Saturday, July 26, 2014

Identity of collision ship still a mystery

Having had to abandon his 11-metre ketch Dumpling after a collision with a huge white vessel the size of an oil tanker or container ship three weeks ago, single-handed yachtsman Nick Cole has learned that his badly damaged and disabled boat has been located and towed back to Madeira.
The Portuguese authorities have identified two white vessels that were in the collision area at the time, but the Falmouth Coastguard has refused to divulge the names because it is “commercially sensitive.”
Boats under sail generally have right-of-way over motorised vessels.
Cole was sailing from Porto Santo in the Madeira group of islands to Portimão in the Algarve when the collision occurred in good weather and in broad daylight.
 “I was down below gloating over our progress, writing the log, counting the days etc when there was a terrific crash that threw me off my seat and the pans from the stove,” he told us.
“I raced for the deck thinking, ‘Shit! The mast must have come down!’ But when on deck I was confused by a huge white wall where there should have been sea and sky. It took a second to realise I was in a collision.
 “As the ship passed, I called her on VHF to say we had collided and to ask if they could see me. They confirmed they could see me, so I said I would assess the damage and get back to them.”
Having established that Dumpling was in a bad way, he called back but received no reply. The huge white ship just carried straight on to the horizon.
Seven hours later Dumpling was still afloat and Nick had sorted the chaos on board as best he could. He had a beautiful moonlit night all to himself - but he thought a storm might be brewing. 
“The next afternoon, after several failed attempts to make contact with other ships, a tanker called the MV Everglades answered and told me a force 8 gale with big seas were due in four to five hours,” he said.
He realised he would have to abandon Dumpling and asked the Everglades to pick him up. The Russian captain and crew were most obliging and hospitable during the voyage to their destination in the northeast of England, but they were much delayed in a queue of heavy shipping waiting to dock.
Nick, his wife Sally and their twin sons, James and David, live in England but still have a home in the Algarve. The boys attended the International School, Porches.
Nick built Dumpling by himself in England in the 1980s and sailed her to the Algarve before opening a dental practice in Lagoa in 1990. A sturdy but unsophisticated ‘green’ boat, he extensively refitted her on the land in front of his home near Silves in 2012 and sailed her to Porto Santo last year.
After the collision on his way back to the Algarve, it was 12 days before he finally stepped ashore, still feeling somewhat fragile but lucky to be alive.
Reunited with his family in England, he made contact with the British emergency maritime authorities in Falmouth. They in turn contacted the Portuguese authorities who reported that a fishing vessel had sighted Dumpling adrift five nautical miles west of Deserta Grande Island in the Madeira Archipelago.
The fishing vessel towed Dumpling to Funchal, the capital and main port of Madeira. Her future has yet to be decided. Efforts to positively identify the ship that smashed into her are continuing.                                                                                 

   On board Dumpling before the crash

Alongside the rescue tanker