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T Clewring - Cruising

Relative claims missing schooner crew 'could still be surviving'

by Sail-World Cruising Round-up on 28 Jul 2013
Nina - is she still out there somewhere? .. .
Families of the lost crew of the schooner Nina, missing since June 04 in the Tasman Sea have long thought there was a possibility that they were still surviving, somewhere out there on the sea. Now one relative is quoting a 1989 incident to demonstrate how clearly possible it is that they are still on the boat and alive.

The New Zealand press is reporting that crew member Evi Nemeth's partner, Curly Carswell, claims multiple failures in the search for the missing 85-year-old yacht and its seven crew, whose EPIRB was never activated.

Carswell, a New Zealander living in Savusavu, Fiji, said the Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCCNZ)

1. Started their search 10 days too late.
2. Was misled by satellite technology so that the search began in a position which was hundreds of nautical miles out.
3. Ceased their search when it is possible the crew is still surviving somewhere on the water.

To support his case, he has made comparisons with the survival of four crew given up for dead on the trimaran Rose Noelle out of Picton in New Zealand, which capsized off the east coast of the North Island.

In that incident, despite an emergency locator beacon and an extensive search the vessel was not found, but washed ashore at Great Barrier Island 119 days later with its four crew still surviving

In an open letter widely distributed among cruising networks and in an interview with Fairfax, Carswell said New Zealand had failed in its job but there was still time.

'And while I hate to warn you all, as Evi my partner is one of the crew, and with tears in my eyes I must tell you as a mariner that the time is running out very quickly for the probability of survival of our loved ones at sea,' Carswell told the newspaper.

RCCNZ denied the statements and said the emotive comments were regrettable but understandable.

Nina left Opua on May 29, bound for Newcastle, Australia. It was last heard from on June 4, when conditions in the Tasman were very rough, but searching only began on June 25, as rescue officials opined at the time that the ETA had been to optimistic. The official search was called off on July 4 with no trace of Nina or crew found.

It had an older model emergency locator beacon (EPIRB) and a Spot GPS tracking system that transmitted latitude and longitude data to a list of telephone and email addresses and could be followed on Google Earth. The yacht's crew also had an older model of an Iridium satellite phone that could send text and voice messages, but did not have GPS.

The EPIRB was never activated and the Spot GPS tracked them for a time.

On June 4, Nemeth sent a text message to Auckland weather expert Bob McDavitt. She gave a position but Carswell said RCCNZ did not accept that and instead took the position that Iridium said the message had come from.

The difference between the two positions was 650 nautical miles. They spent more time looking at places based on the Iridium position, not Nemeth's position.

RCCNZ has discussed the search operation with both the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the US Coastguard. They said, 'On the basis of information provided, both organisations have indicated that they would have followed a similar process in undertaking a response.'

The full story of the Rose-Noelle:
As told by Malcolm Pullman
They were emanciated and bedraggled, but otherwise unmarked.

After 119 days at sea living in the tiny, waterlogged aft cabin of the upturned trimaran Rose-Noelle, John Glennie and his three crew clambered ashore at Little Waterfall Bay on the rugged remote southeast coast of Great Barrier island.

They had set out from Picton on June 1 bound for Tonga. Glennie had vast experience of South Seas sailing, the others,-----Rick Hellriegel, James Nalepka and Phil Hofman had little.

For the first day and a half the weather was good and the Rose-Noelle, which had been carefully and strongly built by Glennie using high technology materials, made swift progress. Then the weather turned sour from the Northerly quarter.

On the afternoon of June 3, after Glennie could no longer steer alone with his enabled crew, a sea anchor was deployed, and the crew retired below, bow to the waves.
During the night, the sea anchor seemed to foul itself and the boat slewed broadside to the waves.
At 0600 on June 4, the crew heard the roar of an extra large wave approaching, they braced themselves for the inevitable shudder and slide but this time the Rose-Noelle dug in and capsized.

John Glennie believes the fouled sea anchor was the main cause of the accident. But the wave was so big that he has doubts about whether the Rose-Noelle would have survived under ideal conditions.

The trimaran remained afloat upside down, if anything, with its mast snapped at the first spreaders, more stable than right way up. The crew clambered into the tiny aft cabin under the cockpit and wedged themselves up above the waterline with mattresses, drawers and the like. The four lived in this space---about the size of a double bed with less than an arms width of headroom—for the next 119 days.

After the first scramble to survive, the men settled down to await rescue, having activated their emergency locator beacon. But at approximately 40 degrees south and 179 degrees east the beacon was out of range of any aircraft listening on any emergency frequencies. The men devised ways of making life a little more comfortable, but much of the first few weeks was spent huddled below in winter storms expecting to be rescued.

After three weeks they realized the beacon had not alerted anyone. With drinking water running low they intensified efforts to ride it out.

A successful rain water collecting device was made by splitting lengths of plastic pipe. Fishing became a full time job whenever the weather would let them out onto the upturned hulls.

After about 2- 3 months barnacles and mollusks’ began to grow on the hulls. Fish, mostly Kingfish were attracted to this, making catching a meal much easier.

At one stage a curious Hapuka (Grouper) swam into the underwater cabin providing a delicious change of diet. Crew morale fluctuated. Huddled together for warmth in the claustrophobic inverted cabin where if one person turned over three others had to reposition themselves meant that conviviality was a premium.

During the worst of the storms they spent up to four to five days at a time huddled into the cabin without being able to venture out for a stretch, through a hole they has cut in the hull.

They finally reached land in the aftermath of a stiff north-easter. On the rugged shore the three metre high waves quickly dashed the Rose-Noelle into fragments, but the men scrambled safely to shore.

A careful daily record by Glennie of the saga was lost in the wreck.
….................

There are also other recorded instances of people surviving long periods at sea:

In 1942 during World War II Poon Lim, a Chinese merchant seaman was the sole survivor after his ship went down, and, constructing a raft from debris, survived for 133 days adrift in the South Atlantic.

In 1972 Dougal Robertson, with his family and crew member, survived 38 days adrift in the Pacific after their yacht was holed by a whale.

The next year, in 1973 Maurice and Maralyn Bailey, survived 117 days adrift in the Pacific after their yacht was also holed by a whale and sank.

Steven Callahan, survived 76 days adrift in the Atlantic in a life raft in 1986 after his yacht was also holed by what he suspects was a whale.
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