High seas drama
If it bleeds, it leads,” Robert Redford told Michelle Pfeiffer in Up Close and Personal. He was the tough journalist, cynical after years in the job; she, the new kid eager to learn. So I make no apology for the word “Fire!” on the cover this month. Sure, it will sell magazines – but that’s not the only reason we asked Murray Vereker-bindon to write about the dramatic loss of his yacht between Rarotonga and Tonga.
The two off-watch crew of Sunny Deck had only seconds in which to wake up, grasp the situation and get the hell out of there. What followed was a gripping tale of good decisions, lessons learned and the power of prayer. Don’t believe in prayer? No doubt there are many converts in liferafts on dark and stormy nights – especially those lit up by an inferno fuelled by a recently abandoned boat.
Over the years I’ve covered many similar stories and they often contribute directly to other survival stories. When Green Hornet sank suddenly in the Tasman Sea in 1999, the crew had no time to grab the epirb which had been mounted away from the companionway for aesthetic reasons – but they did harness into their liferaft having read of those washed out of liferafts in the 1998 Sydney Hobart Race.
Vereker-bindon says there was never a moment of panic in the liferaft, but there were some particularly bad moments. In the heaving sea, the liferaft was accidentally damaged and, without reading glasses, the two crew who could read English were unable to decipher the instructions for the liferaft repair kit – so you might want to include a magnifying glass in your liferaft’s emergency supplies.
One of my favourite pieces of advice is taught on sea survival courses – whatever you do, don’t fire a flare directly at a rescue aircraft. Imagine it, after weeks adrift:“yay! We’re saved... Oh, darn.” Such stories make for inspiring days in the office so if you’re looking for an interesting job, consider mine. For a long time I have said the South Island is calling me home. I’ve finally answered the call and will be moving in October. I have loved being back at Boating New Zealand for another term as editor; the people I work with – inhouse and freelancers, the vibrancy of the marine industry, the challenge of bringing together the many elements that create a great magazine. I know I’m going to miss it.
Mostly, I’m going to miss you.