Friday, 19 October 2018

Making Lemonade From Lemons .....

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
So what to do?  We're not in a position to tip a large bucket of money into the vessel, over and above the insurance payment, and we certainly don't wish to enter into a legal slug-fest with the other party (though we certainly should).

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.

37 comments:

  1. Tears are welling up and my heart hurts reading about what happened; I cannot imagine what it's like to say goodbye to Crystal Blues like this. :-( Trust you to have such excellent perspective, making lemonade! I know your adventures will only continue and look forward to learning what's next, while reflecting on all the good times in Crystal Blues' wake.

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  2. Christa just asked me if I read your most recent post. When I said no, she said to let her know so she could see my face when I read it. Unbelievable. Good luck with your transition, and we hope to see you out there again.

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  3. That’s so sad to hear guys. I feel like that boat was a part of my childhood and will be missed. Most important thing is you are all ok ❤️

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  4. There are no words to express our sadness and can't imagine how you must feel losing her like this. Our thoughts are with you and know that you will find another adventure...it's in your blood:-) A big hug from the Vonyachtskis!

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  5. Neil and Ley, Steve and I are so sad to hear your news but glad you didn’t get hurt. How could the other boat’s skipper be SO negligent?
    I remember when I met you on CB at Yamba. Neil had just had an op on his elbow and Ley had done all the electrical work. I was so impressed. You have enjoyed some amazing travel experiences on her and I hope you will be able to continue your journey somehow somewhere. If you need a bed in Sydney just give us a ring. Good luck with everything that needs doing now and we hope the other insurance company comes to the party as they jolly well should.

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  6. Words are just not enough to express our sadness at reading of your loss of such a beautiful vessel. We can well imagine the emotion you are both dealing with right now. You are both strong people and will bounce back I'm sure. Best wishes from both Libby and I.

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  7. So sorry to hear the news. Fond memories of CB in Sarawak.
    I'm sure the lemonade will be good though, once you get the recipe sorted out.

    All the best
    Ian & Mona

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  8. Hi Neil & Ley, you two are amazing explorers and captains, it must be difficult to grapple with the loss of your beloved Crystal Blues. We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of your beautiful girl. She was loved and pampered and always delivered a safe and memorable journey in return of your love. We are grateful you had so many wonderful memories, years and miles with your beautiful vessel and happy to hear your dealing with the loss in a positive way (we would expect that from adventurers of your caliber). Best wishes in your new endeavors and looking forward to crossing paths again in the future. Love to you guys, Mike and Deana (R Sea Kat)

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  9. We are so lucky to have spent time with you one Crystal Blues and so sad we will not get another chance. You are always welcome on Jade Moon.

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  10. That is Absolutely devastating! Its just not suppose to end up like this. And that American boat gets away with negligence.... thats messed up. You both are truly survivors of the cruiser world and I know this will take a deep dig into your hearts to find strength but you’ll that rhythm yet Again. We wish you lots of success. Rose &Stev/ Emerald Sea

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  12. omg Crystal Blues I am so so sad... the boat becomes part of the family as we very well know and I cannot even imagine losing Blackwattle in that way - like losing a child, or, in this case, having to have her put down. You are so positive talking about lemonade, and the best love and good wishes go to you as you move on. I have continued to read your exploits even after I left behind sailing journalism. You always have a bed in Dungog - we have a cottage unattached to the house which you are welcome to if you are anywhere near our area (one hour from Newcastle in the Hunter)... Much love from us both Ted and Nancy, ex-Blackwattle, ex-Panache.

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  13. Charles and Fung22 October 2018 at 15:56

    Neil and Ley,

    We are so sorry to hear of the loss of Crystal Blues. We know how much pride you took in her upkeep, but she was also your home, and can imagine how you must feel.

    We wanted to thank you for generosity in sharing your cruising knowledge with us, and setting a good model for sailors (particularly newer sailors) to follow.

    Our thoughts are with you, and we hope that you continue to have many more great adventures.

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  14. Charles and Fung22 October 2018 at 15:58

    We are so sorry to hear of the loss of Crystal Blues. We know how much pride you took in her upkeep, but she was also your home, and can imagine how you must feel.

    We wanted to thank you for generosity in sharing your cruising knowledge with us, and setting a good model for sailors (particularly newer sailors) to follow.

    Our thoughts are with you, and we hope that you continue to have many more great adventures.

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  15. Random follower from SF, can't recall how I originally found your blog but I've been following it with delight and appreciation for some time now. I'm so sorry for you both that this journey ended this way and I hope the next adventure surpasses this one. Best wishes!

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  16. SO sorry to hear of your loss.
    You've figured out what's important, however: it's not what happens to you, but how you choose to respond to it. Well done. You're always welcome in Cape Town.
    With love & blessings,
    Vonna & Chrome

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  17. Just read the news. Having shared so many times in harbours, at anchor and on hardstands it is difficult to realise that we will not be seeing Crystal Blues in Europe. After all the hard and meticulous work you have put into her over the years it must be devastating to have to say goodbye in such a way. We look forward to hearing about the next stage of your lives. Keep in touch. Love from Susan & Richard.

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  18. So very sorry to hear of the damage to the best maintained and loved yacht I know, and that you're time in the U.S. ends so abruptly and distastefully.

    Friday, Blue Star departs Nawiliwili, Kauai Hawaii for the Line Islands. The plan is to spend the next couple years in and around the South Pacific. Regrtably, never to have the chance to share an anchorage again with Crystal Blues, but we shall cross paths.

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  19. Dear Neil & Ley,

    We were very sorry to hear of Crystal Blues's accident. There but for luck go all of us. We were run down in the UK in 1991, hit by a 250 tonne steel motor yacht when tied to a wharf. The motor yacht's insurance eventually paid up after a year of stalling. It was at least encouraging that Labarque didn't disintegrate. Crystal Blues also did her duty. Had she been a modern fibreglass production yacht you would likely have been swimming, or worse.

    Can it really be 10 years since we met you at Rumah Lidam on the Rajang River? This year a couple of yachts sailing in Sarawak dropped in and were warmly welcomed.

    We are still going around in small circles. This year we joined the Sail Malaysia Rally from Langkawi to Tawau and then continued to Tolitoli, Bali and Belitung before returning to Country Garden, near JB. Next year the plan is to put a new deck and beam shelf on Labarque, so we'll be exchanging sea miles for lots of rust and dust. You probably won't miss that part of the game.

    Yours aye,

    Patrick & Elizabeth

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  20. I never managed to thank you for writing the article about me. It has
    made me famous here in Washington DC in the marina.

    Anyway.. I read your latest blog and I am very sad to read your news.
    It would be very sad if your boat was actually scrapped for metal
    since you meticulously maintained it. I think it's worth more than
    that. I would even buy it, but I probably can't afford the scrap
    price.

    This incident should, at least cancel your bad luck for a long time.

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  21. So saddened to read your news on your blog. A terrible decision to have to make, but probably the right one. I know a lot of Coastal Cruising Club of Australia members will feel your loss. Let's hope the insurance company comes good, but as you say, you don't want to spend the next few years chasing it and trying to get justice. As you will see from the next Mainsheet the Commodore's Dinner next year is a special one and we'd love to see you if you are in Sydney. If you need a bed in Sydney we have a couple here. Thanks also for the higher resolution photos which I will put in Mainsheet.

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  22. So sorry to hear of your accident. I've been following CB since I met you when you were just getting started on your adventure. What's left of the boat is still beautiful, and I'm sure someone will straighten it out and take over its stewardship.

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  23. Ah Neil, I am so sorry to read this about your beautiful yacht! I remember when you both invited all of us to the blues jam on your dock in Rebak. Rosie and I danced like free spirits. Your yacht was setting off again on new adventures... best of luck and fun where ever you both go��! Sharyn Micah

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  24. Neil and Ley. What a loss, but thank goodness you are both ok. We well remember wonderful days with you both on and off Crystal Blues in Yamba, Gold Coast, Singapore, and Phuket. Stay safe and we will try and catch up in Australia. Marilyn and David

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  25. I can't believe this. So sad. I'm realy shocked to ear this and sorry you will mot be back on the water soon. And it happened in our old neighboorhood. Hope everything works out and as you said, make lemonaid. The best part was that there were no injuries.

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  27. Neil and Ley,

    I am so deeply sad to read of your collision at sea and the loss of Crystal Blues. I wish I were nearby to offer any comfort and assistance. If you find yourself in your travels back to Oz stopping on the west coast of the U.S. please know that Solstice is in Redondo Beach, California (LA basically) and there is always a bunk aboard here for you if you need a place to stay.

    My heart goes out to you deeply as I cannot imagine the difficulty it is for you both. You two, have always been kind, generous and amazing friends and sailors. You’ve always opened your boat and your hearts to everyone so it is no surprise to me that good and kind folks have come to help you in this time of need. The world has a way of taking care of good people like you two. I also know how us sailors adapt and overcome when challenges come before us whether it is dealing with navigational hazards, treacherous seas in difficult weather systems or man made obstacles and tragedies. You two are strong, and resilient and I know that you will adapt to this course change and will overcome as you move boldly towards your next adventure. Stay strong and embrace all that you have. If there is any way that I can be of any assistance please don't ever hesitate to reach out to me.

    All my very best,

    Bill Babington
    s/v SOLSTICE

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  28. We are so sorry to hear the tragic news. What a sad way for the beautiful Crystal Blues to end her adventures. Our thoughts are with you, and we know you will be able to come up with a terrific lemonade recipe. Warm wishes, Loretta and Darrel.

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  29. Dear Ley and Neil, we just can’t believe this has happened to the wonderful Crystal Blues. It just feels so wrong and since we heard just keep trying to process that you guys won’t be just ahead or behind us. We look forward to toasting the great ship CB and hugging you both in Reedville x x

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  30. Dear Ley and Neil
    Allen and I are so sorry to hear this sad news. Thankfully you are both ok. It was lovely to meet you both and thank you for the passionate and inspiring presentation about Cuba, you will be in our thoughts xx
    Allen and Maria
    S/Y Lady Jane

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  31. Sonia and I are quite shaken with the outcome. It's little compensation (although a fact) that any other "typical" vessel would today not be afloat. Both of you are indeed "afloat" in the best sense and moving forward.

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  32. Hello Neil, there is a 18 foot jubilee for sale at the right price in our yard should you wish to go back in time, best regards to you both from Jo and Greg Blunt.

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    1. Greg - If you guys are still doing Friday drinks I'll be down there to say hi. We're adapting to life on shore ....

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  33. So sorry for you loss. We wish you the best on your next adventure. We will be following along.

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  34. Dear Neil and Ley - just heard this awful news via the Gladneys. We are so sad for you both, and devastated to hear that your beautiful Crystal Blues is gone. We're very relieved to know that you're both unhurt, and that you're picking up the pieces and moving on - not that we'd expect you to do anything less. We'll be keen to know how you get on and what you do next. Good luck with the transfer back to Melbourne. We will be there in a few weeks and would love to catch up with you. Jo and Lex (Malaika and Tramontana)

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  36. I stumbled on your blog whilst rersearching a visit to Cuba. We know from our own circumnavigation that a boat becomes a home. Hopefully you will be able to pick up the pieces and start again. Good luck. Chris and Lorraine

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