To put these incredible 70+ foot waves in perspective consider Hurricane Grace in 1991, storm that led to the book and movie “A Perfect Storm”, had averaged waves of 37 to 50 feet high and rogue waves hitting 100 feet. Sub Tropical Storm Andrea that brought about our demise had waves that averaged 70 feet with rogues waves much higher!
"Over 85 knot winds, 80 foot seas - Andrea"courtesy Commander Nevada Smith
Sean Seamour II (read Jean's SeaLove #2)Neither Mayke or I are avid memory catchers, I didn't even have a camera on board during my first solo crossing in 1996, so here we have pooled some of our photos since Seanee' 1999 launch to provide a history through her seven years, leading to the terrible event and our miraculous rescue.
Just delivered November 18 1999 from the Wauquiez shipyard, the long process of commissioning her for our circumnavigation dream, mine since the age of 14 begins today.
The Bruce Farr designed hull is derived from the First 45.5. Sean Seamour I was the shorter 40' version designed by the Groupe Finot, in heavy following seas during the Menorca race I realized how critical those missing four feet were, until the over seventy foot waves of Andrea - seas well over 70' few would have escaped.
Ready for her first splash in Port Grimaud, a few canals from home!
#19 Rue du Fer à Cheval, Seanee' first home in Port Grimaud - all one needs to do is walk through the house, the terrace, the garden and board her stern
Seanee stern to the garden and house, and yes it is Christmas 1999, for the occasion and we will tie up in Saint Tropez harbor for the night's processions and celebrations
Seanee viewed from the terrace of the master bedroom - her beam will surprise in the next photo.
Seanee viewed from the terrace of Mayke's studio. Workers and an engineer from the factory will be repairing the kinks for weeks on end as we take five months to accept delivery.
Still not ready, yard engineers will be working for a few months, her hard dodger will arrive soon.
We are a few feet longer than allowed, but neighbors are pleased to see her.
Almost there, just missing the boom vang being replaced as she sets on the calm waters of the Cannebiers bay. Canvas work will wait until we reach the other side of the pond
All roller-furl from main to genoa, we thought hard about keeping the geneker Mayke designed from 40' Sean Seamour I, it took one trial - way too small!After the rogue wave weakened mast that sheared much from deck, the 360° roll an hour later crushed the mast, the lower port spreader impaled the stabilization bags of the liferaft.
Two years later tied up in Palm Coast marina in Florida. It is February 2004, we just bought our house with berth in Oriental NC but work oblige, we have no time left to take her home.With Captain Guy keeping watch every few weeks we fly back to France and work until next fall.
December 2002, Cape Verde at last. Note the old (redundant) orange EPIRB attached to the inner port side of the hard dodger, it is from my first solo crossing in 1996. Curly at Annapolis Yacht Sales insisted I include it in my preparation - against all odds it will save our lives in 2007 as the newer GPIRB fresh out of recertification not only fails but... the story told in best selling author Mike Tougias' new book A Storm Too Soon!
From day one with every boat I supervise or install myself every piece of equipment, all connections and of course conceptions from the arch to the pulpit. When the boat is tied up projects abound and the salon become my workshop. Visual memories thanks to First Mate Mayke (my better half). Working canvas with my Sailrite sewing machine
Working canvas with our Sailrite sewing machine on the salon table - the wall lamp behind me will remain lit and our sole source of light as the boat holds at 180° (upside down) just before 3am! A miracle itself as the air vent almost directly above it became an gusher until air pressure inside the hull reduced the flow (remember to close those seacocks!!!)
A temporary bimany with some Sunbrella left over from Seanee I (until we reach canvas capital across the pond).
Repairs and maintenance in Gibraltar, due to the heavy weather my slip at Sheppards yard was occupied as all the boats are holding over due to the bad weather - westerlies blowing into the straight at over 40 knots - don't even think of riding or fighting tidal currents in these conditions!Stainless steel pulpit for radar repeater with high speed data linked to nav systems at chart table, wind vane in line of sight.
The life raft set between the legs of the arch, both survived the estimated 125' rogue wave that struck our port side at 01:00 hours May 7, 2007. At 03:00 when I swam out of our overturned boat, now at 180°, it is nowhere to be found.
The sensor arch is designed to keep as much as possible off the mast, but with 20/20 hindsight, using one of the backstays as my SSB antenna would isolate us in 2007 after a knockdown and later 360° roll which would crush the mast, same for the DSC VHF, although a backup plug on the stern allowed a whip antenna to be inserted, after the 360 it was not to be found.
The radar is slaved to the data fusion sister unit at the chart table via a high speed data bus, course data from the computer available realtime (MaxSea with weather routing module).
Starboard (right) side of salon viewed from settee of salon table with chart table on right - woodwork behind flat screen will explode when the rogue wave throws Ben sleeping on settee flying through the air - he will fall to the cabin sole - only then came the knockdown!!
Chart table. Panasonic Toughbook is the workhouse with Maxsea navigation software. This version include the latest weather routing using automated data capture off the internet and integration with a Brookhouse Seatalk / NMEA multiplexer.
Layover maintenance mess, on left, one of our two hand held VHF's desperately used to hail anybody after the 360° roll. Setting up the backup Toshiba Tegra with PCMCIA cellular communications versus costly Iridium.
Backup Toshiba Tecra lies over Panasonic Toughbook workhorse, problems getting the Tecra interfaced with Brookhouse Multiplexer to retrieve my Iridium skyfile where programmed weather forecasts are sent for download.
Elecrical panel, below mains / 2.4kva inverter switch, Iridium Satphone, DSCVHF and SSB radio
DSC VHF above, Single Side Band (SSB) radio below
Layover is a good time for Mayke to get back to work. The forward cabin with v-berth has been transformed to become her studio on the water (sea-state permitting). Its small for her so salon space become a battleground with my tool footprint.
CARD for Collision Avoidance Radar Detector, first installed on Lou Pantaï for my first solo crossing in 1996 then migrated to the Seanees. Navtex spitting data on thermal paper, never did go electronic, something about paper - it clogs your emergency pumps!
Seanee was home. When I was away working during the week, Mayke would leave her studio at 18:00, close the house, cross the garden and settle on board for the night (when I was there we would be anchored off). Seanee needed the house for its slip, we needed it to store what we did not want on board!
When Seanee went 180°, when we were standing on that white ceiling, the clock on top was quickly submerged shorting it at 02:52 in the morning. A time that imprinted in Rudy' memory!. Center, Wallas pulsed air furnace control and air conditioning control
Home it was filled with cherished items. One of four bills of lading from Genoa and Naples in the 17th and 18th centuries, this one from Naples in 1782. Rudy was so impressed he said if we ever had to abandon ship he would make sure and take them!
Not quite as old but a timepiece.
Stb galley, freezer, stove, sink and refridgerator, beyond is the main cabin
Cockpit side of galley: bread maker, soup blender, housed microwave
Main cabin aft
Main cabin head with shower-bath
Double bunk port-side cabin I used to be closer to chart table and companionway, Rudy aft cabin Ben forward V berth
Awaiting our return in Sardinia under cousin Noel's supervision after my summer 2002 sail from Gibraltar with my youngest daughter
Nov 2002, cousin Noel arrives with his daily consignment of stores that butchers, bakers and more worked to prepare then straight into the freezer. As Noel's citrus crop ripens crates of oranges, mandarins and more will be loaded for the crossing (no scorbut this trip!)
November 2002 As we await cousin Noel to begin our journey back across the Atlantic, an elderly Sardinian comes alongside holding a Yorkshire Terrier pup in his hands, "can you make this one a little American" he asks. Mayke is stowing supplies down below but I already know her answer - off to the market for enough canned dogfood until we rally Safeway in Gibraltar. Little did I know the war of wills declared!
November 2002, storms are raging in the Atlantic and western Med, with 40 knots plus on the nose we take refuge in Oran Algeria - a strange experience with guards posted 24 hours a day before our US flagged vessel, following us from one side of the harbor to the other as the harbor Captain chases us about to provide space for merchant vessels.
Lazy days at anchor
After Las Palmas, Sal and the surf in Santa Maria, Mindelo - colors abound
Partially hidden on the right is the westernmost island of Sao Anton, between the islands a Venturi effect, in seconds trades of 15knots grow to 35. Beyond the pass open ocean and trades to Antigua.
Some R&R wirth Bentley nibbling at my neck. For big dog owners like us it was a cultural shock for such a small creature to be so strong willed, so well adapted to the limited real-estate.
Maintenance with the Samba in Mindelo Cape Verde (Cesaria Evora's home town).
December 2004, Naples Florida. On our way around the keys and up the eastern seaboard. Tampa allowed us to rethink and rebuild our cockpit enclosure in cold weather perspectives (I had lived on board my boat through the coldest winter on record in Annapolis) - double section bimany fore extending to hard dodger with two zip in windows to link, aft covering helm, with double section zip on link cover between the two bimany units, flexible double section (port-stb) dodger extension, 9 roll up side panels.
The new canvas work included new matching sunscreen protection for the foresails
Gulf of Mexico on our way to Key West from Tampa.
Note the position of the raft canister between the arch legs that I desperately tried to find when the boat was upside down. Zodiac was torn away like the hard dodger by the rogue wave an hour and a half before.
The extraordinary color of the Gulf of Mexico
The Nor'easter we battled from Key West to Miami was relentless, after two days of "shore leave" discovering Miami Beach Art Deco we decided to proceed from here up the protected and beautiful Intercoastal Waterway.
It progressively becomes less civilized until...
Then the bridges, with barely three feet to spare and the rumor that some are below the 64' spec, it is nerve wracking every time. Early on Mayke would station herself on the rear poop deck ready to jump overboard should the mast come crashing down.
Will she will she not, the next panic attack already awaiting up ahead!
Seanee at Palm Coast Marina. I had promised Mayke we would visit the Chesapeake, . Time is shortening so coastal roads by car... until
Crossing a bridge we discover Oriental. Second real estate agent, second home shown, second day... contract. Our home in Oriental viewed from the carriage house, beyond the berth Seanee never reachedYou can find lots more pics on the house at our website www.artseaprovence.com under Pics to houses and homes / Oriental North Carolina
View from the water as we would have seen on Seanee, carriage house in the background (thank you Marvin for updating my photos)You can find lots more pics on the house at our website www.artseaprovence.com under Pics to houses and homes / Oriental North Carolina
Mayke walking over to Seanee' dock
View from the (land) deck
Straight out to the Neuse Rive off Pimlico Sound. No time to bring Seanee this year as we must return to France, our agent Marvin Bullock signed up as crew for the transfer next fall.
Next fall didn't happen work oblige. Captain Guy moved her up the St Johns river - Sean Seamour II decommissioned and holding at Holland Marine in Green Cove Springs.
Early spring 2007. Seanee gets a new bottom prior to our departure, rudder bearings, battery bank, hydraulic pump and much more.
Recommissioning can begin as soon as she is splashed into the Saint Johns River
The last photo of Seanee taken by friends of Rudy two days before our departure. Note our water maker hanging from the port side davit ready for deployment, prop turns pump pushing water through reverse osmosis membrane in housing, inside the 50' stainless steel mesh tow cable a tube pushes the fresh water straight to tank #2 (top part with dynamic sail plane to stabilize deployed not visible).
Photos taken from the HH-60 riding into the storm, they expected 40knots and 30'+ waves - definitely not double that...coming up
From then to this photo the book tells the story. As the HH-60 approaches they must be wondering how they can find us in these seas - the C-130 will stay on station to reposition the helicopter after each extraction
"70 foot wave near liferaft"courtesy Commander Nevada SmithCan you see the raft on the side of the mountain!
Riding up a "70 foot wave"
Disappeared again! No there it is at the top of the wave - so often the wind would flip the raft over throwing us back into the water as I had to tear the ballast bags impaled in the lower spreader away .
It took the USCG close to an hour before they could confirm three aboard - see my "Final lesson learned" on www.artseaprovence.com
Gone again! Or maybe not
These photos are from the video of the rescue, later edited by NOAA and the USCG for the 25th COSPAS-SARSAT Anniversary Symposium, 34 country representatives in the State Department's Franklin Room. I could not make it across the pond, Rudy gave the presentation (video available here: http://www.artseaprovence.com/category/sea/rescue-video/
raft with writing.jpg
"Ben and Drew at the raft, Drew sinking raft with knife" courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
Ben with rescue swimmer AST2 Drew Dazzo, as he punctures what is left of the raft something knocks him in the back of the head, it's the just re-certified later to learn CLONED GPIRB that doesn't want to be left behind - the old EPIRB from my solo crossing with s/v Lou Pantaï eleven years prior that saved us, followed us for seven hours and helped the C-130 home in on us was never found.
I downloaded this image of our storm from NOAA, it was deleted shortly after. In 20/20 hindsight meteorologists were also surprised by the storm’s behavior as it did not travel from the tropics then expand with the Gulf Stream, this storm began there.The two minor low-pressure systems that I was tracking pulled together to form one unpredictable super cell that deepened too rapidly rapidly to foresee.Meteorologists call such a storm a bombogenesis because of how abruptly it forms and explodes. They will later label this early stage of the storm as an extra-tropical cyclone that will evolve into post named subtropical storm Andrea - alas too late for us.
I reversed course to run bare poles (almost) with my biggest drogue when the winds exceeded 45kts at 13:00, by 15:OO exceeded 60kts, soon to grow with the seas above 70' (22meters) and winds above 85knots (100 miles or 150km/hour)
"44% Torque - 100 knots airspeed"courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
"Helo flew backwards 1.8 miles in 28 minutes during rescue - long green line is ADIZ"courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
"Scott Higgins leaning out the helo to keep fragile cable away from helicopter" (15 frayed strands!)courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
"Scott preps basket to pick up Ben, Drew has been relocated to liferaft after picking up Rudy"courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
Unconscious when the rescue swimmer Drew Dazzo reaches the raft the crew has me evacuated first - Scott Higgins pulls me into the HH-60
The sound of the rotors pulled me out of unconsciousness as the basket reaches the flight deck, now in awe I wonder if I am alive, feels like death warmed up
After what appeared an interminable time, during which the rescue swimmer is brought up in agony, vomiting on the flight deck i fear the worst, that they might be giving up - soon enough Drew goes back down and Rudy is brought up in the basket. Years later i will learn the difficulties the crew had in controlling the basket in 80 knot winds and in relocating the raft - helped by the circling C-130
Waiting on Ben!
"Rudy and JP give each other look of relief - Ben and rescue swimmer Drew Dazzo still in water." courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
Straight out of the basket! The crew reunited.
"Welcome aboard Ben"courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
"Ben Thumbs up!" courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
"JP shaking hands with Ben, Ben wondering why pilot is holding camera. ha ha" -- now you know.courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
In his bewilderment, like us, is this possible!
Ben, last up and thumbs up! Behind the basket is stowed, replaced by strop to bring rescue swimmer Drew Dazzo up - little does anyone know at this point that 15 strands of the cable are frayed. For those who may have seen The Guardian, at the end of the film Kevin Costner disappears for the same reason while Lieutenant Commander Nevada Smith of our HH-60 played the part of co-pilot Krause - uncanny parallel!
"Drew on board after a rough day at the office" courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
Deep in fuzzy exhausted thought we are on our way home - surreal
"Scott and JP help" courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
Ben has been take to the first ambulance, Rudy is being packed up, they know I have some broken bones (later to learn 10 broken ribs) and prepare a special stretcher (photo courtesy of official USMC Photograph by LCpl David J. Blake
My turn to be packed in, The lead medic is a young woman who begins with a blur of questions then proceeds to strip me for special heat blankets, responding to my natural reticence she tries to muse me saying she has seen it before, adding “besides after the cold water isn’t much of anything left to see” (photo courtesy of official USMC Photograph by LCpl David J. Blake)
Ben being packed in, Lieutenant Commander Nevada Smith looking on.
Rudy and ma about to roll, Rescue swimmer Drew Dazzo sits on the flight deck, exhausted and hurting - we will see him in hospital (photo courtesy of official USMC Photograph by LCpl David J. Blake)
In a joint operation, a United States Coast Guard team rescues three people off of the coast of North Carolina and lands on the airfield at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. Emergency Service personnel then transport rescued boaters to the Halyburton Naval Hospital. (Official USMC Photograph by LCpl David J. Blake) (Released)
Three ambulances, one for each of us (photo courtesy of official USMC Photograph by LCpl David J. Blake)
Rudy and our four saviors a few months later.
HH-60 "6014 at Cherry Point after rescue" courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
Those daring wonderful Coasties to whom we owe our lives
"C-130 that located and tracked raft and guided helo to scene saving fuel and time. No Herc, No Rescue!" courtesy of Commander Nevada Smith
Not to forget the crew of that beautiful bird called a C-130!
I had exited the stream on the night of May 5th with a forecast of northerly winds running against the stream, but not far enough to avoid the huge eddies that spur away from the stream
The leading French sailing magazine "Voiles et Voiliers" did a four page spread on the event in August 2007 with this graphic depiction of the events
Epitaphe for Sean Seamour II, the artist's (Mayke) vision of Seanee resting 2400 fathoms down.
"Met a rogue wave on the seventh of May 2007, Sean Seamour, Harwichport MA"
On the left my GPIRB that broke down after one hour and eighteen minutes, on the right the GPIRB manufactured less than two years later WITH THE SAME SERIAL NUMBER, its registration crushed my vital data in NOAA's database, reason why the USCG woke the wrong person and never called on the sat phone - that is called "double jeopardy"The owner after being woken in the middle of the night by the USCG promptly called the manufacturer the next day, they had him send it in, reprogrammed it and sent it back to him with an internal service note justifying reprogramming as "Duplicate"! I finally tracked him down bought him a new unit to recoup his with its paper trail.They stand in memory side by side on my mantlepiece.
It was returned from the ACR approved service station two days before departure with the same tape repaired antennae from two years prior.Had the pack rat in me discarded the old EPIRB from my 1996 crossing with s/v Lou Pantaï we would not be here to tell the story.