed the battery that runs it trying to start the engine rather than using the battery to put out a distress call. After failing to restart the engine they decided to try and sail the rest of the way, but damage to the mast made maneuvering the vessel difficult, according to one report. I'd say impossible if they drifted aimlessly for 3 months. So if the mast was unrepairable and made sailing impossible we can't really fault them on their sailing skills either. I'm not a sailer, but where they appear to me to have failed is in underestimating the importance of communication and planning with sufficient backups. A way of recharging their battery, perhaps, without the aid of the engine, a spare HF antenna, spare HF radio, and if nothing else, a GPS emergency beacon. The last one should be standard equipment in all sea going vessels today. From what has been written so far, all we can be fairly sure of is that they started the trip with a sat phone (which fell in the water) and a VHF radio. They brought a water purifier and lot and lots of food so they were planning ahead. But like so many preppers, they seem to have overlooked the importance of comms prepping. Two is one and one is none.


Mast damagethat's critical.  The articles I read ONLY discussed engine. That's critical and changes my mind on this - for the better. The desalinator was in the other articles and that is a life saver.  As for food -, I always carried plenty, and in a way that I can go everywhere with it -

"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry


I only saw the CNN article which didn't have any details. I think we all agree that it was a failure to prepare as far as communications go...


Sent from my SM-G928F using Tapatalk


On the communications front, we've seen the debate of the satellite phone -vs- HF.  There are advantages to each but people MISS the disadvantage on sat-phones, the main one for me is:

1. Satellite phones are designed to require infrastructure. 
2. Sat-phones are a point-to-point method to communicate from one phone number to another phone number : if the call fails for any reason, the sender is heard by nobody. HF radio (radio in general) is a BROADcasting method, heard by many.  So, if in trouble at sea, I want a BROADcast method, receivable by many, not only the front desk at some office.  Many blue water cruiser/sailors carry an EPIRB as a last-ditch rescue beacon and these work very well, but lack the ability to send e-mail or short txt messages with friends WINLINK or Gil's SPOT allows. Of course, once that EPIRB is activated, a huge wave of help is on the way and you usually are leaving your boat and most possessions behind. The EPIRB is designed to save human lives.

>RadioRay ..._  ._
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry


Quoteusually are leaving your boat and most possessions behind. The EPIRB is designed to save human lives.
Did you see a picture of their boat? The hull looked to be in real bad shape along the water line. Was that just normal water damage? What caused that? The girls said they expected to sink in the next 24 hours. It would be interesting to see if it's still afloat out there since they did just leave it to sink. I guess we'll have to wait for the hour long History Cannel re-enactment to get the fascinating details. The problem is, the History Channel is as bad about getting its facts straight with recent history as it is with ancient history. 


I did see video footage of the boat and what I saw looked like marine growth along a line near the boot stripe.  That's a common thing to do for people who like to swim (whi I never did, because a human mid-ocean is a "snack", in my eyes...) TO USE A LINE FOR BOTH THAT AND (IF A LARGE LINE) AS A 'FENDER' OF SORTS.The boat did ont appear to be low in the water, which indicates (but does not prove) excess water inside of the hull... 

The mast was basically intact and the 'damage' they reported was on one spreader.  You can sail on several points of sail with one limp spreader OR repair the spreader (the blonDe - amazingly NOT sunburned) said that she built the boat, yet could neither repair nor shorten the standing riggin on that side, NOR sail on a tack to no have that side over stressed.  A sailor could and likely WOULD do that, rather than bobbing for 5 months.

COMMUNICATIONS is still very, very weak in this entire thing.  An HF radio would have done very well.  The Pacific Seafarers net with shore and ocean operators, SOMEONE would have heard from a boat mid-ocean and that close to Hawaii.

"We hit a Force 11 Storm (right out of Hawaii)  and it lasted for days."  Really?  Yet your weather planning missed that giant about one hundred miles or less from THE Major population center in the mid-Pacific.

Their story As filtered through the media IS not adding up, the YouTube videos are not matching with their story of being 'mariners'. We'll know more in time, but likely; the controlled media will do their best to paint then into a mini-series as love bound heroines who fought the sea and won.  Yawn!

"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry

Steve 7931

As previously stated :- These two women were not sailors and the what is seen in the reports demonstrates they had neither the training, skill or preparation for undertaking such a voyage at sea.

What is worthy of such reports, is that it promotes both discussion and thought into the question of,  How would I have done it differently.

Those of us who have sailed at sea, will tell you that they take all but the so called Kitchen Sink !!! In multiple backup numbers of everything , just in case !!!

Many publications exsist on the subject of Ocean Sailing, but if I had to recommend just one , it would be :- One Hand for YOURSELF and One for the Ship.  Written by Tristan Jones  an ocean going single handed Sailer

The book will be a good read also for none sailers, as it will inform and provoke thought on self survival  and preparedness and what is the minimum equipment to have on hand.

After a bit more thought. I may add here how I would have done it differently,  in the meantime what are your thoughts, lets all learn from this event.



Thanks for the recommendation Steve.

QuoteThere are advantages to each but people MISS the disadvantage on sat-phones,

They also might not work in heavy rain, which of course is a time when you more likely might have to call for help. For a broke sailor on a long trip they might also prove too expensive, and there is no contest between eating and paying for a sat phone...



Hi. I just looked at the news and pictures. Here's what I have found:
- there were solar panels and a wind generator on board.
- they state to have an ssb and an amateur radio on board but lost comms by loosing their antenna...
- without comms they had no info about the taifun coming.

Several questions arise
- as mentioned earlier, why would anyone leaving the vhf range of coast radio station not have an epirb on  board? These things aren't too expensive. As a result. I would carry 2 of them.
- how do you loose your antenna in a taifun, which you do not know is coming because you lost your antenna... Some time issues here

On the other hand, I wouldn't tell everything either if I still want to get some money from my insurance...

Michael (db3mf and hobby sailor)

Gesendet von meinem SM-G950F mit Tapatalk


Quotethey state to have an ssb and an amateur radio on board but lost comms by loosing their antenna...

If you have a tuner, anything made of metal and a tad long can become an antenna, but maybe they did not have the technical knowledge to rig something up, the same way they couldn't rig a sail with what they had...

Maybe it wasn't a lack of preparation after all, but a lack of education and creativity in the technical realm.