Posted by: adventuressetravels | April 9, 2013

Ciao Down

We heard it on the 9:00 am roll call.  SV Ciao, a Swedish 45 yacht sailing with the WARC, had been struck something and were taking on water.

The Slovenian couple sailing Ciao had rejoined the WARC 2012 in Bali.  They had started their circumnavigation with WARC 2010 and taken a break to sail around New Zealand and that part of the world for a few years.

Now, on their first leg back with the ARC just 40 nautical miles from Cocos (Keeling) at around 5:30 am when something hit them.  Something submerged.




Three ARC boats J’Sea, Spirit of Alcides, and Umineko picked up the PAN PAN distress call at 7:00 in the morning.  Ciao was taking on water.  It was a serious situation, but there was no immediate danger to the crew or boat.   The skipper thought he could staunch the water coming in.

Still, J’Sea helped their fellow ARC member to tow the wounded boat limp its way to the anchorage.  For hours it looked like the skipper had succeeded in keeping Ciao afloat.  That they would make it to Cocos.

By 10:30 the water had reached the floorboards.  The boat couldn’t be saved.

The bow of the boat was almost submerged when the skipper stepped up onto the life raft and joined his wife on the Spirit of Alcides.

Members of both Spirit of Alcides and Russian boat Royal Leopard videotaped it.  When I saw the footage it really hit me. As if all joy had been sucked out of the world I watched the loss silently fighting to hold my composure.  No one had been injured, the couple had been able to rescue everything they could carry with them, but it felt like someone died.  Someone did die: Ciao.  A boat may be a manmade object.  Just wood, fiberglass, steel, or concrete but every one of them has its own personality, a soul.

It was the best possible scenario.   The collision happened during daylight.  The seas weren’t rough.  There were boats around to assist.  There was enough time to save what items could be taken.  Above all no one was hurt.   But that does not lessen the impact.  The loss of a boat is terrible.  It is worse than losing a home.  Not only is the place where couple lived for years.  This place was their life.  It is where they lived, how they traveled, where they worked

Even still, anything can happen at sea.  Of course you can take precautions:  always having someone on watch, is standard, checking the radar, keeping an eye on the weather, the seas, and so on and so forth.  Unfortunately though having someone on watch is a safeguard against other ships; anything could be floating under the water.  No one knows what hit Ciao.  Something submerged.  It could have been a floating container that had fallen off of a container ship.  It might have been a whale or some enormous fish.  This may be the most likely scenario because the rudder was damaged rather than the front of the boat.  But still, what really struck SV Ciao remains a mystery.

This is a tragedy that could not have been avoided.  Freak accidents like this happen at sea.  Even with the most vigilant and experienced sailors, things can go wrong.   Many sailors may turn their nose up at those who sail with rallies and flotillas.  But the loss of SV Ciao is a prime example of why sailing with a flotilla makes sense.

There is safety in numbers and a support group nearby made all the difference for the crew.  Of course all vessels should carry an EPIRB and have their ditch-bag ready.   Having an EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon) helps rescuers locate a vessel and send help.  Still having help at hand is always a favorable alternative.  As much as I am in favor of doing things independently, in the case of sailing I’m starting to think rallies, or at least buddy-boating isn’t a bad way to go.


  1. Lots of common sense in this post. Amen.

  2. That is so sad. The poor couple looked just heartbroken. Do you know what they plan to do next?

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