Crew Evacuated After Yacht Strikes Whale

May 19, 2012

[Updated] A yacht sailing from Bermuda was abandoned yesterday [May 18], and the crew were evacuated after striking a whale and sustaining damage to the hull.

Skipper Joost Gehrels, doubted that the boat — called Outer Limits — could safety return to Bermuda and issued a MayDay to request immediate assistance. Bermuda Radio contacted vessels in the area and a merchant ship diverted to assist.

Within an hour, the 4 crew members of Outer Limits were safely aboard the merchant ship. Outer Limits’ skipper Joost Gehrels, who is from the Netherlands, speaking via satellite phone said that he and all his crew are safe and well although shaken. The boat was taking part in the ARC Europe rally and traveling from Bermuda to the Azores when the incident occurred.

Outer Limits crew before the incident, photo courtesy of World Cruising Club:

A statement from ARC said, “At around 22:30UT on Friday 18 May, approximately 330nm northeast of Bermuda, the yacht Outer Limits struck a submerged object, believed to be a whale, and sustained damage to the hull causing significant water ingress.

“Whilst the yacht’s emergency pumps were able to contain the leaks, skipper Joost Gehrels, doubted that the boat could safety return to Bermuda and issued a MayDay to request immediate assistance. Using the yacht’s satellite telephone he also contacted RCC Bermuda.

“The Netherland’s flagged Hanse 370e, was taking part in the ARC Europe rally and on route from Bermuda to Horta, Azores when the incident occurred.

“RCC Bermuda contacted vessels in the area and diverted the merchant ship E R Melbourne, and the ARC Europe rally yacht Halo, which was 15nm away to assist. The E R Melbourne, a 36,000 tonne container ship, reached Outer Limits’ position at approximately 00:10UT 19 May, and commenced evacuation of the crew.

“Within an hour, the 4 crew members of Outer Limits were safety aboard the merchant ship and the yacht Halo was then asked to stand down. Outer Limits was abandoned, at approximate position 34 19N 59 04W.

“The German flagged E R Melbourne has now resumed course for Cagliari, Italy. Outer Limits’ skipper Joost Gehrels (Netherlands), speaking via satellite phone said that he and all his crew, Marta Cappiello (Italian), Diane Ferrero (America) and Andrew Siess (American), are safe and well although understandably shaken. They have been able to contact their friends and family ashore and inform them that they are OK.”

“Rally manager Lyall Burgess, commented on the incident, expressing his thanks to the Master and crew of the E R Melbourne; to RCC Bermuda; and to the double-handed crew of Halo (Mike & Alexandra Bailey) for their professionalism and swift response to the incident.”

Update: A Bermuda Radio statement said, “Bermuda Radio received a satellite telephone call from the sailing vessel Outer Limits with four persons on board reporting that they had struck a whale and were taking on water 300nm east of Bermuda.

“The yachts initial action was to alter course for a return to Bermuda with pump keeping up with water ingress, however, within an hour and a half the situation had deteriorated to the extent that the crew decided to abandon the vessel.

“Working with the US Coast Guard at RCC Norfolk the German registered merchant ship ER Melbourne was diverted to the stricken vessel’s position and a USCG C-130 aircraft was tasked for air cover.

“At 9:45pm confirmation was received that the crew had transferred to the ship. The ER Melbourne continued her voyage to Cagliari, Italy, and the Outer Limits was left adrift.”

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Comments (10)

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  1. andrew says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that a boat hits a whale in the vicinity of Bermuda. There are enough whales and enough boats sharing the ocean that it’s only a question of time before this happens here in Bermuda with sports fishing boats and whales fishing and foraging along the edges of the Bermuda platform and Challenger Bank. What is surprising is that this was a sailing boat in the open ocean. I wonder how the whales is.

  2. Liars says:

    Poor whale…..Boaters need to be more careful…. You are in the whales habitat after all……

  3. Triangle Drifter says:

    Whales can hear powerboats & avoid getting run over by them. Silent sailboats, not so easy. Huge ocean maybe but whales sleep too.

  4. Whistling Frog says:

    I’m sure the Whale was looking for a good hit to be disappointed by it being a sailboat… LOL

  5. Gotcha says:

    Call Paul Watson!

  6. My habitat says:

    The boat hit the object at 10:30 pm, how careful can u be??? It’s dark, not like they were speeding in a no wake zone. Seriously have you ever been on a boat in the ocean before??? Whales don’t have marker buoys. It’s a big ocean and the chances of hitting the whales are remote.

    • terry says:

      Very true.

      It could also have been a container or other object.

      We have yet to hear from the crew that it was a whale.

      Glad they are safe and that vessels were in the area.

      As for the ingress of water, they were very lucky.

  7. Not Surprised says:

    Glad the crew are safe. Is anyone checking to see if it was a whale or not?

  8. Vagabond D says:

    ’twas a whale; I was one of the four crew; very sad for the whale, the boat, our captain.
    Thanks to all who helped coordinate our rescue :-) )