Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Last Voyage of Lucette

Just finished reading the “The Last Voyage of Lucette”.
I have always been interested in reading this books it chronicles the voyages of Norman Dallimore’s first gaff schooner design. Designed in 1920 Lucette was cruised to the Baltic and her Amercian Skipper wrote a book about the voyage. It was quite a pioneering voyage for the times; up there with Falcon, Dusmarie and Recundra.

She was found by the Robertson Family in Malta in 1970 and brought back to the UK specifically to fit out for an around the world Cruise which started in 1971.

Lucette, under her Robertson stewardship, sails across the Atlantic via Lisbon and the Canaries, Caribbean, Panama and then Galapagos. On day three of there departure from the Galapagos they were hole after an attack by a pod of killer whales and the 45ft schooner went down in under a minute. They managed to launch the life raft and the dinghy, which is just as well as after 17 days in the life raft they needed to abandon it. The floor came away from the edges. The six of them transferred to a 9ft cockleshell fibreglass dinghy and lives aboard that for a further 21 days. They were picked up 300 south of Costa Rica on the shipping track to the Panama canal from North America. Quite an amazing feat of survival. All the more poignant for me as I know the coastline and weather well around these parts, and the fact that they managed to survive the sun alone beggars belief.

It is a good book, but I can’t really distinguish who has written it. Although the Author is said to be Douglas Robertson, the text appears to be very much from the perspective of Dougal (the father). He has written a previous book called “Survive the Savage Sea” and some of the text from this is used in Douglas’ book, although how much it is hard to tell. The fact is that the family dynamic is very interesting. A very authoritarian father and skipper, who has spouts of violent rage on quiet a regular basis. The sort of skipper that I would imagine could endanger a ship in his own right! Interesting to read just to get a feel of how other sailing families work.
As far as the sinking is concerned, it is clear that their life raft was really not upto the job (It would be interesting to see what make it was). The fact remains, that the best way of surviving in remote parts of the world are to have means to sailing to shipping lane, some cover from the sun, a fishing kit, a means of collecting and storing water, some flares and a knife (not the life raft sort – one needs an open blade). Quite sobering really. I would also say that they would have fared better with a pre-prepared grab bag containing some essentials. Also, In this case a Claude Worth recommendation: a pre-prepared wooden frame over which some canvas is stretched, with copper nails readily attached, would have helped them quite a bit in stemming the ingress of water I would imagine. An abandon ship routine should have been practiced – and they recommend that themselves.

I don’t have space for a decent rigid dinghy aboard Roach, but I have to say that reading this book has made me really think what I would do in such a disaster. I will certainly make a grab bag of things I think necessary, and will also make a Claude Worth canvas frame just in case. Can’t afford a liferaft at present, but for longer passages I think it is worth getting one! If I had a bigger yacht, I would certainly get a rigid dinghy that had sailing rig, some sort of cover, compass, all ready stowed to go incase of emergency.


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