Rather, I see the opposite, a couple of abandonments between the East coast and Bermuda from last fall immediately come to mind... In particular, the abandonment of the Beneteau 393 SANCTUARY, and the crew's rescue by the cruise ship NORWEGIAN GEM...
In that instance, I see the classic example of a crew being battered by the shortcomings of a "typical" production coastal cruiser pressed into some serious conditions offshore... A fuel bladder added for the passage begins leaking, making life extremely difficult below... An apparent inability to make the boat heave-to when conditions warranted such a tactic... No staysail or storm jib, because of course very few "modern production boats" afford the appropriate structure/bulkhead for retro-fitting an inner forestay... The boat begins taking on water, but determining the source of the leak is greatly complicated by the boat's construction and the use of a hull liner... Finally, the skipper punches out, when he fears the hull has begun to suffer delamination... One of the crew came incredibly close to being crushed between the boat and the NORWEGIAN GEM's shore boat during the rescue, and indeed the ship's crew was lucky they were able to return to the ship as the conditions worsened dramatically...
What I read into the abandonment is not necessarily a boat issue but a crew issue. You say that the crew suffered from the "shortcomings of a typical production coastal cruiser" then mention 1. a fuel bladder added by the owner started leaking - I fail to see how that is a production boat issue, not sure why the bladder was added, but clearly was not done properly.
Presumably, because the skipper felt the standard fuel capacity was inadequate for the trip. Tankage is one of the most basic specifications that separates a boat like the Beneteau 393 from a production boat more suitable for passagemaking, such as a Caliber, to name one. So, to compensate for what is perceived to be marginal fuel capacity, many people undertaking such passages in today’s production boats are carrying additional fuel on deck, which I rate as one of the most dangerous and unseamanlike practices I routinely see out there, today…
2. the crew was not able to make the boat heave to. Again a crew failure - admittedly it is harder to heave to all modern hull shapes, but it can be done, and I am willing to bet that the crew had not practiced it before leaving. 3. No staysail or storm jib, the boat was not set up for a staysail - that is not a failing of the boat unless you believe all offshore boats must carry a staysail. Having sailed more than a few boats with stay sails I don't. As for a storm jib, again a crew decision to either not have one or not fly it if they did - goes on to the forestay, pretty sure it had one of those.
Sure, successful passages have been made without a staysail, but I still consider the provision for flying an additional smaller/backup sail to be one of the hallmarks of a true bluewater boat… Especially, for a boat like the one in question, with only a roller furling genoa fitted… A staysail would certainly improve the prospects for getting such a design to more easily heave-to, or to simply endure the sort of conditions they faced on that trip… While it might not be absolutely essential equipment, for a passage from NY to Bermuda in November, it would certainly be right at the top of my own “Nice to Have” List…
3. Takes on water - really? It stayed afloat after the boat was abandoned. 4. The skippper "fears" that the hull is delaminating. Really, again boat survived the storm.
Well, I’ll give the skipper the benefit of the doubt, and assume he might have had good reason to believe the hull had suffered structural damage. The tabbing on one of the aft bulkheads had apparently been compromised, to the extent that it had some sufficiently ajar that the door to one of the staterooms could no longer be opened. Looking at the guy’s resume below, sounds like he may actually know a thing or two about sailboat engineering, design, and construction… (Not to mention, afterwards he described the boat as a “floating condo”, relative to the Beneteau First Series, which he assesses to be a better choice for sailing offshore)
As to the taking on of water, do you have any doubt that might have been the case? Or, do you dispute the fact that a boat with a liner would make it far more difficult to assess potential sources of leaks below the waterline?
Also, it should be noted that one of the primary reasons the decision to abandon was taken, was the fact that their liferaft had been swept overboard during one of their knockdowns, or by a boarding sea… It had been stowed on top of the coachroof, which by now has become generally accepted to be a rather vulnerable and poor choice for liferaft stowage… A more offshore-capable boat would have had a dedicated locker or some safer provision for the location of the liferaft, perhaps in the cockpit or transom. One of the requirements for an Offshore CE rating is such a dedicated liferaft storage solution, if I’m not mistaken…
Not defending Beneteau, Hunter or Catalina or any boat, but what I see from your description is not a boat that was overwhelmed, but a crew that was overwhelmed because they were inexperienced, they did not know how to handle the boat, or the weather conditions, and then were able to convince themselves the boat was breaking up and they had to abandon ship. That fits as well with what I have read about the situation.
Well, I read it a bit differently, hardly seems such a simplistic example of Either/Or, to me… No doubt, some of the crew was likely to have lacked offshore experience – they were paying for the privilege of gaining some, after all, by signing onto this delivery of a charter boat to St. Marten…. But I still see this as a classic example of demands being made upon a crew by a boat possessing a number of characteristics that can produce major problems when serious weather is encountered offshore – problems that would have been less likely to arise had the boat been more properly well-found and equipped for such a passage… I see this as the perfect example of a COMBINATION
of factors regarding both a boat AND
a crew (for the life of me, I am continually perplexed in these discussions by the tendency of many to insist it has to be one OR the other), but starting with the boat
, and the crew being asked to perform duties or take actions that they might not have otherwise had to do, had they been aboard a more suitable boat
Delivery skippers don’t always get to choose the hand they’re dealt, and there’s generally a limit to how much modification or upgrading the client or owner will be willing to make for such a trip… So, the skipper often has some tough choices to make in that regard. Personally, I would have passed on such a delivery, or at the very least would have departed from the Chesapeake or Beaufort, instead… No way would I have taken that boat – much less with paying customers of unknown skills or personalities – from the NE to Bermuda, in November…
But, perhaps that's just me... (oh, and Don Street, as well (grin))
From what I've read of this incident, I, too, have some reservations about some of the tactics chosen, etc... But, the skipper made it absolutely clear that the safety of his crew was his top priority (as it should have been, of course), and with the weather quickly deteriorating, and his belief that the hull had been structurally compromised, the boat having become basically uninhabitable below largely due to the presence of diesel (I would have to assume at least a couple of his crew must have become significantly incapacitated by seasickness, at that point), well... I'm not gonna second-guess the decision to abandon ship when he had that opportunity was the wisest choice, at that point...
However, I’m certainly not gonna brand the skipper as “inexperienced”, if one accepts his resume at face value, he sure seems to have a fair amount of experience, to me…
Captain Thierry Simon
QUALIFICATIONS ET EXPÉRIENCE
• MCA Master Of Yachts Offshore 200 Tons (copy of the certificate here)
• STCW 95
• 31,500 miles at sea-1390 days at sea
• Studied Yacht Design at YDI, Blue Hill, Maine, USA
• Extensive knowledge of marine electronics onboard yachts
• Outstanding mechanical engineering skills
• Strong capabilities in watchkeeping, navigation, engineering, and electrical maintenance
• Extensive Experience in rebuild’s of smaller sail vessels
• Transformed a 100yr old 93’Gaff Rig from a Fishing Schooner back to its original state as a S/V
• Ability to maintain and repair electrical systems and electrical equipment
• Over 40 years of sailing in both racing and cruising
• Owned and operated 9 boats (Charter and Personal Usage)
• Adapted a wooden boat design by Francis Herreshoff into modern aluminum build
• Specialist in Vessel Deliveries