Six crew taken off 42ft yacht with crack in keel box

Once again the ARC net swung into action yesterday, bringing yachts to the assistance of British registered Sweden 42 Caliso some 300 nautical miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. Skipper and co-owner Mark Matthews had called for assistance after a crack opened up along the keel box causing a continuous flow of water into the two year old yacht.

Several ARC yachts altered course to rendezvous with Caliso, as MRCC Falmouth organised for a bulk carrier, the MV Endless, to divert and evacuate the six strong crew. At 19:30UTC yesterday (30-Nov), MRCC Falmouth confirmed that all crew were safely onboard the ship and the yacht had been abandoned at approximate position 16.07N 029.43W.  A salvage attempt using an ocean going tug from Sao Vicente in the Cape Verdes is being organised.

Speaking from the bridge of the MV Endless, Mark Matthews said that the crew were all fine and unhurt. He went on to describe the situation on board. “We discovered we were taking on water and the keel box was damaged.  This, we think, stems from an accident the boat had a couple of years ago which, although seen to by a surveyor, was obviously not fixed properly.” He continued,  “the danger was that if the keel got worse and fell off, the boat would have capsized with no notice.  Last night was a nightmare with most of us sleeping on deck all night.”

The alarm had been called, late on Tuesday 29-Nov, when the crack had first been discovered. The yacht turned around and began motor-sailing cautiously back towards the Cape Verdes, some 300 nautical miles East of their position, and an alert was issued to all ARC yachts in case the situation deteriorated.

During Wednesday, in freshening ENE trade winds of around 25 knots, and with an Atlantic swell building, it became impossible for the Caliso to lay a course for the Cape Verdes. Despite proceeding with extreme caution, the sea state was increasing the pressure on the already weakened keel box, increasing the ingress of water, although the pumps were coping.

Concerned that the keel could break suddenly, and anxious for the safety of the crew, skipper Mark Matthews made the heart-wrenching decision to call for an evacuation before the situation got any worse and he alerted the crew families of his decision by e-mail.

After a fleet alert via the ARC net, and a call from MRCC Falmouth, six ARC yachts  – Hurra; Stormsvalen; Bla; Frangi; Mercury Rising and Blonde Moment, and one other yacht Moby Dick, diverted to rendezvous with Caliso. Moby Dick and Frangi were first on station and stood by Caliso until the MV Endless arrived in the early evening. In the last remaining hour of daylight, the crew of Caliso were pulled aboard the tanker, and the yacht set adrift with its navigation lights on. “It is just so desperately sad watching Caliso all on her own down in the sea,” said Mark after the evacuation.

Speaking from the ARC office in Cowes, event organiser Jeremy Wyatt commented “we are delighted that the crew of Caliso are safe, and would like to thank those yachts that were involved, and MRCC Falmouth for their efficient response. “