Don't believe that containers are no longer a threat to cruising sailors. Only two weeks ago solo French racing sailor Mathieu Claveau's small yacht hit a 'hard object' in the middle of the Atlantic and sank. Now five South African sailors are lucky to be alive after their yacht struck what they believe was a container and sank off Maputo in Mozambique this week.
Floating container as spotted by a Greenpeace vessel - what chance would you have at night?
The rumours that containers are these day built to sink after a while can not be substantiated when these incidents continue. According to Richard G. Roenbeck of St. Paul Global Marine in a recent address to the American Institute of Underwriters, 'The number of containers lost overboard has been reported to be somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000 each year'. In another address it was intimated that the reason many containers do not sink is the amount of polystyrene contained in the packaging.
In the latest incident, the crew drifted in their life raft for more than seven hours before being rescued by a tanker, and are now on board the vessel en route to Singapore.
Skipper Gerrie Boshoff, of Vanderbijlpark, and the crew were sailing from Reunion to Durban when their vessel, The Wizard, struck the container in the early morning.
'It happened at night, so it would have been impossible to see the container before they struck it,' said a former crew member.
With the vessel taking on water, the crew sent a distress signal at 4.30am, which was received by the SA Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre.
The centre’s rescue mission co-ordinator, Mark Steed, said that attempts to contact The Wizard were unsuccessful.
'A second beacon detection from the vessel was received and a safety net broadcast to vessels in the area was put out, asking all vessels to respond and assist.'
Steed said the EVA Schulte and Voge Felix, both six hours away, responded and were instructed to divert to The Wizard’s position.
He said the vessels reached the distress point at 1pm, by when The Wizard had already sunk.
The Eva Schulte crew found the raft with all five crew and took them aboard.
With the Singapore-registered tanker bound for Singapore, The Wizard’s crew would go along for the ride before flying back to South Africa.
A checkered life:
The Wizard has had a checkered life, having been dismasted back in July 2008 while sailing between Vanuatu and Cairns taking part in the World Cruising Rally. The yacht proceeded to Cairns under power, extra diesel being supplied by colleague yachts in the rally.
The yacht was docked in Australia for three years while owner Boshoff battled with insurance companies over the repairs needed. A new mast was finally installed and the yacht resumed its journey on August 12 this year, sailing to Bali and Rodrigues Island.
Then the Wizard was involved in another incident on September 24, when Boshoff damaged his eye. He was forced to divert his yacht to Rodrigues Island, from where he was flown to Johannesburg for treatment.
There won't be any more incidents, as tragically the yacht is lost forever.