Quotes I like:

“Not all those who wander are lost.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

El Faro


Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Tragedy struck recently when the container ship, El Faro, whose home port was Jacksonville, Florida, was lost at sea in hurricane Joaquin.  As a sailor and captain, my heart goes out to the families of the lost crew.  While sea duty on ships is generally safe, we are reminded on these occasions of the ferociousness of nature.  Also, this weekend marks the running of the annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. I was aboard one of the schooners three years ago for this race, and unfortunately, it was the only year that a crew member was lost in the history of the race. We experienced a huge wind increase on the first evening on board and during the effort to reduce sail, one of the crew members of another ship fell overboard and drowned. 

People wonder why ships are caught out in hurricanes.  It is a common belief that ships are safer out at sea during a storm than caught in port.  Ships can maneuver around a storm, but being stuck in port on a collision course with a hurricane can mean loss of the ship.  Many years ago I took a sailing vacation on a tall ship, the Fantome, sailing around the Bahama islands.  It was a wonderful excursion and cemented my love of sailing.  Years later, this lovely ship was lost along with all its crew and staff in hurricane Mitch. In anticipation of the storm,  Fantome did pull into port and off loaded her passengers, but chose to return to the sea with the idea of outrunning the storm. Unfortunately, the track of the hurricane changed from what was predicted and that beautiful ship and her wonderful crew were lost forever. All that was found was a life ring from the boat. And, initially, that was what was found from El Faro.

There will be an investigation and a lot of speculation as to how the commercial cargo ship ran afoul of the hurricane, at some point there will be an outcome and blame will be laid somewhere. However, the outcome will not bring back those lost lives nor provide comfort to families who lost loved and cherished members and who never got a chance for a last goodbye, a final hug or a last look.
Men and women will always answer the call of the sea. For those with saltwater in their veins, the pull of the ocean is strong. Some will make sailing a career and some will pursue the passion through sport. No matter how one goes out on a vast body of water and what can be a small boat, there is always a chance that they won't return.

I hope there is some comfort to the families that those who were lost were doing something they loved.

1 comment:

  1. Sailors do not worry about being lost at sea; although, they are always
    conscious of the possibility. This commits them to practice safety which is
    paramount especially to the long distance cruising yachtsman or seaman.
    Having sailed extensively on my own yacht and as engineer on oil tankers
    acquiring an understanding of precautions exercised I am mystified to
    understand the loss of El Faro in what is considered protected or coastal
    waters. The investigation report will bring insight into this tragedy.