Mayday fo Basia

Dick and Irene Craig
Sun 20 Mar 2011 14:53

Three times, during the first three days out of Recife, I spotted dolphins.
On one occasion, the dolphins were small with pink bellies. On the two other
occasions, the dolphins had white bellies and didnât frolic out of the water
very much at all.
One of the white bellied pods had been swimming with us for 15minutes before
Bev took over the watch, thus giving her the opportunity to spend the next
twenty minutes with her movie camera, filming the beautiful creatures.
By the afternoon of the fourth day at sea, we were sailing on a close reach
and the only way to make any progress at all was to make passage directly
towards the equator, rather than diagonally, NNW.
During the night, a strop on the new North Sails mainsail came adrift and
fell off and disappeared. The strop had been provided as state of the art,
rather than a conventional strop, tied on with spectra. One of the battens
also came out of the sail.
We werenât able to affect any repair for over 24 hours due to the
uncooperative sea state. When we did attempt to sort out the problem, it
soon became apparent that we couldnât refix the strop while at sea so had to
once again, as when crossing the Indian Ocean, sail with a reef in the main.
A day or two later, during the early hours of the morning, another batten
came out of the sail. This sail doesnât seem fit for the purpose.
Subsequently, we noticed that a reefing line was beginning to wear so tied
the main to the boom.
At the exact moment that we crossed the equator, 12:17:31 on Tuesday 15th
March, I was giving our position to the duty net controller for the day. I
managed to write down the time as I spoke over the SSB.
Next morning, that self same net controller was coordinating a Mayday.
Basia, a Canadian registered Privilege 445 catamaran, had been hit by a
freighter or tanker, just before sunrise. The vessel was holed and leaking.
It had also been dismasted.
The incident occurred over 250 miles from Belem, located on the Rio Acara
Grande, the nearest port of refuge, on the northern coast of Brazil.
We received a call on our satellite phone at 8am giving us the bad news. We
switched on both engines and motored at 2400 revs to make way to the
coordinates given to us. It took 1.5hours for us to reach Basia and Eowyn,
who was coordinating the Mayday and standing off from Basia by about half a
mile. Basia had drifted almost 2 miles from the coordinates given just an
hour and a half before.
The passage was dreadful, with squalls for the last hour, reducing
visibility to no more than 100 metres. We switched on our navigation lights
and steaming light, with a view to making us more visible to other boats. We
also sounded the fog horn regularly.
Dropping our rib in the water, Moe and Bev collected Mike from Eowyn so that
he could inspect the external damage done to Basia.
The port hull was marked with rust coloured paint and most of the gelcoat
had been removed exposing a lot of fibre glass. There was a hole letting in
Having ascertained the extent of the visible damage, Mike was taken back to
Eowyn to collect some epoxy, which will set under water. After filling the
hole, working from the rib which was being thrown up and down on the 3 metre
waves, the three of them returned to Tucanon and collected four 25litre
jerry cans filled with diesel. This they ferried across to Basia. Next they
collected two 25litre jerry cans and some battery powered dinghy navigation
lights from Eowyn, which they took to Basia.
After the refueling operation, our three musketeers, remained in the rib,
tied up to our port hull, for around forty minutes, until Destiny, another
WARC boat donated five 25litre jerry cans of fuel.
Soon after 1.30 we were able to recommence our passage towards Grenada,
managing to reduce our speed with a drogue, while we and Eowyn remained with
Basia as escorts.
Various possibilities had been discussed regarding the destination, or even
refueling port for Basia but it was estimated that with the additional fuel
which could be obtained from two other WARC boats, Basia should have
sufficient fuel to reach Granada if they traveled at 1600 to 1650 revs. The
most important reason for not wanting to stop at any other port was that
most port authorities would not permit a disabled boat to leave.
We all continued to monitor the situation, talking every 3 hours on the SSB.
Next morning Basia reported that they had another leak, this time from the
innerr side of the port hull. Fortunately the bilge pumps were coping with
the original leak and a sponge and bucket was all that was needed to deal
with the new leak.
During the night of 18th/19th March, two other WARC boats, Jeannius and
Ariane, caught up with us. Next morning we repeated the refueling manoeuvre.
Moe and Bev collected Mike from Eowyn and then transferred the additional
fuel from the other two boats as well as taking two jerry can and a hand
held VHF from us, to Basia.
Moe steered the rib, Mike manhandled the jerry cans and Bev hung on to the
rope, attached to the other boat.
By 11.45 the operation was complete, Ariane was on her way, we winched the
rib back onto the davits and by noon, we were also making passage once
We had kept the SSB on from the moment we had received the Mayday call, now
that Basia could contact the escort boats using the VHF, we were able to
switch off the SSB. Silence is golden.