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S/Y "Elektra" 20.-27.09.03
Twice a year the yachting school with whom I had made my yachting certificates charters a yacht and provides a skipper training for their former students. The idea is to practise all those things which can be dealt with in the classes only in theory. Joerg, the sailing teacher of the school is then skipper and takes care that all manoeuvres are executed well and everybody gets the kind of training he or she is needing. Those who are after the next licences use these training voyages to collect the necessary miles, e.g. for the SKS, SSS or SHS (German equivalents of yacht master coast, offshore and ocean). This year a group of participants of last year's skipper training had decided to charter a yacht together and to sail to Sweden. Joerg would be our skipper again and we now planned to practise night sailing, difficult approaches, work with radar...
The voyage was not under a lucky star from the beginning. One week before leaving Joerg had an accident which left him with a leg in plaster. Instead of sailing with us he had to stay in hospital. However the trip should take place as planned as with us was also Achim who sailed on yachts for many years and had been skippering our ship the "Elektra" (a 41 ft. cruiser) before. He should substitute Joerg for the trip and take over as skipper. So we were finally 5 who travelled to Breege/ Ruegen (Germany) to take over the ship there: Achim as skipper, I as navigator, Uli, Wini and Thorsten as decksmen. Sunday morning we planned to leave Breege. A departure on Saturday evening had prooved impossible as there had been a number of little problems with the boat which had to be mended before leaving. Once we had finished it, it was dark and with the fairway being unlit there was no chance for night navigation.
forecast 20.09.03 08.00 UTC:
Southern Baltic: West 4, veering 3, sea state 0,5m.
After getting up another surprise. Uli informs us that he has decided not to sail with us. He does not trust the ship and has a weard feeling. His bags are packed and already in the car. So we are only 4...
|Logbook 21.09.03, s/y "Elektra"|
|07.30||SSW 2-3||1||1017||-||-||-||-||Departure Breege under engine|
|07.55||SSW 2-3||1||1017||FW||3||Main, Genoa||following the fairway to Hiddensee|
|09.37||SSW 2-3||2||1017||350°||5||Main, Genoa||11,0||passed buoy 1,2 Hiddensee|
|11.30||W 5-6||4||1016||080°||6||-||25,1||54°47,6N 013°12,6E sails packed, engine started|
|12.10||W 2-3||4||1019||080°||5,5||Genoa||29,0||54°48,3N 013°18,8E genoa set again, course Bornholm|
|12.30||W 2-3||4||1019||080°||7||Main, Genoa||Main set with preventer|
|13.45||W 5||4||1020||080°||8||Main, Genoa||42,2||Main 1st reef, genoa 2/3|
|15.00||W 7-8||5||1026||genoa blew out in gust of 85 kt, engine on, manoeuvre to take away main sail and the remains of the genoa|
|15.10||270°||main blew out|
|15.30||270°||when trying to stow the parts of the genoa crew member Thorsten falls over board. The life belt keeps him near the ship. The life vest did not open.|
|16.25||270°||Parts of the genoa fly from the mast top and get into the ship's propeller --> vessel not under command|
|16.30||58 kts||8||1026||060°||3,8||-||Running before the mast into direction of Bornholm, urgency call via VHF|
PAN-PAN PAN-PAN PAN-PAN
all stations - all stations - all stations
is s/y "ELEKTRA" ELEKTRA ELEKTRA
call sign delta delta 3-6-7-4
in position 54°54.5N 014°02.9E
We blew out our fore sail in gust and parts of it got tangled into our propeller + we are now adrift in direction of Bornholm + our main sail is also broken + the vessel is not under command + is anybody near us to help us to reach the nearest port or can anybody give us towing assistance + over
Soon after this we receive another call from Lyngby Radio. Luckily the connection is better this time. As we state not to be in immediate danger at the moment and to be able to deal with the situation as long as we have daylight to steer out the waves the decision is made that we keep running into direction Roenne and the SAR vessel will assist us into port. Lyngby radio then calls us regularly to ask for our position ant the direction and speed of our drift.
19.34 SAR "Mads Johannsen" arrives. In Position 54°56.5N 014°22.1E the towing line is given over and we get towed to Roenne.
21.56 port Roenne
22.15 made fast in the Suedhaven, Roenne
So this terrible experience saw a happy ending at least. All 4 of us had reached port in good health, apart from a broken rib of Thorsten. We have not lost our ship and the resultung damage was repairable. Only the genoa must be considered as a total loss. Nevertheless it took some time until we got settled again. Too strong had been the impressions, too fresh the pictures in our heads.
There was the picture of Thorsten who suddenly hang outside the vessel, then managed to climb back on board, then went inside to put on dry clothes and little later took over the helm again for several hours. There was the floor that suddenly became a wall when this gust laid us to approximately 80° on the side and Wini and I both hang on the wheel trying to lift the vessel up again. There was this feeling of terrible loneliness when our VHF calls first remained unanswered. There was the sheer fear when we saw a big ferry right on collision course towards us while we were adrift on a vessel not under command and unable to get out of the way - and little later the immense relieve when the ferry radioed us to tell us that they were seeing us and asked if everything was okay with us. There was the terrified face of Wini who stood at the helm and suddenly felt a strange coldness in his back. He turned round to see a wave breaking that was at least twice as high as he himself. There was the seasickness that grabbed everyone of us who made the mistake to remain below deck for longer than 2 minutes combined with the necessity to go just there to keep track with the position and drift. There was the ashgray face of our skipper directly after the engine had died. But there was also excitement in seeing these big waves in the still bright sunshine which accompanied this crazy storm. And there was our karma that we would make it and finally the knowledge that somebody would come and help us even though it would take quite a time as first the help had to be brought to the ill captain of the "NATALIE". And finally there was the great relieve when the "MADS JOHANNSEN" came in sight and we knew that the worst would be over now.
On this place I would like to ask everybody to help the work of the coast guard and other organisations who provide SAR help. These people are doing a fantastic job and without them we would very likely not have made it through the night.
After consulting the ship's doctor on the German cruise sailing ship"LILI MARLEEN" decides Thorsten to take the ferry home to Germany. He suffers from severe pain and even though the doctor says that it is most likely nothing serious they agree that he sails home as soon as possible to have an X-ray.
In the afternoon the diver from the port authority removes 2 pieces of the genoa out of our propeller. The engine starts again without problems. We cannot leave Bornholm anyway as the weather forecast prophecies more storm for tomorrow.
Thorsten went home this morning. Us remaining 3 clear up the ship, remove the main sail and give it to the sail maker for repairing. Then Achim riggs down the boom to clear the lines of the 2nd reef which had not been working so far. As the electricity and the heating also do not work as they should Achim spends the entire day with repairs. Wini and I go for sight seeing in Roenne meanwhile.i
The wind has slowed down a bit. The professional seamen who stay in the same part of the port as we do advised us to leave today. We will have fair winds for the way to Sassnitz (Ruegen). Around evening the wind shall drop more. So we just wait for the delivery of our main sail in the morning, then we rig it up and leave Roenne with destination Sassnitz.
First we proceed under engine, but Achim want to set sail to stabilise the ship. Wini and I object as we feel safer when we hear the sound of the engine. So we decide a compromise: sail with 2nd reef and engine with half power. That way the ship is easy steerable in the still high waves but lies as calm as if we were only under sails. Around 17.00 h the waves get smaller and the big one with which we dealt so far come rarer and rarer. We can already see the clouds over Ruegen which lies like a big wave breaker in front of us. We dare to switch off the engine and are only under sail again.
21.25 arrival in port Sassnitz.
Around noon we leave Sassnitz with destination Vitte (Hiddensee). The weather forecast promises SW 4-5 Bft, so that we hope to sail with half wind and later by the wind.
While we are leaving Sassnitz the tallship "TOVARISHCH" inside the dock ship CONDOCK IV passes by. She is on her way from Wilhelmshaven to Stralsund where she will be refitted as museum ship
Today is a real cool sailing day. The sun shines, the wind is fair though less then said in the forecast. The evening provides a beautiful sunset which turn the chalk rocks of Cape Arkona into a wonderful light.
19.30 we reach the Hiddensee fairway. The guiding lights show us the way to Vitte and provide a good lesson in pilotage for me. At 21.45 we reach Vitte where we make fast in the fishing port as the passage to the yachting marina can only made in daylight. During the mooring manoeuvre in Vitte our engine decides to move only backwards no matter in which direction you turn the handle... Achim disappears for the rest of the evening in the engine room while Wini clears up the deck and I cook the stew.
Hiddensee is really nice and so I use the morning for a walk. We are not in a hurry as there are only 12 miles to go from Vitte to Breege.
Around noon we leave. Due to the strong head winds we are forced to motor-sail through the narrow waters towards Breege where we arrive in the early afternoon.
After the breakfast we clear up the "Elektra" and hand her back to the charter company. If and how much of the money which we paid for the repairs in Roenne we will receive back is not clear. Achim has to discuss this with the insurance...