A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2015 Feb 17, 12:40 -0800
A couple of people have mentioned a Darwin Prize for this pair. I think we need to be careful on the reporting that has emerged around this story. It seems to me that this may have morphed into a "they so dumb" story. In other words, the second-hand media sources are intentionally spinning this as a story of two "dumb, drunk Australians" who almost got themselves killed because that's a story that sells itself. For example, most of the short news stories have emphasized the fact that they bought their boat on eBay for $10,000 which makes them sound like idiots ...buying an ocean-sailing vessel on eBay?!? We're supposed to imagine a conversation where son yells out to dad while sitting in front of his laptop, "Hey pops, whaddaya say we buy this here boat I found on eBay?! Then we's could sail back to Australia!". But in fact, this appears to have been an instance of a "motivated seller". The boat was apparently in good condition and had previously been offered in online markets for $134,000 for at least a year. And yes, I did see this boat last summer or maybe last fall here in Narragansett Bay. The photo here shows it anchored in a spot that is visible from my guestroom (if I'm interpreting it right). If they actually got it for $10,000, it may well have been a great deal.
Herbert, you asked how they ended up 190 n.m. SE of Nantucket. I'm not sure that this was their location when rescued. This article from an Australian new source shows a location closer to land. In any case, the article also adds that they were sailing to Bermuda, which makes sense no matter what their long-term intentions. As you know, many of these global sailing trips have a long-term goal that is more of an aspiration than a target. There would have been plenty of adventure on the journey. Also, sailing down the Atlantic and across the Indian Ocean isn't much farther in total distance than sailing through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific to reach Australia. It's a little farther, but would it be wrong to head southeast for Australia (even without a stop in Bermuda)?
I also notice that several of the short news items make pointed references to their supplies of alcohol. While teetotaling seems to on the rise among boaters, especially in coastal waters where collision is a major risk and the USCG is slamming down hard on boaters "under the influence", I don't think it's really that unusual for sailors to drink and enjoy it. Again, I think this is part of the "they so dumb" thread in this tale.
All that said, it was an obvious high risk that they sailed before a storm predicted in advance to produce hurricane force winds, even though those winds were predicted to be primarily north of Cape Cod more than 48 hours after their departure from Narragansett Bay. Weather forecasts are not sufficiently reliable that they could depend on good weather even that far south of the Cape. No matter how they lost control of the situation, they should be ashamed, and I hope they are, that a Coast Guard rescue crew risked their lives for them in dangerous conditions.
Conanicut Island USA