Friday, February 24, 2012

Course Deviation With Good Outcome

Seabourn Odyssey
Rescues 3 Fishermen

In the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster, there has been much press coverage about the course deviation which the captain made as he approached the island of Giglio.   

Course deviations occur all the time, for various reasons:   

Most often course deviations occur because of sea and weather conditions, in order to provide a safe and comfortable cruise experience for the passengers and crew.  Rarely, a more radical deviation might occur to avoid a port in the wake of a disaster, political unrest, or increase in crime.  Equally rare are deviations in response to a distress call.  Under maritime law, the captain of a vessel is required to provide assistance under those circumstances.

Rescue boat from Odyssey approaches fishing boat
Somewhere in the Pacific

On Sunday, February 19th, Seabourn Odyssey was sailing the Pacific Ocean some 150 miles southwest of Pago Pago, America Samoa during it's World Cruise journey.  Unbeknownst to the Captain and crew at that time, three men had set out to sea in a small fishing boat from Apia in Western Samoa three weeks earlier, with the goal of bringing back a chest full of fresh seafood.  Unfortunately, they ran out of fuel and drifted further and further away, surviving on their catch of fish and rain water.

Feared Lost at Sea

Families of the three fishermen had been preparing funeral services as earlier rescue efforts, led by the New Zealand Air Force and the United States Coast Guard, had been called off.  The men had no distress flares or means of radio communication, so they were literally on their own in the middle of the largest body of water on earth.

Captain Dexter Changes Course

The portside bridge watch alerted Captain Mark Dexter to something in the distance which appeared to be a boat.  Not finding any missing vessel reports, the captain still wondered why this boat would be so far from land. He deviated from his course to investigate further and spotted a small boat adrift some miles away from the ship. As they drew closer, they saw three men jumping and frantically waving their clothing, clearly trying to catch the attention of Seabourn Odyssey.

Rescued fishermen safe onboard Seabourn Odyssey
The Rescue

The ship deployed one of its rescue boats and, after determining that they were no threat, rescued the three fishermen who had been lost at sea for nearly three weeks!  The men were transferred from the rescue craft to the ship and immediately examined by the ship's doctor.  They were in surprisingly good health considering the amount of time they were exposed to the elements in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.   Upon examination, it was found that the men were dehydrated, hungry, and had a few skin sores from the sun.

Returning Home - Good Outcome

After getting examined, changing into fresh clothes, and eating, the fishermen told of their ordeal and provided contact information for their employer. When he was notified, he bust out into joyful tears.  The families changed their funeral plans to welcome home plans.

The Odyssey notified the U.S. Coast Guard who assisted in returning the men home when the ship docked in Pago Pago Monday morning.

The captain had kept the passengers informed throughout the rescue exercise.   The passengers were so moved by the whole experience that they collected funds to give to the fishermen.  When the men disembarked the ship, they each had $800 donated by the guests to help them purchase a new fishing boat.

Bravo Captain Dexter & Crew !! 

Thanks to the watchful eyes of Seabourn Odyssey’s bridge watch, and the curiosity of Captain Dexter, the three fishermen were saved and will live to tell their terrifying tale. This course deviation had a happy ending.

From Seabourn's account of the event:
This is the second rescue involving a Seabourn ship in less than a year. 

It is another example of the amazing skills of our seagoing staff and the timeless code of seamen to look out for each other, which does not change from generation to generation. As the Coast Guard captain put it: “the PV Seabourn Odyssey and its crew deserve a Bravo Zulu for securing these fishermen’s lives!”

Photos: Courtesy of Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd.

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