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Upffront 2020 Foredeck Club SW LEADERBOARD

The final voyager across the Atlantic in 2020

by Daria Blackwell 17 Aug 08:45 UTC
NRP Sines assisted s/v Dellamyra © Daria Blackwell

An estimated 500 vessels crossed the Atlantic W-E this year, returning home or to safe waters in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The last known to depart the Caribbean has dropped anchor in Horta.

As the Atlantic Crossing 2020 season comes to a close, our small group assisting members and non-members who were facing extraordinary decisions driven by pandemic rationales finally has a chance to relax. Our last support effort for s/v Dellamyra ended Saturday, 15 August, when Joseph Shepherd safely dropped anchor in Horta. Joe left St. Maarten on 22 June aboard his 12m British-flagged yacht, returning to the UK single-handed.

Just as we were preparing to close up activity on our Facebook OCC Atlantic Crossing page, we received a message from Glenn Tuttle of Boatwatch about a vessel in distress mid-Atlantic. The vessel was not registered with our group and, as most of the fleet had already completed their journey, there were no vessels in the vicinity to render assistance. We contacted CA, TransOcean, and the Swedish Cruising Club to no avail. The only boat out there was a member on a trawler way ahead of the vessel in difficulty and without sufficient fuel to turn around and still reach the Azores.

Meanwhile, we all desperately tried to find anyone who knew the sailor in question. The coast guard alerted Glenn Tuttle to the situation but could not reveal his contact information. We put out word on major Facebook sailing pages and, as luck would have it, several people knew Joe but not his contact details.

Then, Lindsay Trotter, owner of Ship to Shore mail forwarding, contacted OCC Secretary Rachelle Turk thinking there could be OCC members out there who could assist. Lindsay had advertised with OCC in the past and the boat owner in question was a client and a former member of the OCC. She was the SPOT contact we were so diligently trying to locate.

Lindsay had spent the last 24 hours as go-between for the USCG Boston and Joseph Shepherd, a man in his 80s who had a torn headsail and jammed halyard as well as trouble with his engine. He was running low on food and fuel, with too much wind in the vicinity. Under main alone, steering was problematic, so Joe was unable to make any progress toward Horta, his interim destination. The Coast Guard diverted a container ship which delivered fuel and food but could not assist with the problems aboard his yacht. After a freighter also checked on him and delivered more supplies, the USCG stood down.

Soon after the deliveries, Dellamyra's engine quit altogether. He could not diagnose or fix the problem. At this point, the OCC took the lead on maintaining contact with Joe, whose only means of communicating long distance was via his SPOT device, which allows only 140 characters per message including email address. So began another prolonged long-distance relationship. Alex Blackwell took the lead, making contact with Joe and helping him find wind so he could sail. Alex also suggested that Joe use his spinnaker halyard and a spare jib, raised loose alongside the torn jib and secured to the base of the furler.

Unfortunately, in this strange weather year, the winds became light and variable, currents foul, and conditions frustrating overall. The Azores High had settled in right on top of Dellamyra. Still more than a week out from Horta under the forecast conditions, Joe sent a message that he was running low on food, with only about two days of provisions remaining. Alex alerted the Portuguese coast guard, who sent the Naval vessel NRP Sines under the command of Lieutenant Ester Pereira Lopes.

Upon arrival of the Navy ship on the morning of August 13, a technical team was sent aboard the sailboat to provide food and repair the malfunction in propulsion.

Engine fixed and food available, Joe was able to continue on to Horta under a combination of sail and power. Duncan Sweet of Midatlantic Yacht Services took over communications and coordination of assistance on Joe's arrival.

The OCC extends sincere thanks to Marinha Portuguesa and MRCC DELGADA for your effective assistance to a mariner in need. Special thanks to the crew of NRP Sines and commander Lieutenant Ester Pereira Lopes for your selfless efforts to fix a sailor's engine and deliver food so he could complete his transatlantic voyage safely.

Have a well-deserved rest, Joe. Your Coronavirus test is already scheduled for Monday and Peter Café Sport is awaiting your visit. We love it when a story ends well.

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

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