Position: 44° 49.141′ N 23° 6.366′ W

“Misneach! Stay afloat. Don’t drown. Don’t quit. Stay with the boat.” – Declan O Donnell, The Plover by Brian Doyle

Halfway to the Azores we heard through the net that a Grand Soleil 49 (sailboat) lost its rudder and its crew had abandoned ship. Picked up by a passing tanker, the captain stood on deck and safely watched his stricken boat drift away. Quite why he didn’t continue on with a jury-rigged rudder, or steer with his sails, is a bit of a mystery. After all, isn’t that what floor boards and whisker poles are for? Perhaps that’s a question for the insurance company.

Once the decision to abandon ship was taken, why the boat wasn’t scuttled is also curious. As a captain, I can believe that the risks of pulling the seacocks in your boat while you’re still aboard outweighs the risks an unattended boat poses to other vessels. Abandoning ship, however, is not a decision I ever want to make.

Embarrassingly, there are many tales of boats floating around for months after they’ve been left in a panic. Cruising World recently dropped an article about a Northwest couple who, having almost completed their circumnavigation, were knocked down by a rogue wave near Vancouver Island. Convinced their boat would sink, they called the Coast Guard and were rescued. Three months later the boat was sighted off the coast of Oregon, still afloat and drifting towards Baja.

Trading a relatively dry boat for a helicopter ride in a gale seems foolhardy at best. Therefore, we have a rule about abandoning ship, it is: we only step up onto the liferaft. In other words, no matter how crazy things are as long as Aleta floats we are staying with her.

The Grand Soleil’s crew was picked up in the middle of the Atlantic, some 400 miles from our location at the time. Tai asked me if there was any risk we’d bump into it. I thought about it and said, I think the risk is pretty small – about as likely as bumping into an abandoned RV in New Mexico (as I said that an image of Walter White’s clapped out mobile meth lab careening through the desert flashed into my head).

If you’re in the market for a solid sailboat in need of some TLC, there’s one for salvage someplace between Provincetown and Galway. You just have to find it and fetch it home.




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