The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sailing Tragedy

After translating an annual report for a bank and I'm trashed. I feel like I've been trampled by a buffalo stampede.

That was yesterday morning. Then I drove out to the boat, dispatched a small job aboard, had lunch and spent the afternoon snoozing in the sunny pilothouse. Shouldn't snooze after a meal, I spent the rest of the day feeling like I had swallowed a rock.

Another sailing tragedy took place this week, this time in Figueira da Foz about 55 miles north of here.

beached sailboat
A sailor's nightmare
Five crew were on this German sailboat that washed up on shore late in the afternoon. It's an ugly sight, even more so because two men were killed.

The crew broadcast a Mayday, after which a large marine police rib and a lifeboat were dispatched. By the time the rescuers got there the sailboat was already near the breaking waves. When the rib came alongside to rescue the crew, it was flipped over by a large wave.

Rib washed up on the beach flipped over
As a result, one marine policeman and one crew member downed. The other police and crew were hospitalized with hypothermia and/or lacerations.

The news reports provided no information as to the cause of the accident.

As shown in the picture, the boat was dismasted  It would seem that the mast broke when the boat was rolled on the beach. But if that's the case, why didn't they sail away from land before that? Why, why, why. With no information there's no lesson to be learned here.

My guess is that they were motoring toward the port, the engine quit and they failed to immediately put up some sail or the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.

But I do have this to say, most tragedies occur when approaching ports in bad weather. With 5 crew you're likely to have somebody - if not everybody - putting on pressure to go ashore. This is not the best port to visit in bad weather.

Update: at the marina I was told that the boat had been in Peniche and sailed out in bad weather that morning. They had, in fact, planned to land at Figueira da Foz. This information changed my opinion slightly: You have 5 crew on boat going back to Germany, that means 5 times the chance that somebody has to be home by a specific day. That's dangerous.


  1. So I get my e-mail notification and it writes "Zen to Zero - The Naked Boat". 'Hit the link and the blog comes up and I see it is officially titled Zen to Zero - The Naked Boat... and I get a good chuckle. Then I see the picture and my heart sinks.... I first thought it was Jakatar, but then again , any beached boat is terrible.
    Pretty messed up story and lives lost so close to shore is tragic. Makes me never want to launch again.
    But the upside down rib is kinda interesting.
    Be safe

    1. Pete

      For sure, a rotten way to end what likely began as much-dreamed-about fun adventure.
      Don't let it put you off sailing...thousands of boats sail down/up the Portuguese coast every year. This is a treacherous coast and damn wicked in winter gales, no place for making pit stops when the going gets tough. They should have sailed another 100 miles to Cascais.
      You're not planning on sailing in these conditions, I hope!

    2. Eeer.... nope!
      Every time I look at the grips over there, there's a big bad ass low slamming into the Bay of Biscay stretching from you to Iceland. If I... I mean "when" I pass though Gibraltar, I'll head up north to meet you for a couple of pops, then it's south, baby, south west.... keeping the dream. But for now, working Sundays on a "baby yuppie" conference, yeeesh! All they wanna do is make apps and money=>lost souls. Fuel for keeping the dream alive!