Here you will find tales of voyages past and present on our trusty Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, "Sockdolager," and our Bigfoot29 powerboat, "Raven," from Port Townsend, Washington, USA. In 2009 we sailed north from Puget Sound up the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii.) In 2010 we went back to the west coast of Vancouver Island. In July 2011 we left the Northwest, sailed to Mexico, and in March 2012 we crossed the Pacific to French Polynesia, then on to the Cooks, Niue and Tonga. We spent several months in New Zealand, and in May 2013 loaded Sockdolager (and ourselves) on a container ship for San Francisco. In June and July 2013 we sailed north along the California, Oregon and Washington coasts, and in August we arrived home. In October 2016, Sockdolager found new owners, and we began cruising on Raven, a unique wooden 29' powerboat. In 2018 we cruised up to Glacier Bay, Alaska, and back. But in 2024 we had the chance to buy Sockdolager back (we missed her), so we sold Raven. We hope you enjoy reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy having them. (And there will be more.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Drama (and obligation) on the high seas

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the US and Friday in New Zealand.  Happy holiday!  Jim’s friend Tom is aboard Sockdolager in Tonga, and they are ready to sail as soon as the weather window arrives.  They plan to leave on Monday (Sunday in the US).  The route to New Zealand traditionally starts with making a westing while still in the tropical easterlies, almost to a line north of NZ’s North Cape, then heading south in a good position to catch the temperate latitude westerly winds.  Orcinius, Charisma, Buena Vista and other friends are already in Opua; Arnamentiere is nearly there.  Now it’s our turn, and though I’m ashore, we’re both hoping for a good, safe, enjoyable passage.  Jim plans to head for Marsden Cove in Whangerei.

Later today I leave Devonport Auckland to head north, first to spend the weekend with Lin and Larry Pardey at their traditional New Zealand-style Thanksgiving gathering, then further north to Whangerei to await Jim’s arrival.  Our Thanksgiving will be celebrated in a couple of weeks with a huge hug and kiss on the dock.

Here's Sockdolager all dressed up in her best heavy weather sails:  storm trysail, storm staysail, and the new backstaysail.  Except for one incident described below, most boats have so far had too little wind rather than too much.  We have light air sails to cover that, too.  Jim expects the passage to take from 10 to 15 days. 

 You might have noticed an unusual posting on our blog, in the comments section under the previous post.  We sure did, and that’s what the rest of this post is in response to.

It started with a distress call:  The New Zealand Herald’s front-page banner headline on November 10, spread across its full width in giant dramatic letters said “Our three days of hell.”  The dramatic rescue at sea of the crew of a sailboat was detailed in the story, and it’s clear there were some heroes that day. 

That's an EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon) above.  They're registered in a database that has the owner's and crew's names and a description of the boat.  When it is immersed in water or you manually flip the switch, it beams a signal to a satellite, which is received by the SARSAT network in the US, which immediately contacts the nearest country's rescue agency.  It's fast; within 40 minutes help can be on the way. You don't turn this on unless you are in real trouble, because in addition to the likely abandoning of your boat, rescues are expensive and mostly taxpayer-funded.

When a distress call goes out on the high seas it’s assumed that everyone will do what they can to help, because among the things shared by long-distance voyagers is a camaraderie that rivals the Thin Blue Line when someone’s in trouble.  It’s personal out there.  These are people we all know, or know of.  So when a distress call goes out, cruising sailors listen to their radios, ready to relay transmissions if needed; they volunteer for organized search and rescue missions; they pray for the safety of the crew if there is nothing else to be done, and they help organize post-trauma care ashore if it will be needed.  And if anyone is at sea near the stricken boat (“near” being a relative term out there,) they will turn around and go to their aid, even if it means putting their own boat and crew at great risk.  Such was the case in early November, when the season’s first tropical storm, with 60 knots and 11 meter seas reported offshore, struck the area south of Tonga.  Jim was safely at a mooring in Vava’u, as were dozens of other boats, some of which had even returned from sea.

An EPIRB signal was received by the NZ Navy, from the 11.6 meter Beneteau yacht Windigo.  Aboard was a couple, a Kiwi woman and a British man who had been living in Australia.  They were bound for New Zealand.  Somehow a message got out that their boat had been rolled, and they were injured; both had head injuries, and the man had a back injury. This sounded serious.  The yacht was also reported to be sinking.  An EPIRB can't send this kind of detail, so they must still have had a functioning radio. An Orion search plane from New Zealand circled overhead, dropped them a life raft and took some video footage; a cargo ship was diverted, and the sturdy double-ended yacht Adventure Bound, with a Tasmanian couple aboard, managed the extremely risky maneuver of turning around in 30-foot seas to steam back into the teeth of the storm for at least 24 hours, to stand by for another 24 offering assistance.  According to reports, the Windigo crew had strapped themselves in the stern area to keep from being battered as the boat tossed, and would wait until the last minute to enter the life raft.  The news reported that it was too rough to attempt a transfer to another vessel.  We all were beaming them strength and the will to go on. 

 When a yacht rolls, which means it goes through 360 degrees and is upside down at one point, the forces are tremendous, and it’s very unusual for the mast and rig to survive it. The rig usually breaks, and the entire deck and cockpit area get washed clean of most gear.  Often the cabin superstructure is damaged too, and the boat is swamped with water that pours in through any openings, no matter how small, during a rollover.  Beneteaus are not known for exceptionally sturdy construction standards in either hull or rig, so it seemed a miracle that the crew was able to transmit a message from their radio about their condition, given that the radio’s antenna is usually part of a boat’s rigging and would likely have been lost.  Jim and I discussed this on the phone, exchanging pieces of information we’d gleaned, him from listening to the single sideband radio and me from news reports. We were very happy for that crew to have had this astonishing piece of luck.  

We never met this couple but I remembered Windigo because the name is shared by a legendary racing yacht I remember fondly.  She was moored near us in Bora Bora, along with Adventure Bound, whose crew we met and enjoyed a pleasant conversation with.  So, when I saw the video news footage of Windigo with her mast intact and mainsail and genoa still neatly furled, and floating on her lines in a condition that no one could call sinking, I was again amazed that so little damage was evident. 

Here's a news photo of her:

Photo credit:  BBC 
The news programs reported that once the seas began to calm a bit, the couple was able to motor their yacht over to the cargo ship, and footage of them being hoisted aboard was dramatic.  They looked shaken, and I assumed they must have been badly injured to abandon their yacht like that.  The news media did not say what had become of the yacht other than “left to sink.”  I assumed, mistakenly, that this couple had made the ethical decision to scuttle and sink their boat by opening the seacocks, because they had to know that nearly 40 other boats were still in Tonga and would be making that passage along the same route.  

The news clip of this couple arriving in port a few days later surprised me. I had been expecting to see two injured people being helped down the gangway of the cargo ship.  What I did not expect to see was a woman kicking up her heels and whooping it up as she approached the camera.  Later it was reported that the injuries had not been serious.

The camaraderie mentioned earlier comes with some assumptions.  It’s assumed that boats that have gotten as far as Tonga know a thing or two about offshore passagemaking, which boils down to a certain basic level of competency and prudence and acceptable risk.  It is assumed that if you take to voyaging across the high seas that you are self-sufficient, carry enough safety equipment, and will only call for help if help is truly needed.  I can't question the Windigo couple’s decision to call for help and abandon their boat, because I wasn't there and cannot say how bad conditions were.  

However, it’s clear now that the boat was not in sinking condition and has since not sunk. Deliberately leaving an unattended boat to drift in the path of all those other boats about to make the passage makes some assumptions, too, the kind that I would not call selfless.  Nor can the fact that they went to sea knowing this storm was coming (or worse, were ignorant of the forecast) be called competent seamanship.  Other cruising boats who opted to seek shelter in Tonga watched in disbelief as Windigo left for sea under threat of that big storm.  So I have to assume that they made some conscious choices. They chose rather cavalierly to go to sea in a tropical storm.  They chose to call for help knowing that help would come and would likely put others at risk. They chose to not sink their yacht because they knew it was still in good condition, and that it might be possible to get it back—correction, for someone else to bring it back.  In any other social situation this would be called scamming the system.  I know that’s a strong statement, but I am angry, and here’s why: 

A few days later, this now-rescued couple, or a friend of theirs, it’s not clear to me, posted a comment on our blog beneath the “Still Asunder Down Under” post. We have no idea how they found our blog.  They asked Jim to please keep a lookout for their boat, and asked him if he can get close enough to it, to go aboard and close the hatch because they are concerned about water getting in.  Let me repeat this:  they are concerned about water getting into their boat.  

In the comment they said that the engine, rig and sails are in excellent condition (read the comment for yourself if it’s still there) but that the batteries are probably dead because they’d left the engine running after they abandoned the boat.  Think about that.  They could have saved the batteries for lighting the boat so others might see it at night—LED lights can last for a long time—but they chose to step off the boat with the engine still running, the seacocks closed so it wouldn’t sink, and evidently no thoughts for the safety of others.  A young friend on another boat about to sail this route hopes to spot Windigo so he can sail it back to NZ for them.  That would be a great kindness.

The couple gave us the boat’s coordinates as of November 17. When I repeated all this news on the phone to an astounded Jim, he said, “That’s right on our route.”

For what it’s worth to other boats making this passage, Windigo’s position on November 17 was:
24 degrees, 49.3 minutes South
179 degrees, 49.2 minutes East

Now I have something to say to these people:  
Dear Steve and Tania,
You left an unlighted floating hazard directly in the path of dozens of your fellow sailors.  You assumed that they can either spot it in daylight hours, or that at night they can avoid colliding with it.  You abandoned your boat when it seemed by your own admission to be perfectly able to sail and motor toward its destination.  You had a responsibility to practice good seamanship, and you shirked it, and now it’s personal, because your boat is directly on the route of our boat and others, and all you can think of is how to get yours back undamaged.  You are not heroes.  You did not deserve a hero’s welcome on your arrival.  Adventure Bound is the hero, slipping into port after hand-steering for hundreds of miles because the seas damaged their steering gear. 

Yes it’s a big ocean, but you have added needless worry to the lives of our friends and family, and to the crews and friends and families of the other boats crossing your boat’s path.  You have added stress by your thoughtlessness, to an already stressful time when I have to be ashore in New Zealand due to unexpected heart problems, watching and waiting and hoping that your boat does not lie directly in Jim’s path in darkness. You should have behaved more responsibly toward your fellow sailors:  if you abandon your boat at sea, sink it. 

–Karen Sullivan


  1. Hi Karen! My name is Lynn A. Stokes and I am and have been either a private captain or a delivery captain since 1971 and I am the one that posted the referenced/forwared e-mail. Slight correction, it was posted on the Yahoo Beneteau 393 group, not the Puddle jummpers group. My mistake. I found your blog before you guys made the jump to SP as I was very curious about a couple cruising in a small boat! I am primarily a big boat capatain, 50 to 130'ers, although I have sailed smaller vessels, and was aware of Jim getting ready to head to NZ. That's why I had the be on the look out header. Also if you passed the info on to others about ready to make the trip,if they had enough crew and experience, the possibilty that someone could get this thing out of the way, may be advantagous to evryone. Either by scuttling or sailing it to NZ. I am also in agreement with you as I have the belief that you step up into a raft, not down. That said, I wasn't there nor were any of us that have been following this episode so we have no idea as to the pain or fear levels that kicked in. I'm sure most of us at one time or other, have had the crap scraed out of us to the point where you are looking for the majic button to transport you to a solid, warm and safe bar somehere! :) But we made it without pushing the button. I have had run across derilect vessels before, and as with all weird things that happen, at night! Why is that btw?!?!
    Anyway I was just passing on info that I thought might be helpful to all concerned.
    Lynn A. Stokes
    Eastern Pacific Yacht Delivery Service
    Morro Bay, California

  2. Hello Karen,
    I couldn't agree more with your frustration. I personally think that who ever finds Windigo should scuttle it on principle. I know I wasn't there but if one does not have the ability to assess a situation when under pressure the sea is probably not the place for them.
    We got the crap beat out of us off Cape Blanco while heading up the coast. When we made port I was relating our experience to a cruising friend and he said. "You know, a lot of people would have activated their EPIRB in your situation". I was shocked, as uncomfortable as we were, I had assessed the situation to determine if we were in any real danger and we weren't. I am glad we went through it on our own, it made us better sailors.

    All the best to you and Jim

  3. Wow! I cannot imagine abandoning a boat and then just waiting for someone to find it in daylight and fetch it back. It does not sound like it rolled, it was just tossed around a lot and bumped them a bit and they threw in the towel. I guess the kind of person to leave a hazard out on the water without lights is exactly the same person who heads out into a storm.

  4. Karen here. Normally I refrain from criticizing someone else's seamanship or what appear to be questionable decisions, except in private, because nobody who was not present at the critical point can speak with any authority. My "rant," which is what it may seem to some, does present the evidence as gathered by news media and others, and questions outright only the wisdom of leaving a boat to drift in the path of others. Several near-collisions with floating debris at sea have taught me that while it's a big ocean, it can still happen. A log that fell off a ship in the Gulf of Alaska once banged into my boat's side at night and bent the prop, and I came within a few feet of hitting another one head-on in daylight at the bottom of a 15-foot wave trough. I would have surfed into it and likely sunk. Floating metal fuel bladders full of diesel have been passed within a quarter mile. Hitting a 37-foot boat at speed would likely seriously damage another boat and endanger the crew.

    If someone can sail this boat back to the owners it would be a kindness. But to go aboard a boat that's perfectly capable of being sailed back at this point to scuttle it would be wrong wrong wrong, and that was never the intent of this blog post, so let me be clear on that. I've read some online comments in a few sailing forums.

    This subject is so rarely raised and is so fraught with emotion that it's hard to have a rational discussion about it. It's one thing to say anyone who abandons their boat should scuttle it, and another thing to actually do it. But that doesn't change the fact that it would have been the right thing to do.

    1. Right on Karen.. (I'm in agreement)

      BTW I might be down under to NZ for sailing on a friends boat WETNOSE out of Gulf Harbour in the early fall April.. Might cross paths. Hope so. Best

      Dave Jaquette

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Dear Karen,

    This is an appalling story of people callously putting the lives of others at risk and abusing the privilege of support for everyone in distress on the high seas. The usual caveats apply of course, one wasn't there, one doesn't know the true circumstances. But one can't help thinking that this couple has exaggerated the case somewhat. Beneteaus are not especially robust and to survive a 360º, mast intact, sails neatly furled and rolled does seem fanciful. Then to leave the yacht afloat, unlit, a danger to shipping is unforgiveable. The only thing I can suggest is this. If anyone does come across it and manages to avoid it and if it might be possible to bring it into port, one could as the owners have asked, present it to them in return for the appropriate salvage fee. You would be perfectly within your rights.

    I do hate it when people are false and it does seem that these two are less than genuine.

    Duncan Wells
    RYA Instructor
    Principal of Westview Sailing -
    Features writer for Yachting Monthly - www.yachting

    I was alerted to your blog in a newsletter by Lin Pardey

    1. Dear Karen,

      I agree with you 100% about being self sufficient and competent when going to sea. Back in 1974, My wife, Kitty, and I were on the last leg of a circumnavigation in our 30 foot Seawind Ketch, "Bebibka", when on July 14th we got hit with hurricane force winds of 85 kts and 30 foot seas midway between Cape Hatteras and Bermuda. We were late in leaving the tropics because I had had surgery only six weeks earlier and need to recover. At first we hove-to and then had to lie ahull due to the strength of the winds. In the middle of the night we fell off the top of a wave and when we hit the bottom, everything on the cabin top was blown off, including the grab rails and the main hatch. (we did not loose the mast; probably because thee was no sail up and we had re-rigged in NZ with galvanized wired three sizes bigger than the rigging we replaced.)When we righted the water inside the cabin was up to the level of the bunks. The boom was bent, the spray dodger was gone as was the windvane on the self-steering rig. We did not panic as that would have cost us our lives. Instead, I went to the task of securing a big piece of plywood (that had been over top of life raft which was in the cockpit) while Kitty bailed us dry using a waste basket. By the next day the wind had calmed down enough to set a storm trysail and continue on. We never considered abandoning the boat, although we kept looking at the life raft that was still in the cockpit and realized that we still had an escape if it came to that. The moral of the story is, "Don't abandon ship until you have to step up into the life raft and use proper storm tactics including heaving-to and/or lying ahull. I remember reading about the Queen's Day Storm that took many boats on the way from NZ to Tong or Fiji. It was no susprise that all the boats who hove to etc survived and the boats that were lost all were trying to outrun the storm.

  7. Thank you everyone for your comments.
    Duncan, Scott and Kitty, I have read your articles on seamanship, and I especially appreciate the detail with which you replied. I think there are lessons to be articulated by maritime writers from this incident, and many angles from which it could be approached: the ethical side of seafaring, for example, or the psychology of mental preparedness, or a case history analysis of "when they called for help" thresholds from other incidents with perhaps a checklist for in extremis situations, or interviews with people who've gone to the aid of boats in distress (Adventure Bound has quite a story and nobody has asked them about it.)

    There are many other angles that the sailing public would find helpful. Lin Pardey is right, the crews who make quiet uneventful passages are seldom consulted because to use a metaphor, it's not the planes that land that make the news. I guess the contribution that a negative story like this can make is in the many ways we can all learn from it. I'm thinking about the possibilities, but they are far too many for one person to write about.

  8. Thank you Karen. Is anybody in contact with Adventure Bound? If anyone knows where they are or how to contact them I would be most grateful of the information. Or if preferred they could contact me, my email is As you point out it will be interesting to hear what they have to say. And as you suggest an article seems like a good idea. Apropos dangers to shipping we have just had a container ship Corvus J from Grangemouth (Scotland) bound for Antwerp (Belgium) heading SE collide with a car transporter Baltic Ace from Zeebrugge bound for Kotka (Finland) and heading presumably due north. Four crew dead at present. They collided in a busy shipping lane, sounds like the West Hinder TSS off the Dutch coast. The report said the Baltic Ace collided with the Corvus J and that may be so but if one was heading N and the other SE then the SE bound vessel was probably the give way (Corvus J) but as ever we were not there and we don't know. I wonder what the excuse will be?


    1. Duncan,
      I wonder how this kind of thing happen with big ships equipped with radar, crew available for watches, and vessel traffic control? The history of maritime disasters has a lot in common with modern airline disasters; namely not one big mistake but a series of small escalating ones. Malcolm Gladwell has quantified and written eloquently on the subject of the latter.

      I emailed a friend on the same dock as Adventure Bound, and he forwarded your request for contact to them.

  9. Karen,

    Yes one wonders how it can happen? We will find out when the MAIB file the report. Thank you for passing the request on to your friend to ask Adventure Bound to contact me when they can. Michael Hawkins emailed me to say he would pass on my details to Bruce and Marcelle. Is Michael your friend, or someone else who has picked this up from your blog, I wonder?

    All the best,


  10. If I didn't already have enough things to worry about hitting in the night...

  11. An update: Two NZ-bound yachts sailing from Tonga had encounters with Windigo. One, a small sloop sailed by a German singlehander, nearly collided with the derelict, and the other, a larger yacht motoring at night, ran over one of the long lines attached to the life raft that had been dropped to assist Windigo. The line wrapped around their prop, and they had to wait until daylight to go into the water to free it--no easy feat at sea. Duncan, we met Michael once in French Polynesia, but don't know him.

  12. Thanks Karen. I'm still waiting for Adventure Bound to make contact and i am sure they will when they can. The Windigo crew area a disgrace. Already it has been a danger to two yachts. And yes I am very well versed with the rope around the prop trick - actually in the pintles of my rudder at midnight off Portland Bill in a slight swell. More than dangerous enough as I had to go in and cut us free and got hit on the head by the prop. Nothing too serious but a nasty gash on the head. And certainly nothing in comparison with the swell of the Pacific. The Windigo two should be exposed as the rather weak and selfish people they seem to be. D

  13. The days of the Hiscocks, Smeetons, John Guzwell, and Peter Tangwald are long gone. Today, when standing in rising bilgewater, most "sailors" reach not for a bucket, but for a transmitter.


  14. Dear all,
    I am a sailor whom have managed to do many of the mistakes possible over the years. And then I have done them again. And again.

    I have been the laughing stock of countless dockside judges, in many harbours. I still can hear faint echoes of their many ohs and ahs. And it continues; only yesterday a gentleman exclaimed "but that is [to lie ahull] dangerous", as a reply to my tale of a storm weathered. And I know he is perfectly right. It can be very dangerous. But when caught in the situation we do our best. Due to my vessel's characteristics I choose the lie ahull technique with myself locked into the cabin, as I knew the boat would be stronger than I, and because I'm a sucker for the comfort and comparable peace of a cabin when the vessel very slowly sails sideways leaving the slick that hopefully will protect my backside. But I am so used to the blushing and embarrassed stammering while searching for appropriate responses, that I do this every time, even when I might have done fine for once.

    But, it amazes me that I frequently have been, and am, a dockside judge myself. Many many many times. I simply love oh-ah-ing about the misfortunes of others, probably as this makes me forget myself and my many many shortcomings. I am a fallible person, sometimes I think even despicable, if other's despise I deserve.

    But now, here comes my moralisingly wagging index finger, the dockside judges have a new shotgun in their arsenal; the internet. It can be, and often is, a public whipping post on the village web. Thus the ohs and the ahs are not, as in the past, caught by the wind and blown to obscurity, but is, together with the names of the individuals involved and their vessel, preserved in perpetuity in the nerdy bosoms of many search engines.

    So please be gentle, and remember, as a breakable rule, let the guiltless throw first.

    Kind regards,
    Eva Drangsholt

    1. Thank you, Eva, for your thoughtful comments. The beauty of sailing so many kinds of boats is that no one is ever overqualified to go to sea. There are many ways to solve problems, as you demonstrate with your success in lying ahull as a coping strategy in a storm. Perhaps your boat is especially suited for that where others aren't. If it works for you, it should be above reproach by others.

      A basic rule of seamanship as you know, is prudence, which means keeping out of trouble. If you can't avoid trouble, prudence still applies in every decision you make, including a responsibility to not put others in harm's way.

      The Windigo crew's decision to abandon their boat is not the main issue here; the decision to leave it to drift in the paths of others as a hazard to navigation is. I would not have written on this subject had Steve and Tania and their friends not posted prolifically in chat rooms and on people's blogs, such as ours. I would not have said a word had Jim not been asked to look for their boat, climb aboard and close the hatch, a breathtaking bit of hubris if there ever was one. Such actions were provocation, and this post was my response. It has evidently struck a nerve among many cruising sailors.

      The near-miss encounters with this derelict by two other boats at sea could not be considered "gentle." The not insignificant damage sustained by the crew of Adventure Bound, with no offer of reimbursement from the people they risked their lives for, could not be called "gentle." I'm sorry if strong feelings have made this seem like a whipping post, but the deliberate and imprudent actions of the Windigo crew put others in harm's way, and their subsequent broadcasts brought the spotlight upon themselves.

      Regardless of the context, this is a subject too often overlooked: how many of us have thought through what we'd do if we had to abandon our boats?

      I appreciate your most reasonable request to be more gentle. It's a good philosophy to live by. If everyone lived that way, this would not be an issue, because the Windigo crew would have done the responsible thing and scuttled their boat.

    2. Dear Karen,
      As you on your blog are accepting comments from anybody is my call to you really about being aware of your editorial responsibilities, maybe even in the texts you yourself produce.

      Mostly sailing blogs are innocent and sometimes superficial diary notes about the experiences of people that for shorter or longer periods can afford to escape the daily drudgery by travelling into the sunset, as the uninformed seem to perceive the cruising life. But sometimes an issue can let loose a nastier and less generous side of the blogging community, as, to my mind, some of the above comments are examples of, regardless of what actions and motivations caused the anger.

      It is a fact that many sailors, including the ones that for different reasons turn out to be unable to cope adequately with stressful situations and danger, become inspired to make their dreams reality by reading blogs just like yours and also the works of famous writers like Lin and Larry Pardey, whom I mention because they themselves have written about this particular incident. By making the dream seem vital, and within reach, to the many lies also the responsibility of education, as the Pardeys certainly have done with their many articles, books, and videos, but also generosity in this public arena when lives are put at risk because the dreams have consequences that are easily overlooked when reading about sailing in the sunshine.

      It is my opinion that your anger would have been better served by writing directly to the individuals involved, and not by turning your pleasant blog into a public whipping post.

      Kind regards,
      Eva Drangsholt

    3. Dear Eva,
      We allow anyone who wishes to comment on this blog to do that. So far, except for a few spams or advertisements, all commenters seem to stay within reasonable bounds while expressing their opinions, some of which are admittedly rather pointed. Abusive comments would of course be blocked, but that has not happened so far. The community of current and future cruising sailors and friends who read this blog have diverse and sometimes strong opinions on matters of safety and seamanship, as they should. We do not plan to edit what they say.

      As for my own words, I stand by what I wrote in both the post and subsequent comments. The previous comment explains my reasons for broaching this topic in the first place. I am sorry if this offends you, but editorial responsibilities do not include limiting content if that content is pertinent to the lives of people out, or dreaming about, sailing in the sunshine. Asking a writer to do that would be just as inappropriate as asking a film maker with a reputation for controversy to limit her own projects.

      The responsibility of education includes rejecting superficiality and sometimes wading into areas where opinions differ strongly. I appreciate the insights you bring to this discussion, and thank you for bringing them up.

  15. Karen and Jim,

    Trusting the New Year finds you well.

    This blog was, to me, informative as I have never considered what I might do should I have to abandon at sea. It would have never occurred to me to scuttle so thank you for the education. :)

    I can't imagine abandoning a boat that is not sinking and certainly not one with the rig intact. The safest place at sea (IMHO) is a floating boat ... safer certainly than a very small life raft.

    OTOH, if severely damaged and not navigable, removing the hazard to navigation by scuttling would certainly be the right thing to do.

    Fair winds,
    Ben C. Alexander (and

  16. Hi. I found this blog on the internet but not sure if anyone reads or updates it anymore, anyway, heres my bit regarding Windigo. Dont you think that if it would be a danger to leave Windigo floating at sea the rescue services would have mentioned it at the time of rescue and done something about it. And after what the couple had been through for 3 days and nights in 50kt winds and 10 meter waves they were ready to be rescued. It may have been calm seas like you saw on the news reports, but when the rescue started it was the complete opposite. The boat may not have been sinking on the third day, but was very close to it on the first day, after a 360 roll, and in the dark.

    1. Hi Dave,
      This blog is active, and this post has had more than 2,000 page reads. To answer your question, the crew was picked up by a cargo ship, not rescue services.

      First: Cargo ships are not obligated to do anything about the abandoned boat. It's my understanding that rescue services usually do sink abandoned vessels. The impression given to news media at the time of rescue was that the vessel was sinking.

      Second: Rescue services tracked the boat for quite awhile and broadcast its position, so it obviously was a concern to them. The pilot of the rescue plane did comment via VHF to the yacht standing by (whose crew later told us), that he wondered what he was doing out there on a rescue mission, because Windigo looked to be in near-perfect condition.

      Third: If you look at photos of the abandoned vessel taken by the rescue plane, and if you compare them with photos of other vessels that have actually rolled, you might come to the same conclusion that most of the crews who crossed that piece of water did: namely, how could any vessel do a 360 degree roll and come up with rig intact and gear still strapped to the foredeck? As stated in the blog post, Beneteaus are not known for their sturdy construction. This was a big topic of discussion. Most of the cruising community we know doubt that Windigo rolled, that it's more likely that she was knocked down, which is probably how her dodger got damaged.

      Fourth: No one is doubting the seriousness of the storm or the fact that the crew sustained injuries that could have been major, and no one could fail to sympathize with the utter fear they must have felt. A knockdown is very serious. What many seem to think, and several have told me I merely articulated what they have concluded, is that when you go to sea unprepared (no life raft, no spare bilge pump) and in a forecast where you know conditions will likely be very very bad, such as a developing tropical storm, then you have a responsibility to be self-reliant. If you can't do that and you have to call for help, you have a responsibility to not put others in harm's way. If you can do neither, then perhaps it's unwise to go to sea.

    2. Hi Karen. I know they were picked up by a cargo ship but the rescue was coordinated by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand!! Why would the crew say the vessel had rolled when it had not. This couple had sailed many thousands of miles without previous problems, and when something like this happens everyone jumps to conclusions about what has happened without knowing any facts at all. They just assume what has happened. So if you were to do a journey a big as theirs and you had the same happen to yourselves and you had people posting things on blogs for everyone to read how would you feel. This couple had nothing to gain from this, they just lost everything,their home and all their belongings. And you mention of them knowing of the tropical storm, they did not.I think you have been reading too many forums.

  17. Hi Dave,
    That is a very good question. Why would any crew say their vessel had rolled when it had not? If you had read the post and comments more carefully, you'd see that no conclusions were "jumped" to. It was a progression of facts as reported by both the crew themselves via radio, by media via the rescue services, and by conversations with other crews, one of which happened to have been on-scene.

    The photo taken by the rescue plane and published widely by news media shows a yacht in excellent condition, and no less than the owners themselves confirmed that fact via wide-ranging posts on forums and blogs. Google the words "capsized yacht" and look at the grim images of boats that have truly rolled, and then compare them with that photo taken by rescue services, of Windigo with intact sails and rig. Even the little triangle of furled genoa is still there. The question you raised is valid. That said, a knockdown is serious.

    Readers are entitled to make up their own minds as to what happened, and as someone who obviously holds the Windigo and its crew in the highest regard, you have a perfect right to believe what you wish.

    As I have made painfully clear throughout this blog post, anyone who abandons their boat under extreme circumstances has the complete sympathy and support of the entire cruising community. Everyone was praying for them during their ordeal. The criticism comes from, as I have repeated ad nauseum, the lack of regard for other sailors that they displayed by not sinking their boat after they abandoned it.

    If they did not know of the gathering tropical storm as you claim, then they violated a fundamental rule of seamanship and preparation. You don't go to sea, even for a short sail, without knowing the weather forecast. This was not a short sail. Good seamanship requires thinking ahead and being prepared, with backup plans. One can be sympathetic to another's loss without defending the indefensible.

    This story has faded from the news, but each time a new comment is made, our readers are reminded of it.

  18. March 19, 2013: Update on Windigo; On more somber note, an anonymous commenter (thank you) posted this note on our blog:

    “…thought id let you know windigo has recently washed ashore by a recent cyclone where i live near coffs harbor Australia , traveled all that may i have no idea how far that navigation hazard has traveled , looks as though it has capsized and been battered about the mast has broken off and the stern has suffers some severe detachment and damage , probably on being wrecked ashore i suspect.”

    He/she also provided this link to a video taken by New South Wales Police:

    On March 17, the NZ Herald reported that the yacht had been "ransacked" on the Australian beach where it washed ashore.

    While it’s a sad ending to the all-round misery of this yacht abandonment episode, along with the extra expense the owners will probably incur in having it removed from that Australian beach, it’s also good to know that the derelict no longer poses a risk to other mariners. And while we aren’t pursuing this thought further because the answer will never be known, we cannot help but wonder what it was that our friend Rob hit between Fiji and Australia that sank his lovely wooden yacht. He never saw the object he hit because it was a dark night and Rob, a singlehander, happened to be below when he collided. As we’ve written before, there is a lot of stuff floating around at sea; some is flotsam from wreckage, other bits are jetsam that have fallen off or been thrown off ships (think “jettison.”) To add to it by not sinking one’s own boat when abandoning it and thus creating a floating hazard for several months along a major sailing route is unconscionable. Most experienced mariners agree on this one difficult thing: if you have to abandon your boat at sea, sink it.