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s/v Marcel skipper rescued, Marcel remains adrift

by Daria Blackwell / OCC 20 Jun 06:01 UTC

A marine warning, Facebook posts, emails, rescue, BOLO, SSB net, and sailors crossing oceans: a remarkable story of how mariners connect and assist each other under challenging circumstances at sea.

On June 10, NAVAREA, which we have been monitoring, issued a warning of a vessel adrift in the Atlantic which we posted immediately on the OCC Atlantic Crossing West to East Facebook page.

Derelict S/V Marcel Adrift in Vicinity 27-09N 056-01W.

Please be on the lookout!
100722Z Jun 20 Navarea IV 496/20(25).
Western North Atlantic.
Cancel this Msg 130722Z JUN 20.

Marcel was not part of the OCC fleet. Remarkably, a woman named Sylvie Mathieu posted a photo of s/v Marcel on the OCC Atlantic Crossing page and said she was the owner but knew nothing of what had happened to Marcel and was looking for someone who saw the boat to find out what condition it is in, if it's sustainable and if it can be recovered. "I call for the solidarity of sailors and thank you for your help," was Sylvie's plea.

Sylvie shared that the boat is a 38' "Trireme", (10.33 m) with a steel hull recognizable by its white and blue stripes on the hull. It is sloop-rigged, carries the French flag, has a white bimini at the rear and white canopy.

We contacted BoatWatch right away and alerted them to Sylvie's plea for information. Glenn Tuttle of BoatWatch contacted the owner and the coast guard to piece together information on the state of affairs. BoatWatch issued a BOLO ('Be On the Look Out') with the news of the latest reported position.

As the story unfolded, it became known that a hired skipper had been under way to deliver the vessel from the Caribbean to an unknown destination. The USCG RCC Norfolk advised that there was only one person on board when he activated the EPIRB and declared a Mayday. The reason was a rudder failure and total lack of steering. There may have been water ingress also.

The USCG issued an AMVER Alert for commercial ships in the area to assist. The freighter CMA CGM St Laurent bound for St. Martin diverted to the stricken vessel and took the skipper, 24-year-old Nathan Orué, safely on board.

Meanwhile, s/v Ostrika, which was part of the OCC Atlantic Crossing group and also taking part in the Doo Dah/SSCA Transatlantic Cruisers Net, reported that they would be close to that position en route to the Azores in a few days and offered to have a look regarding potential salvage if they could locate the vessel.

To assist, weather router Chris Parker offered to undertake an analysis of potential drift as the EPIRB last transmitted a position at 0102 hours UTC on the 12 June 2020 in position 027 10 N/ 055 18.1 W.

Patrick Michel, skipper of Ostrika, a Swiss-flagged Oyster 55, set up a grid pattern for search per Chris Parker's projections. During their search, they spotted a naval vessel with a helicopter circling overhead. Patrick radioed the aircraft and explained about the vessel adrift. It was a warship called A833 doing helicopter exercises. The navy agreed to take part in the search and the helicopter followed the drift analysis grid. They spotted a sailboat and excitedly reported their find only to learn that it was another member of our fleet and not the missing vessel. The naval vessel then continued on to Europe at 20 knots.

Ostrika had already come upon the s/v Areiti, a Sunfiz 40 with three persons on board also heading to the Azores. Patrick informed them of Marcel but they had not seen it. They did report seeing a rather old and large metallic buoy (maybe a lateral marker) with some kind of radar reflector on top, 1m high. They estimated the position to be 27 40N 56 20W and said that this buoy could definitely damage a hull if hit. Could it be the culprit of Marcel's misfortune?

Meanwhile, Marcel's skipper, Nathan, reported that he thinks he hit a whale as the shock didn't wake him up. He managed to fix the water ingress, but the rudder is bent and inoperable. The vessel has solar panels and a wind turbine, and the anchor light is on, so it is not a complete ghost ship at night and should remain visible for weeks.

Without success in their quest, Ostrika made the decision to continue their voyage for their own safety but their crew performed one final manoeuvre. The skipper dropped her sails, stopped Ostrika, and tried different rudder angles to record in which direction and speed they drifted. He set the rudder to starboard, then he set the rudder to port, finally he centred the rudder and recorded drift, providing Chris Parker with more accurate information about how the vessel might be affected under the conditions in the vicinity.

Ostrika is now heading to the Azores. They had sailed from St. Helena to the USVI when the pandemic hit and were now returning to the Mediterranean. They sent a final note to the OCC fleet coordinator Alex Blackwell. An excerpt appears below:

"I'm sorry Sylvie that I couldn't find your boat and home. I know how much it meant for you and Nathan. But on the bright side, everybody is well and safe, and this is what counts.

All in all it was a wonderful exercise and experience for the crew of Ostrika, some of whom are still beginners. We will never forget it.

I'm thanking Chris, Glenn, the USCG and US Navy for the efforts in assisting us in this voluntary mission. We are not seeking any fame or retribution, far from it, as I know that Karma will be on our side the next time around. This is what the people of the sea live by. I am now closing this chapter and looking ahead. There are other challenges ahead of us in these strange times we are all living in. I wish all of you to stay healthy wherever you are. I hope we will meet in person one day."

Alex wrote back, "On behalf of the Ocean Cruising Club, I would like to thank you and your crew very much for your efforts. Yes, it is something we would all do without hesitation, but you were the one who did it."

BoatWatch is requesting any information concerning s/v Marcel be sent to .

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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