Lua salvaged by local fisherman who returns her to owner

When Dino Silva abandoned his beloved 35ft yacht Lua in the north Atlantic in June, while making a singlehanded passage to Iceland, his heart broke.

‘My whole life was on that boat,’ he told us shortly afterwards. ‘I sold my house to build her.
She’s part of me, she’s my child.’

Dino had battled for days to rig a jury rudder after the home-built yacht’s steering mechanism broke in storm force conditions 500 miles west of Ireland.

Before Dino was transferred to a German freighter mid-ocean, he wrote his name and contact details in marker pen on the table in Lua‘s saloon. Perhaps someone might one day find her.

The German freighter was heading to the USA and as soon as Dino stepped ashore in Philadelphia, he contacted us at Yachting Monthly via our Facebook page.

Dino asked us to publish his story. He knew the odds were low, but he wanted to put a call out in case the yacht survived, in case someone spotted her – and might be good enough to return her.

We were only too happy to do so and you can read the story online and in our August issue.

Four weeks later, Donegal fisherman Michael McVeigh, of Rosguill Charters, was making his way through thick fog 20 miles north of Fanad Head, on the NW coast of Ireland, as he returned to harbour with a party of scuba divers.

Scanning the dense whiteness ahead, Michael was surprised to make out what appeared to be a yacht. Surprise turned to concern when he received no reply over the VHF.

‘She looked so eerie,’ he recalled. ‘It was a real Marie Celeste moment. I put two of the dive party on board, who reported rotting vegetables and food, which suggested weeks rather than days since anyone was aboard.’

It was in fact a month to the day since the yacht had been abandoned – and yes, this was Lua, Dino’s yacht. She had been blown more than 500 miles east over the past four weeks.

Michael contacted Malin Head Coastguard, who with the name of the yacht on their records were able to advise him the owner had been rescued.

Seeing Dino’s contact details written on the saloon table, Michael emailed him with photographs of the recovered Lua and an ecstatic Dino, with his partner Anna, rushed to Donegal.

Dino, 41, is from the Azores, but had travelled to Scotland, anticipating that wind and North Atlantic Drift would take Lua towards the Shetlands or Norway.

Sitting aboard Lua in the Fannie’s Bay anchorage, in Mulroy Bay, Dino said he could scarely believe his luck.

He explained how he had used part of the cabin sole, a cut-off section of the spinnaker pole, a wooden locker door and the aluminium cover of the anchor locker, in vain, to try to rig a temporary rudder. But they all ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic.

‘I was resigned to the fact that I would never see Lua again,’ he admitted. ‘We were due to fly back to the Azores in a few days. Now I’m a very happy man – I’m in heaven.’

Initial reports suggested Michael would claim salvage on the yacht, as he would have been entitled to do under maritime law.

However, the fisherman was happy simply to see the yacht reunited with her emotional owner, along with a very genuine invitation to the Azores.

You can read Dino’s remarkable story, in his own words, in the October issue of Yachting Monthly, published 19 September, available in newsagents and via Yachting Monthly digital


Photo: Michael
(right) displaying the Azorean flag, signed by Dino (left)