May day, may day

Around the Atlantic: ✔ Next stop: Circumnavigation
Ron Noordhoek
Wed 5 Oct 2011 14:05

After a few days we decided to move on to Corme, some 40 Nm west. We left after diner and had just set the main. I was down below checking the chart plotter when Andy and Rutger urged me to come on deck. They just witnessed a collision between a fishing vessel and a big freighter. We immediately dropped the mainsail and went full throttle to the location of the collision, about .3 nm ahead of us.

I could steer the boat by the lights of the sinking finishing vessel. We heard people shouting in the water. Within 3 minutes we were there and saw 3 men in the water. Andy had already send out a mayday. We picked one of the men out of the water, the second and the third one being picked up by a pilot vessel that responded to the mayday call. The man we picked up was not injured but in shock obviously. We could manage him to tell us there were 4 people on board of the fishing vessel.

I tried call the pilot vessel over the radio but they didn’t seem to respond, at least not in English, so I handed over the radio to the man we picked up and they spoke for a while. The pilot vessel picked up our man. We cruised around for some time to help searching for the 4th person. By then there were at least 5 vessels and a helicopter nearby to search for the missing sailor. Eventually we headed back to the marina where I was interviewed by a journalist of the local newspaper that had picked up the accident. Waking up next morning was a bit unreal. I went over to the marina office to learn they were still searching for the 4th man. He might have been down below at the time of the collision and didn’t manage to get out in time or might have been injured by the collision. We all felt very sorry for the loss of the 4th guy. We couldn’t have done more or anything different but still…

Today we’ll go for Corme after all. There’s nothing more we can do here and there’s no point in staying another day. Andy posted an message on the Yachting Monthly forum and they asked us to write them the whole story and send it in. I think writing and talking about helps us to digest what all happened.