Offshore Cruising Preparation Course saved my life !

Vessel Liberty III lost off New Caledonia.

As the organiser of yacht rallies there is nothing more devastating then to learn one of the fleet will not be returning home. The only thing that could be more devastating would be for the captain or crew of a vessel to have been seriously injured or worse still, have lost their life. Fortunately this was not the case in this instance and I hope and pray I will never receive such news.

Please note: This article has been published with both the consent and the encouragement of the captain and owner of the vessel Liberty III.

Whilst on passage from Fiji to New Caledonia last week I was contacted via satellite email and informed the vessel Liberty III had activated their EPIRB and were seeking immediate assistance. Liberty III was subsequently lost however her crew were rescued in a very short period of time.

Below is a screenshot I took of the PredictWind tracking page on my iPAD that had been set up for the purpose of tracking our rally participants as they made their voyage. Thanks to our Iridium Go and PredictWind offshore app I was able to determine the position of the Liberty III at the time of my being advised of the event.

Liberty III had been a participant in the 2019 Go East Rally from Australia to New Caledonia & the 2019 NC2V Rally from New Caledonia to Vanuatu.

Before departing Australia vessel owner Chris Doran and Kevin Doran (cousin & crew member) had attended the Down Under Rally Offshore Cruising Preparation Course in Newport NSW.

Without any prompting or request from myself or anyone associated with the Down Under Rally or the Offshore Cruising Preparation Course references by Chris I received the message below from Chris via email on the evening of the same day he had been rescued:

Hi John,

Some sad news today we lost Liberty this morning off the top of New Caledonia on our way home .

Just before dawn, both motors shuddered and stopped at the same time we were doing about 8.5 kts, we started taking on water and the pumps could not keep up , including the manual ones .

We amazing run over a 50 metre piece of ships rope in the dark and the torque of the motors tore an A frame out holding the shafts. We made the decision after about 2 hours or so to prepare to abandon ship and hop in to the life raft, as I was worried she could roll over and trap someone or entangle the life raft .

Sad to loose the vessel, but glad every one is safe and in injured .

With out a doubt the 2 day course I did with yourself and Leanne back in Dec 2018 at RMYC, really assisted in my preparations for the boat, and saved our lives. I would without doubt recommend everyone at least do the course, there is a lot to think about for preparation, and things happen so quickly in these situations.

I would also say that the ultimate piece of equipment on the boat and I have it at home now, minus the larger aerial, is the Iridium Go . It needs to be protected at all costs, it was and is the only real means of communication in this situation with authorities on land . Forget your HF it is useless. We were simply making calls to as many people as we could leaving the co ordinates of the ship. In the life raft we were on it every 5 minutes as Authorities and the ship coming ,were contacting us for up dates.

The other valuable tool was the iPad with iSailor, as this was confirming our position, rate and direction of drift, re assuring when there are so many reefs close by. It has also been handy for screen shots for the assessor, we actually drifted approx. 7 miles in the short period we were drifting at about 1.2 to 1.8 knots. All in all from the time we struck the rope to rescue it was approx. 5 hours.

We used our main EPIRB but reserved our personal ones in case we were going to be in the raft for a while , as at the time of entering the raft the closest help was at least 12 hours or more away.

We had two fully charged VHF which we used once the rescue ship was in range .

We also used our flares to assist them with a visual once they were in Radio range.

All in all could not have gone better.

We had trouble getting away from the sinking vessel, and people should consider this when making a decision to leave the vessel, as there is a great risk the raft or its sea anchor could become entangled with the main vessel. I will always step down and not up into a life raft, I believe it is too risky to hanging there to the end. The raft was quite stable compared to the half sinking swaying vessel which could knock someone out or badly injure them.


Chris Doran

A couple of heart felt messages of thanks:

Virginia Craig from Port of Call Yacht Services in Vanuatu was instrumental in the rescue efforts as were the Vanuatu authorities. Virginia is the agent for the Down Under Rally in Vanuatu and as the Liberty III had been a participant in the NC2V Rally from New Caledonia to Vanuatu Virginia was familiar with the vessel and crew and able to assist with valuable information.

P&O Cruises Australia & the crew of the Pacific Dawn responded to the distress call and executed the rescue in what I have been informed was a precise, professional & prompt manner. On behalf of all of us who venture beyond the horizon in small vessels we thank the company and the crew of the Dawn from the bottom of our hearts.