Ouch ! Crystal Blues suffered mightily in a collision at sea last month, just off the New Jersey coast and we've spent the past six weeks dealing with the aftermath of that incident. While we are physically OK, I can't say the same about our emotions.
|The Ugly Duck|
She was hit by an errant commercial trawler, the Ugly Duck, that approached from our port side and initially failed to give way. Yes we were under sail, however the guy at the trawler helm eventually decided to accelerate and turn to port, a bad mistake. So we turned to port to cross his stern, which would have been simple, except that 30 seconds later he changed his mind (panicked?) and turned hard to starboard as if to run down our port side. We again corrected, this time to starboard, but it was not to be - in the last few boat lengths the trawler straightened up and collided with our port bow. We had nowhere to go.
In fact they hit us three times - after the vessels fell apart from the first collision she accelerated into us again, and then again a third time - clearly nobody at the helm at that time. I believe the young guy in control panicked and abandoned the helm. It was a massive collision, and a lesser vessel would be at the bottom of the ocean now, however she took the hit and actually kept sailing until we dropped the sails.
|Coast Guard Smiles|
The US Coast Guard came out to us in a fast and powerful cutter, they put two crew on board and floated a de-watering pump over to us, though in the end that wasn't needed. The USCG team were fantastic, precise and professional. They escorted us into Manasquan Inlet and started a long process of interviews and inspections on both vessels. The trawler crew were tested for drugs and alcohol, though we have no idea what the results are.
After inspections by a surveyor and minor repairs to plug a deck leak we motored back north to Sandy Hook three days later, then on through the East River again in to Long Island Sound, where we started gathering estimates for the repair work. Our insurers were of course involved, further surveys were undertaken and we found ourselves buried in a long and frustrating process. The damage may not look much, however the deck is substantially deformed and the interior fitout cracked and displaced. The repair project will require complete removal of the interior fitout from the mast forward, before the steelwork can even begin.
|Surveyors Using A Batten To Measure The Deflection In The Hull - Over 8 Inches - A lesser Vessel Would Be On The Bottom Now|
Eventually the repair estimates came in and we found that they exceeded the insured value of the boat by a significant amount - so the only way to have her repaired was if the other party's insurers came forward (as they certainly should) to restore the boat. As our surveyor said, this isn't just an accident, there is negligence involved here. Unfortunately the other party has been slow to respond, and all the legal advice we have received is that the case will drag out the settlement for more than a year or so, possibly up to three years.
|Interior Cracking - Even On The Starboard Side|
In the end, the best option is to write off the boat as a total loss, accept our insurance payout and get on with our life - find another adventure, maybe another boat, learn to make lemonade from lemons! Crystal Blues is being sold as salvage.
As usual the American people have been incredibly generous - numerous friends have offered us homes to live in and support of all kinds. Would you believe that a neighbour of a friend of a friend (yes, that is convoluted) heard of our incident and immediately offered us a car to drive for the next two months or so. Amazing generosity.
So we're getting ready to make lemonade .... for the past four days we've been sorting and packing our possessions in preparation for moving off the boat. We have a large palletised crate booked, which will be loaded next week and then shipped back to Melbourne. We'll fly to Melbourne from here in New York on November 19, after spending a couple of weeks with friends in Reedville, Virginia.
Last week we moved the boat from the New York Athletic Club, a short half mile to Wright Island Marina in New Rochelle, where we will eventually leave her. I can assure you it was an emotional little voyage - what a way to end 20 years and 60,000 miles of experiences together.
As my father once said, with delicious understatement, a collision at sea can ruin your whole day. He was damn right.