Rob and Jacky Black
Sun 1 Jul 2012 20:11
26th June - 4the July
having left the quay at 22.45 we hoisted the main and set off for our 90
mile journey back to Crete. once clear of the bay Jacky turned in and Rob
took the first watch. it was a clear night with very little wind and flat
seas. All went well for a couple of hours and then we got involved in a
bit of excitement. Below is the article written by our friend Tony Cross
(the Cruising Association HLR in Aghios Nikolias)which explains what
CA Members in Greek ferry MOB drama
by Tony Cross
CA members Rob & Jacky Black were involved in a night-time rescue drama in
late June this year, after a 24-year old woman apparently jumped off the
Minoan Line ferry Knossos Palace whilst the ship was at sea and on passage
between Piraeus and Heraklion. Rob & Jacky quickly became part of the
search and rescue effort and it was they who finally located the woman and
pulled her from the sea, more than 2 hours after she went overboard.
I later suggested to them that they write up their story for Cruising but
I think they felt that they had done no more than anyone else would do and
they didn't want to make a fuss about it. I think theirs is a story worth
telling though, so with their permission and of course with their
assistance, here is how they helped to save a young woman's life.
Rob & Jacky were in Milos, in the Greek Cyclades, in their Hanse 411
“Arwen of Bosham” after a leisurely 3-week cruise from Crete through the
Cyclades and back to Crete again. Milos was their jumping-off point to
return to Crete, their destination was the large port and marina at
Rethimnon, but since they had never been in there before they planned
their passage so that they would be sure of arriving at Rethimnon in
daylight. This meant a night passage and they left the anchorage at Milos
at 2300 and laid a course for Crete. The winds were light and westerly,
and unfortunately not the NNW force 5 their forecasts had predicted but
the sea was smooth with no noticeable swell. Once they were clear of Milos
and safely motor-sailing under main alone Jacky went to bed, Rob was to
wake her at 0300 for the watch change.
At 0230, and 7 miles south of Milos, the Minoan Lines ferry Knossos Palace
altered her course slightly to overtake them, and when she was about 2
miles ahead of them Rob noticed that she had slowed down and searchlights
were being directed into the water. Just as Rob was realising that this
was a probable man-overboard situation Olympia Radio broadcast a “Mayday
Relay” from the Knossos Palace. Rob immediately woke Jacky. The Master of
Knossos Palace then called Arwen directly on the VHF identifying her as
“the small yacht nearby”. Rob replied with their boat name and immediately
agreed to the Master's request for assistance in locating a man-overboard
under his control and instructions.
A search grid was established on a NW and SE heading and Arwen was
instructed to maintain a position 8 cables from the ferry's port quarter.
Rob confirmed that he understood the instructions but informed the ferry
that Arwen could only maintain 7 knots. In fact they chose not to make
even that speed as Rob felt that it was important to be able to hear as
well as look for the casualty and they would not have been able to do that
efficiently at full speed.
After the first sweep to the NW, Knossos Palace and Arwen were joined by
two commercial vessels who were instructed to maintain parallel courses
with the ferry about two miles to either quarter. On the third sweep to
the NW Rob saw a bright white light float and started to steam to this
whilst hurriedly taking down the mainsail and preparing the life sling for
a possible lift. Almost simultaneously they were called by the ferry to
proceed to this light. On reaching the float they found no casualty and
reported this by VHF. Soon after a search light was directed close to the
bow of the ferry and Arwen were asked to go there as they had heard
Rob & Jacky duly complied and found a young woman swimming feebly and
clutching a life ring. Rob brought the boat in stern first and Jacky
indicated to the casualty that we would lift her up using the swimming
ladder, she got the message and swam towards Arwen. Between them they
managed to lift her out of the water onto the aft deck and they
immediately began treatment for hypothermia. Jacky used the RYA 'buddy'
method, cuddling the casualty to transfer body heat to her, whilst Rob
fetched a thermal blanket. Once the young woman was safe Rob called the
ferry and informed them that the casualty was now safely on board but very
week and feeling sick. She had been in the water for over 2 hours!
Once on board the young woman began crying and thanking Rob & Jacky, she
was even asking for their names and addresses. At this point Rob & Jacky
became aware of loud applause and on looking up (they were extremely close
to the ferry which towered above them) they could see a large number of
spectators hanging out over the deck rails watching and cheering!
Rob asked on the VHF how the transfer of the casualty back to the ferry
was to be undertaken, he was requested to bring Arwen alongside the ferry
so that the woman could be transferred back to the ship through one of the
large water-level access doors. However the access door was 4 meters above
Arwen's deck level(!) and Rob informed the ferry that the casualty would
not be able to climb up the 'pilot' ladder they had deployed there. Rob
did make two attempts to get alongside the access door and ladder but the
wash from the ferry's propellers in 'zero' pitch made this task
impossible. Rob then told the ferry that they would instead transfer the
casualty to a small vessel which had arrived whilst they were making the
pick up, this subsequently proved to be a lifeboat, from Milos they think,
and the young woman was transferred from Arwen to the lifeboat.
The lifeboat was able to manoeuvre along side the ferry and the casualty
was successfully transferred back on board. Rob & Jacky steamed clear of
the ferry and the lifeboat and began to ready Arwen to continue their
passage (some 70 miles still to go!) by hoisting the main and clearing
away the unused rescue sling and search light and changing out of their
soaking wet clothes! The Master of the Knossos Palace called Arwen on the
VHF and thanked them for their assistance, he then called each of the
other two search vessels and released them to resume their passages.
The rescue made the news here in Greece, the Ekathimerini newspaper
published a short piece in their online version, but didn't name the
yacht. It's not at all clear whether the woman deliberately jumped or
whether she fell, and I don't suppose we'll ever really know.
Rob is a very experienced former Merchant Navy Captain, and on looking
back he felt that the Captain and bridge team of the Knossos Palace
conducted a very professional search, especially since the Captain had
probably been asleep when the MOB occurred! Rob does however wonder why
the ferry's 'man over board' boat did not appear to have been swung out
ready for launching, if Arwen had not been there they would have needed
this boat to make the rescue. Rob & Jacky are also surprised that they did
not hear any communications on the VHF between the rescue services and the
ferry (they were listening on channel 16). A lifeboat and helicopter both
arrived on the scene around the time they were picking up the casualty
from the water and Ron & Jacky had expected to be kept in the entire SAR
loop. Perhaps the lifeboat and helicopter were arranged 'offline' by the
SAR centre at Piraeus?
I have no idea whether there is a CA award for members who save lives at
sea? Perhaps there should be? Either way I think that Rob & Jacky Black
should be commended for their prompt and seamanly actions, it is very
likely that but for them this young woman would have lost her life.
Needless to say we were both a bit hyped up after all of that and had a
coffee laced with brandy before setting off again to Crete. Fortunately
the rest of the passage was event free and we arrived in Rethymno around
1700. Once berthed along side on the wall - pontoon B, we had an early
supper and went off to bed! Time enough to explore once we had caught up
with our sleep.