A report, posted on 13 July on the US Sailing Source forum, relates a recent bizarre experience off Mexico’s west coast
Foxglove III, a 65ft ketch, was involved in a collision with a 600ft freighter 120 miles off Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas a few days ago. This might sound unfortunate but not especially unusual, until the detail of the story, provided by Foxglove III’s owner Ron Massuco, emerged.
According to Massuco, his skipper spotted an unladen freighter passing parallel about a mile off the beam at 0630 in four-foot swells and light winds. The ship disappeared over the horizon and off the radar screen, set to six miles’ range. The skipper then switched on the autopilot, went below decks to wake his owner and set to work on a generator problem.
Thirty minutes later, both men went on deck to find the freighter that had passed earlier heading straight for them at 15-20 knots. The resulting collision stripped Foxglove of both masts, tore off a 10ft bow section and severely damaged bulkheads and the deck throughout the boat. Both men escaped without injury but $300-500K of damage had been inflicted on Foxglove.
The freighter then circled and began a second approach but stopped short. The freighter’s captain finally responded to the radio hails that Massuco had been sending since the collision and offered to take a line. Naturally, Foxglove’s skipper advised against the tow.
With his VHF range reduced, Massuco asked the freighter’s skipper to contact the coastguard but believes this was not done. The Mexican Navy arrived on the scene 18 hours later, took both men onboard and towed the stricken boat to Cabo San Lucas.
The freighter’s skipper later gave his version of events. He saw Foxglove signalling SOS with lights but couldn’t get any response to his radio hails, and so approached.
Massuco says that they weren’t signalling SOS because they were proceeding well under sail. Also, at the time of the event, it was broad daylight so how visible lights would have been is questionable. He also denies ever receiving a hail on Ch16, the emergency channel the freighter’s skipper claims to have used.
While rejoicing in life ongoing, Massuco is concerned that he is unlikely to receive any insurance settlement. The freighter is owned by a Singaporean company, registered in the Bahamas and skippered by a Croatian.
Initial investigations have led him to believe that Singapore’s judiciary is unlikely to find against a Singaporean company where there has been no loss of life. His best hope is convincing his insurance company to pay out and then asking them to settle with the freighter’s insurers, thought to be Lloyds of London.
Several aspects of this case are concerning, not least the apparent volition of the freighter to run down Foxglove – no legitimate skipper would approach a vessel he or she believed to be distressed at 15-20 knots. But there is also the insurance angle, raising questions for the IMO to address concerning the claims procedure in a disputed international incident such as this.