Sailors survive tanker collision

From Ocean Navigator #108
September/October 2000
Two American voyagers transiting the Mona Passage in June in their 42-foot Alden ketch are lucky to be alive following a collision at sea with a tanker off Puerto Rico. Chris and Jennifer Foster reported that they were in the middle of a 24-hour passage from Samana, Puerto Rico, to Punta Macao, when around dawn on June 6 a large orange hull hove into sight and appeared to turn directly toward their sailing vessel Tiki. At first thinking the vessel might be a Coast Guard patrol, the couple maintained course and speed, only to realize at the last minute that a collision was about to occur.

“By the time we had the headsail around, she was upon us. I issued ‘abandon ship,’ and we both jumped off the starboard side, as the ship grazed our port side, leaving paint only on the tip of my windsurfer, tied to the davits and overhanging the port stern by maybe six inches,” said Foster. Then, treading water, the couple watched in horror as their vessel’s rig was tangled in the ship.

“The wide flare of the hull cut down both the main- and mizzenmast, full canvas, 10 coats varnish, and new rigging. As we held on to debris, we watched the Cyprus-flagged, Russian crewed Iver Gemini speed on by, with not a soul on deck to be seen, as we felt the pull of the props. We got back on board, checked our situation, hugged each other, and prayed. So after an hour spent building a new antenna, calls for Mayday, and shooting flares, we got a response from the USCG cutter Matinicus, which rendered aid in cutting away the splinters and rigging, and began investigations.”

Iver Gemini, a 590-foot tanker built in 1994, subsequently returned to the scene, according to Foster, but officers refused Coast Guard officials permission to board. The vessel then continued to New York where an investigation by the Coast Guard was ongoing at press time.

“No one could believe we lived through this, and I can personally think of five ways we should have died there,” Foster reflected. The couple was able to restart the engine and steam to Boqueron, Puerto Rico, under escort by Matinicus, for repairs.

“The crew of the ship wasn’t even aware they hit anything,” said Lt. Kelly Post of the Coast Guard in New York.

By Ocean Navigator