November/December 2014 Issue 222: The loss of Concordia


It was considered a safe and seaworthy vessel: steel, built in Poland in 1992, 188 LOA, with a 31-foot beam drawing 13 feet, rigged as a barquentine. Concordia belonged to West Island College of Montreal, Canada, serving as a college class afloat. A sturdy vessel and well run by all accounts, yet despite all the skill of captain and crew, Concordia, while on a passage 300 miles southeast of Rio de Janeiro, was overtaken by circumstances.

Caught in what the captain described as a microburst, Concordia heeled over 90 degrees in 15 seconds and sank only 20 minutes later. This time though, due to excellent training of crew and students, no lives were lost. Aboard the vessel at the time of the sinking were 48 high school students and teachers and 16 crew. The vessel sank Feb. 17 at 1430 LMT and the EPIRB went off, yet it took the Brazilian Navy until 2100 before it responded to the signal. Due to complete confusion, it was not until 1700 the next day that the Brazilian Navy launched SAR planes. It took them three hours to find the lifeboats. Unlike the sinking of Bounty, the crew and students were well drilled in abandon ship procedures. 

Capt. William Curry claimed the ship was already reefed down when the microburst hit. Subsequent inquiries by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board found: “The wind speeds experienced by the vessel at the time of the knockdown were most likely in the range of 25 to 50 knots. While there was probably a vertical component to the wind, there is no evidence that a microburst occurred at the time of the knockdown.” The report continued to say that the vessel was operated in a manner that did not allow it to “react to changing weather conditions appropriately and maintain the stability of the vessel.” The larger question remains as to why the ship, which had a stability letter stating that it could recover from a 110-degree knockdown, did not right itself. The answer to that question remains a mystery as Concordia rests deep in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Before all this nightmare, everyone was having a grand old time learning and sailing. On Dec. 4 (we will be using the 2014 Nautical Almanac), the DR of the ship is 33 degrees, 15 minutes south, by 53 degrees, 7 minutes west. The height of eye is 15 feet. And, even though it is after dark, there is a full moon and the captain is taking a lower limb sight of the moon. The shot time is after dark with the light of the moon lighting up the horizon. The time of the shot is 2352:13 GMT. The HS is 30°, 7.8 minutes. Use Vol. 2 HO 249.

A. What is the HO? 
B. Plot the EP.

A. HO is 31°, 7.8 minutes.
B. EP is 33°, 20 minutes south, by 53°, 12 minutes west.

By Ocean Navigator