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Killer whales attack and sink sailing yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar — again

By Emily Mae Czachor

Updated on: May 14, 2024 / 4:54 PM EDT / CBS News

A sailing yacht sunk in the Strait of Gibraltar on Sunday after an unknown number of orcas  slammed into the vessel with two people on board and caused a water leak, officials said. Both crew members were rescued by a passing oil tanker, said Spain's maritime rescue service, marking the latest killer whale attack on a boat in what has become a pattern in recent years.

The incident happened at around 9 a.m. local time in the narrow strait between Spain and Morocco that has become a notorious site of human interactions with pods of killer whales that, for reasons still not fully understood, ram into boats and at times even sink them . In this case, crew members on board the SV Alboran Cognac yacht put out an emergency call for an evacuation after they encountered orcas roughly 14 miles off the coast of Cape Spartel. 

The crew members reported feeling blows to the hull of the vessel and rudder, which was damaged by the whales, the rescue service said. The agency's coordination center in Tarifa, on the Spanish side of the Strait of Gibraltar, helped arrange for their evacuation via the tanker MT Lascaux. The tanker was able to collect the crew members from the sinking yacht within the hour, and they disembarked in Gibraltar before 10:30 a.m. They abandoned the SV Alboran Cognac, which proceeded to completely disappear into the ocean.

Anyone sailing through waters from the Gulf of Cádiz in southern Spain and the Strait of Gibraltar, either in a larger motorized vessel or a personal sailing boat, is advised to avoid certain areas that the maritime rescue service marks as potentially dangerous spots for orca interactions. The greatest threats exist between May and August, when officials say that pods of killer whales are most commonly seen in those parts of the Atlantic. 

orca-interactions-maritime-rescue.jpg

But previously recorded incidents suggest those dangers may be present at any time. Last October, a Polish boat touring company reported that a pod of orcas had managed to sink one of its yachts after repeatedly slamming into the steering fin for 45 minutes, causing it to leak. Last June, two sailing teams competing in an international race around the world reported frightening scenarios in which multiple orcas rammed into or pushed up against their boats or as they sailed west of Gibraltar. 

No one on board any of the vessels was hurt in those encounters, but the documented rise in confrontational behavior has researchers and sailors trying to determine why orcase have attempted to sink or capsize so many boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal. 

Some sailors have even resorted to blasting thrash metal music in a bid to deter the apex predators.

Reports of orcas interacting with humans have more than tripled in the last two years or so, according to the research group GTOA, which has documented hundreds of such incidents in the region since 2020. But some of the latest data points to possible changes in the orcas' etiquette, with the group reporting only 26 interactions in the Strait of Gibraltar and Bay of Biscay areas between January and May of this year. That number is 65% lower than the number of interactions recorded in the region over the same months last year, and 40% lower than the average number of interactions recorded in the same months between 2021 and 2023, according to GTOA.

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Emily Mae Czachor is a reporter and news editor at CBSNews.com. She covers breaking news, often focusing on crime and extreme weather. Emily Mae has previously written for outlets including the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed and Newsweek.

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Loss of sailing cargo ship off Bahamas underscores the perils of the sea

Surviving crew members reported that they were hit by a sudden storm near the bahamas..

sailing yacht sinking

Sea weather was fair more than a week after the 90-foot sailing schooner De Gallant departed Santa Marta, Colombia for Europe carrying a cargo of coffee, cocoa and cane sugar. But tragedy loomed on the horizon.

The crew of the De Gallant , part of a French company that ships products by sail to avoid burning fossil fuels, ran into a sudden and violent storm 20 miles north of Great Inagua, near the Bahamas. The vessel began taking on water. The crew of French sailors scrambled into yellow survival suits and into life rafts, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Two female crew members, however, were missing. 

On Thursday, two days after rescuing six of eight crew members in rafts floating amid a field of the sunken ship’s debris, the Coast Guard said it had called off the search for the two women after scouring 3,700 square miles with planes, helicopters and ships.

“It is with heavy hearts we offer our sincere condolences to the families and crew that lost these two mariners,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Lindsey Seniuk, who coordinated the search and rescue mission. “When we send our rescue crews out, it is with great hope we can bring people home safely, which is why suspending this case is one of the hardest decisions our personnel make. We are grateful we were able to bring home the six survivors and thankful for the assistance of our partners in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.”

The Blue Schooner sail cargo company, which operated the vessel, did not release the names of any of the surviving crew or the missing women.

Since 2017, Blue Schooner has offered “a carbon-free solution to any producer or shipper concerned about their environmental footprint.” according to its website . Except for port maneuvers, the ship did not use fossil fuel, with on-board electricity provided by solar panels.

It’s among several companies , such as Shipped by Sail, that in recent years have adopted wind power, including on older ships, to transport products such as boutique coffees for sellers seeking to avoid the carbon emissions of typical cargo ships. 

The De Gallant, a Vanuatu-flagged schooner, was a “well-proven vessel piloted by licensed professional sailors,” Blue Schooner said in a statement.

But the incident also highlighted the potential dangers that any ship can encounter at sea.

Blue Schooner noted that the weather had been fairly calm before the ship ran into trouble. A tracking map on the company’s website showed the vessel had previously traveled between Cuba and Haiti on its way north.

The Coast Guard said it first received distress notifications early Tuesday morning from personal locator beacons. About two hours later, around 8 a.m., a Coast Guard helicopter crew located two life rafts with the six French nationals and hoisted them to safety, said Petty Officer First Class Diana Sherbs, a Coast Guard spokeswoman in Miami.

They were taken to the Coast Guard Air Station in Miami and found in good health before being met by French diplomatic representatives and returned to France.

Blue Schooner officials had been hopeful that warm water temperatures and clear weather would help the missing crew survive and be found. But on Thursday the company said the lack of any signs during the search forced them to consider the “worst outcome.”

“It is an upheaval for the company, the maritime community and that of sailing transport in particular, which are losing sailors and above all exceptional humans,” the company said in a statement.

The exact circumstances of the sinking were still being examined.

“The first information we have indicates an unforeseen meteorological phenomenon, extremely sudden and violent when the ship was underway in mild conditions. This would have led to its capsizing and then its loss at a depth of more than 2,000 meters,” according to Blue Schooner.

Whether the incident will have any impact on sail cargo businesses is unclear.

The De Gallant’s owners called the incident “a reminder of the dangers of navigation and the seafaring profession.”

Chris Kenning is a national correspondent for USA TODAY. Contact him at [email protected] or on X @chris_kenning. 

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Orcas sank a yacht off Spain — the latest in a slew of such 'attacks' in recent years

Scott Neuman

sailing yacht sinking

Killer whales are pictured during a storm in the fjord of Skjervoy in 2021 off the coast of northern Norway. Researchers say orcas are stepping up "attacks" on yachts along Europe's Iberian coast. Olivier Morin/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

Killer whales are pictured during a storm in the fjord of Skjervoy in 2021 off the coast of northern Norway. Researchers say orcas are stepping up "attacks" on yachts along Europe's Iberian coast.

The crew of a sinking yacht was rescued off the coast of Spain this week after a pod of orcas apparently rammed the vessel – the latest "attack" by the marine mammals in the area that has left scientists stumped, several boats at the bottom of the ocean and scores more damaged.

Killer whales are 'attacking' sailboats near Europe's coast. Scientists don't know why

Killer whales are 'attacking' sailboats near Europe's coast. Scientists don't know why

The encounter on Sunday between an unknown number of orcas, also known as "killer whales," and the 49-foot sailing yacht Alboran Cognac occurred on the Moroccan side of the Strait of Gibraltar, the narrow passage linking the Atlantic and Mediterranean where the majority of such incidents have occurred in recent years.

The Alboran Cognac's crew said they felt sudden blows on the hull and that the boat began taking on water. They were rescued by a nearby oil tanker, but the sailboat, left to drift, later went down.

The sinking brings the number of vessels sunk – mostly sailing yachts – to at least five since 2020. Hundreds of less serious encounters resulting in broken rudders and other damage, Alfredo López Fernandez, a coauthor of a 2022 study in the journal Marine Mammal Science, told NPR late last year.

As NPR first reported in 2022, many scientists who study orca behavior believe these incidents — in which often one or more of the marine mammals knock off large chunks of a sailboat's rudder — are not meant as attacks, but merely represent playful behavior.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Catamaran Guru(@catamaranguru)

Some marine scientists have characterized these encounters over the years as a "fad," implying that the animals will eventually lose interest and return to more typical behavior.

The study co-authored by López Fernandez, for example, indicated two years ago that orcas were stepping up the frequency of their interactions with sailing vessels in and around the Strait of Gibraltar.

Some researchers think it's merely playful behavior

One hypothesis put forward by Renaud de Stephanis, president and coordinator at CIRCE Conservación Information and Research, a research group based in Spain, is that orcas like the feel of the water jet produced by a boat's propeller.

sailing yacht sinking

A picture taken on May 31, 2023, shows the rudder of a vessel damaged by killer whales ( Orcinus orca ) while sailing in the Strait of Gibraltar and taken for repairs at the Pecci Shipyards in Barbate, near Cadiz, southern Spain. Jorge Guerrero/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

A picture taken on May 31, 2023, shows the rudder of a vessel damaged by killer whales ( Orcinus orca ) while sailing in the Strait of Gibraltar and taken for repairs at the Pecci Shipyards in Barbate, near Cadiz, southern Spain.

"What we think is that they're asking to have the propeller in the face," de Stephanis told NPR in 2022. "So, when they encounter a sailboat that isn't running its engine, they get kind of frustrated and that's why they break the rudder."

In one encounter last year, Werner Schaufelberger told the German publication Yacht that his vessel, Champagne, was approached by "two smaller and one larger orca" off Gibraltar.

"The little ones shook the rudder at the back while the big one repeatedly backed up and rammed the ship with full force from the side," he said.

The Spanish coast guard rescued Schaufelberger and his crew, towing Champagne to the Spanish port of Barbate, but the vessel sank before reaching safety.

sailing yacht sinking

A worker cleans Champagne, a vessel that sank after an attack by orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar and was taken for repairs at the Pecci Shipyards in Barbate, near Cadiz, southern Spain, on May 31, 2023. Jorge Guerrero/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

A worker cleans Champagne, a vessel that sank after an attack by orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar and was taken for repairs at the Pecci Shipyards in Barbate, near Cadiz, southern Spain, on May 31, 2023.

The encounters could be a response to past trauma

López Fernandez believes that a female known as White Gladis, who leads the group of around 40 animals, may have had a traumatizing encounter with a boat or a fishing net. In an act of revenge, she is teaching her pod-mates how to carry out attacks with her encouragement, he believes.

"The orcas are doing this on purpose, of course, we don't know the origin or the motivation, but defensive behavior based on trauma, as the origin of all this, gains more strength for us every day," López Fernandez told Live Science .

It's an intriguing possibility, Monika Wieland Shields, director of the Orca Behavior Institute , told NPR last year.

"I definitely think orcas are capable of complex emotions like revenge," she said. "I don't think we can completely rule it out."

However, Shields said she remained skeptical of the "revenge" hypothesis. She said that despite humans having "given a lot of opportunities for orcas to respond to us in an aggressive manner," there are no other examples of them doing so.

Deborah Giles, the science and research director at Wild Orca, a conservation group based in Washington state, was also cautious about the hypothesis when NPR spoke to her last year. She pointed out that killer whale populations in waters off Washington "were highly targeted" in the past as a source for aquariums. She said seal bombs – small charges that fishers throw into the water in an effort to scare sea lions away from their nets – were dropped in their path while helicopters and boats herded them into coves.

"The pod never attacked boats after that," she said.

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Dramatic video shows 130ft superyacht sinking off Italy coast after being battered in storm

Nine people rescued before boat went under, article bookmarked.

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Dramatic footage has captured the moment a 40-metre superyacht sank into the Mediterranean sea after being battered in a storm.

The 40-metre-long luxury vessel was sailing from Gallipoli to Milazzo overnight on Saturday when it got into trouble around 15km from Italy’s Catanzaro Marina.

Footage shows the yacht, named My Saga, rapidly disappearing beneath waves, as lifeboats appear to float beside it.

The captain sent out a distress call to the Port Authority of Crotone, with officials told the yacht was taking on a significant amount of water from the stern.

The Italian coastguard dispatched two patrol vessels and rescued all four passengers and five crew members on board.

A tugboat sent out at dawn was unable to save the superyacht from sinking because of worsening weather conditions, the Super Yacht Times reports. The Saga finally sank at around 1pm on Sunday.

The outlet reports the yacht, which was built in Monaco back in 2007, was flying under the Cayman Islands flag with an all-Italian crew when it sunk.

An investigation has been launched into the cause.

The yacht named My Saga sank on Saturday

It comes after a £6 million superyacht sunk after it went up in flames in the UK on the Torquay harbourside.

The 85ft vessel was consumed by fire , with thick black smoking billowing into the sky.

Seized Russian superyacht to be sold at first auction of Ukraine war

The yacht reportedly drifted out into the harbour after the fire burnt through ropes securing it to the pier, but the vessel was later secured by the fire service.

A fire service statement revealed that the vessel contained approximately 8000 litres of diesel fuel.

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Weekend rundown: Here's the biggest news you missed this weekend

Friends' sailing adventure ends in a dramatic rescue after a whale sinks their boat in the Pacific

What started as a sailing adventure for one man and three of his friends ended in a dramatic rescue after a giant whale sank his boat, leaving the group stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for hours and with a tale that might just be stranger than fiction.

Rick Rodriguez and his friends had been on what was meant to be a weekslong crossing to French Polynesia on his sailboat, Raindancer, when the crisis unfolded just over a week ago.

They had been enjoying some pizza for lunch when they heard a loud bang.

"It just happened in an instant. It was just a very violent impact with some crazy-sounding noises and the whole boat shook," Rodriguez told NBC's "TODAY" show in an interview that aired Wednesday.

"It sounded like something broke and we immediately looked to the side and we saw a really big whale bleeding,” he said.

The impact was so severe that the boat's propeller was ruptured and the fiberglass around it shattered, sending the vessel into the ocean.

The friends are lucky to be alive after a giant whale sank their boat as they sailed across the Pacific Ocean.

As water began to rush into the boat, the group snapped into survival mode.

"There was just an incredible amount of water coming in, very fast," Rodriguez said.

Alana Litz, a member of the crew, described the ordeal as "surreal."

"Even when the boat was going down, I felt like it was just a scene out of a movie. Like everything was floating," she said.

Rodriguez and his friends acted fast, firing off mayday calls and text messages as they activated a life raft and dinghy.

He said he sent a text message to his brother Roger in Miami and to a friend, Tommy Joyce, who was sailing a "buddy boat" in the area as a safety measure.

“Tommy this is no joke," Rodriguez wrote in a text message. "We hit a whale and the ship went down."

"We are in the life raft," he texted his friend. "We need help *ASAP."

Raindancer sank within about 15 minutes, the group said. Their rescue took much longer that, with the four friends out on the open waters for roughly nine hours before they could be sure they would live to tell the tale.

Peruvian officials picked up the group's distress signal and the U.S. Coast Guard was alerted, with its District 11 in Alameda, California, being in charge of U.S. vessels in the Pacific.

Ultimately, it was another sailing vessel, the Rolling Stones, that came to the group's aid after Joyce shared the incident on a Facebook boat watch group.

Geoff Stone, captain of the Rolling Stones, said they were about 60 or 65 miles away when his crew members realized that their vessel was the closest boat.

After searching the waters, they were eventually able to locate the group of friends.

“We were shocked that we found them," Stone said.

The timing of the rescue, which unfolded at night, appeared to be critical as the Stones' crew members were able to see the light from the dinghy bobbing in the darkness.

Rodriguez lost his boat and the group of friends said they also lost their passports and many of their possessions, but they said they were just grateful to be alive.

The severity of the injuries sustained by the whale were not immediately clear.

Kate Wilson, a spokeswoman for the International Whaling Commission, told The Washington Post, which first reported the story, that there have been about 1,200 reports of whales and boats colliding since a worldwide database launched in 2007.

Collisions causing significant damage are rare, the Coast Guard told the outlet. It noted that the last rescue attributed to impact from a whale was the sinking of a 40-foot J-Boat in 2009 off Baja California. The crew in that incident was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter.

One member of Raindancer's sailing crew, Bianca Brateanu, said the more recent incident, however harrowing, left her feeling more confident in her survival skills.

“This experience made me realize how, you know how capable we are, and how, how skilled we are to manage and cope with situations like this,” she said.

In an Instagram post, Rodriguez said he would remember his boat "for the rest of my life."

"What’s left of my home, the pictures on the wall, belongings, pizza in the oven, cameras, journals, all of it, will forever be preserved by the sea," he said.

"As for me, I had a temporary mistrust in the ocean. But I’m quickly realizing I’m still the same person," Rodriguez wrote. “I often think about the whale who likely lost its life, but is hopefully ok. I'm not sure what my next move will be. But my attraction to the sea hasn’t been shaken."

sailing yacht sinking

Chantal Da Silva reports on world news for NBC News Digital and is based in London.

Sam Brock is an NBC News correspondent.

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Dramatic video captures the moment superyacht sinks off italian coast.

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Dramatic footage has emerged of the moment a 130-foot superyacht capsized off the Italian coast over the weekend, sinking stern-first into the water.

The video, released by the coast guard, showed the yacht named My Saga struggling against the waves before sinking near the Catanzaro Marina on Saturday.

Video shows the boat listing to one side before sinking.

Officials confirmed that nine people were rescued from the sinking vessel.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Designed by naval architect Tim Heywood , My Saga was built in Italy in 2007. At the time of the incident, the boat was en route from Gallipoli to Milazzo under a Cayman Islands flag.

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Dramatic video captures the moment a massive 40-meter superyacht sank off the coast of Italy

  • A superyacht sunk off the coast of Southern Italy over the weekend.
  • Video of the boat's demise showed the ship sinking stern-first with its bow straight in the air.
  • The Italian Coast Guard rescued nine people from the ship before it submerged.

Insider Today

A superyacht measuring nearly 130 feet sunk off the coast of southern Italy on Saturday, after members of the Italian Coast Guard rescued nine people from the submerging ship.

This weekend, the Italian press reported that the 39.4-meter motor yacht named "My Saga" sunk off the coast of Catanzaro Marina.

Video from the scene shows the massive boat teetering into the water before fully sinking stern-first.

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—Sky News (@SkyNews) August 22, 2022

Sky News reported that worsening weather conditions rendered it impossible for a rescue tugboat to bring the yacht to safety.

An investigation into what caused the ship to sink is underway, the outlet reported. 

The yacht was built in Italy in 2007, according to Super Yacht Times, and was traveling from Gallipoli to Milazzo under a Cayman Islands flag with a full Italian crew when it sunk. 

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DLNR: Grounded yacht scuttled at sea after being ‘successfully’ freed at Honolua Bay

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The grounded luxury yacht ‘Nakoa’ was freed Sunday afternoon after three unsuccessful attempts in two weeks — but now, it’s at the bottom of the ocean.

At around 1 p.m. Sunday, the salvage ship “Kahi” was able to free the 120-ton yacht Nakoa.

Videos revealed a crunching of the yacht’s hull as the tugboat pulled it 90 degrees off the rocky shoreline.

Ideal weather conditions and a 3,300 horsepower tug made the third salvage attempt successful.

Crews were hoping to bring the yacht to Honolulu, but officials said they had to let the ship sink Sunday afternoon in about 800 feet of water.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Hawaii News Now (@hawaiinewsnow)

DLNR’s Chair, Dawn Chang credited the salvage company for their patience and seeing the job through.

As the vessels were leaving, humpback whales were seen escorting the trio out.

“I will tell you, we were all pulling, we were all literally praying,” said Chang. “I think things were in alignment. I think the whales that escorted that vessel out there, also wanted it out.”

City leaders watched as the Nakoa was pulled away.

“All of us up there watching filled up with a big sense of relief,” said Maui County Councilmember Tamara Paltin.

“I’m very grateful to the State of Hawaii for their efforts in finding a salvage company, who was able to do the do their task,” said Mayor Richard Bissen. “The important thing was to get it removed, but the cost I think, has been borne by the taxpayer and that really should be the person responsible.”

The Save Honolua Coalition has been keeping a close eye on the 94-foot yacht since it ran aground near the Honolua-Mokuleia marine sanctuary.

“There is a scar on the shoreline rocks and part of the reef,” said John Carty of the Save Honolua Coalition.

“Let that scar be a reminder to us, that we need to make sure that we all do what we have to do, to make sure this never happens again.”

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

  • Salvage work continues for grounded yacht at Honolua Bay; owner faces hefty fines
  • DLNR: Crews successfully defuel luxury yacht grounded at Honolua Bay
  • Cleanup efforts underway after grounded luxury yacht leaked fuel into Maui bay
  • Maui officials: Luxury yacht that ran aground near marine sanctuary leaked fuel into bay

The state said “aggressively pursue recouping all salvage costs from the owner, in addition to the cost to repair damage to coral reefs and live rock.”

The environmental impact of the sinking is still unclear at this time.

Nearly two weeks ago, crews removed all the fuel and other hazardous materials on board .

DLNR said they’ll return to the location this week to conduct a post-incident damage assessment and work with the Attorney General’s Officer to hold the owner of the yacht accountable.

“Both for the damages to the reef, the environment, all the costs associated with the removal of the vessel, as well as all the administrative costs,” said Chang.

Hawaii News Now reached out to the yacht’s owner for comment and are waiting to hear back.

We’re also waiting to hear from the DLNR on what will happen to the sunken yacht.

Copyright 2023 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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2 rescued from sinking 80-foot yacht off St. Augustine Beach, Florida

sailing yacht sinking

Two people were rescued Saturday after the luxury yacht they were on started sinking three miles off St. Augustine Beach, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.

The boat's operator reportedly told the Coast Guard the 80-foot Atlantis motor yacht took on water after striking an object. St. John's County Fire Rescue said in a Facebook post the yacht struck a dredge pipe piling .

According to the Coast Guard, the yacht's operator activated an emergency position indicating radio beacon which helped validate the vessel’s position.

St. John's County Fire Rescue and St. Augustine Police Department marine units assisted the Coast Guard by responding to the scene and rescuing both occupants from the yacht.

One of the boat's occupants was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries, St. John's County Fire Rescue said.

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our partner agencies for their invaluable assistance during this case," U.S. Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Ricardo Santacana said.

“With the weather improving and mariners heading out onto the water, it's imperative for everyone to verify the presence of all necessary safety equipment aboard their vessel. This ensures that responders, as demonstrated in this case, can swiftly locate you and render assistance when an emergency arises.”

The boat's owner will arrange salvage, the Coast Guard said.

The incident is under investigation.

Boating accidents in Florida

Florida led the nation in registered boats , with 1,035,911 registered in 2023, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife report.

Collisions with fixed objects were named as the leading cause in 659 boating accidents reported in Florida in 2023. The accidents resulted in 56 fatalities.

More recently, 15-year-old Ella Riley Adler was struck and killed by a boat in a hit-and-run while wakeboarding in Key Biscayne on May 11, 2024.

The driver of the boat was later identified as 78-year-old Carlos Guillermo Alonso , of Coral Gables. Alonso's attorney told USA TODAY he did not know he struck anyone on the water.

Killer whales ram, sink boats: Scientists now may know why, report says

Florida boating safety tips

Florida Fish and Wildlife has these safety recommendations for Florida boaters:

  • Wear a life jacket
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Designate a sober driver
  • Take a Boating Safety Course
  • Check your safety gear
  • File a Float Plan
  • Watch the Weather
  • Stay with the boat
  • Report boating violations and dangerous or irresponsible vessel operation to the Wildlife Alert Program .
  • Know and follow the rules .

Support local journalism by  subscribing to a Florida news organization .

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How to stay afloat: Top tips for rescuing a sinking yacht

Will Bruton

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  • January 7, 2020

Will Burton explains how preparing your yacht for the worst-case scenario can help you stay afloat for longer

how-to-stay-afloat-Catalina-41-Coolabah-sinks-pacific-credit-john-jennings

The Catalina 41 Coolabah sank within hours of striking an object in the Pacific. Photo: John Jennings

Twenty miles south of Salcombe, in deteriorating weather, Timothy Meo realised that the new 36-footer he was helping to deliver to the Solent was sinking. “The engine compartment was flooded with a lot of water. Initially neither of us could tell where it was coming from.

“We found the rate of ingress reduced when we were making way, so we changed course towards Salcombe, made a Pan Pan call to Falmouth Coastguard and switched on the yacht’s two electric bilge pumps – neither of which appeared to be working.

“We took turns on the manual pump, which did work, but it was exhausting. The Coastguard were keen to send out a lifeboat, but after some time pumping, we eventually felt we were keeping up with the water coming in; so we declined their offer and pressed on.”

how-to-stay-afloat-ensemble-under-bunk-boards-fitted

The deeper the hull breach, the more water is forced in. A 5cm (2in) diameter hole 30cm below the water will let in 11,000 litres in one hour. Move that hole down to 1m, and 20,000 litres of water will flow in

The yacht reached Salcombe safely and the source of water ingress was found to be an incorrectly installed wet exhaust system. Meo is philosophical about his near sinking experience. “We had a thorough handover from the yacht builder, a reputable company, and left with no reservations about making the passage.

“The assumption that a brand new boat is safe, though, is a dangerous one. We later found that the electric bilge pumps didn’t work because they were clogged up with shavings and dirt from the build process. A high pumping capacity, that’s been thoroughly tested, is absolutely essential. The boat being a unique design certainly contributed to the ‘unknowns’ about it. All of us learned from the experience, including the manufacturer. It could have been much worse.”

While it is rare, but not impossible, for a yacht’s hull to fail, mechanical failure is a more likely cause of sinking on a modern yacht. David Greening, a small craft surveyor, explains: “In a modern GRP yacht, the first three things I would always look at are mechanical.

“One: the condition of the propeller shaft seal. Two: the rudder stock, and three: the keel. Looking at both the fastenings and supporting structures. Failures in these three areas are the most likely points of failure, which can be caused by poor design or maintenance.”

Article continues below…

sailing yacht sinking

Mayday, we’re sinking – crew rescued from the ARC yacht Magritte as she goes down

Early evening on 3 December Steve Arnold was awoken by his friend and crewmate Andy Mills, who had noticed water…

Alexander Grefrath's BM39 Noah, which sank during the ARC rally in November 2016

Three crew and two children rescued in the Atlantic from sinking ARC yacht

A crew of five taking part in the ARC transatlantic rally has been rescued after their yacht began sinking yesterday.…

As yachts have become more comfortably equipped, the number of seacocks has increased. With each comes an inherent point of weakness. “They should be inspected annually for signs of corrosion, rust and dezincification. The hoses should be double jubilee-clipped and have tapered soft-wood plugs in case they fail,” adds Greening.

So what should you do if you find your yacht is taking on water? First, you should try to determine where it is coming from. Second, reduce the rate of ingress. And third, get the water that has come in back out: in the most efficient way possible.

These fundamentals of damage control are something taught to every sailor at the Royal Navy’s Phoenix Damage Control Instructional Unit in Portsmouth. A multimillion-pound sinking ship simulator where all Royal Navy personal are trained, very realistically, in the fundamentals of how to stay afloat. Whilst there are some differences between a steel warship and a sailing yacht, they are battle-tested principles that can be used on any boat.

how-to-stay-afloat-manual-bilge-pump

A manual bilge pump with good leverage is a useful addition, but what is your yacht’s overall pumping capacity?

Lieutenant Rob Manson, who runs the training facility, explains that they teach sailors to think and act fast. “With every minute that passes, the situation becomes more complicated. The more water that’s in the hull, the more unstable the vessel can be and the more likely it is to capsize. What we teach is a relatively simple skill set that can be put into practice almost anywhere on board. The training is conducted in seawater, so it focusses the mind!”

What equipment to have on board a yacht to stop it sinking is something that’s best decided after considering what a sinking might actually entail. Sailing rally safety checklists usually include soft wooden plugs for all seacocks, as well as manual and electric bilge pumps – all sensible things to have on board.

However, in recent years the number of yachts that have run into submerged objects, including whales and shipping containers , has increased significantly, posing the question: is being ‘holed’ likely to mean a round hole or more of an irregular gash.

how-to-stay-afloat-2016-arc-yacht-magritte-sinks

Once floorboards and stores are floating – as here on the yacht Magritte shortly before she sank in 2016 – finding and tackling a leak becomes near impossible

One particularly impressive product is Stay Afloat – a flexible waterproof putty that can be jammed into the most inaccessible points and has proven itself to be highly effective.

It can be jammed into a failed stern gland, or seacock, seal along the line of a gash in the hull, or in conjunction with other materials found at hand.

The stern gland remains an Achilles Heel of modern yachts, explains Vyv Cox, a professional yacht engineer. “One of the largest holes in the boat, through which water might penetrate, is the stern tube through which the propeller shaft passes.

This has traditionally been sealed by a packed gland consisting of three or four turns of a woven flexible material such as graphite-impregnated cotton or PTFE. This design is reliable and rarely causes major leaks on failure, but it does have some disadvantages, resulting in the emergence of several patent seal designs.

In the vast majority of cases these are highly reliable and overcome the drips and need for greasing of the traditional type, but their failure can result in considerably greater influx of water.

“Originally, traditional gland types were solidly attached to the tube but the advent of flexible engine mountings dictated that the gland also needed to accommodate shaft movement by being mounted on a length of rubber hose. Fracture or loosening of this hose is potentially the greatest source of leakage.

“Packed glands can be over-tightened quite easily, leading to [the hose’s] disintegration. In some cases there are ‘dogs’ on both the stern tube and gland housing to prevent this. Most patent seal designs, exert far lower frictional drag, making this failure type less likely.”

If circumstances allow, stopping water coming in from the outside of the hull is likely to be more efficient as the water pressure is working with you, not against you. For this, a sail or piece of PVC matting stretched over the hole can prove effective, but only if it can be firmly held in place.

how-to-stay-afloat-ensemble-under-bunk-boards

Under-bunk boards were cut, glued and drilled into place underwater on the catamaran Ensemble after she was holed

Even better is a combination of wood, Stay Afloat, and screws, which can be put together to fashion a serious patch. The essential tool to carry to make this work is an old fashioned hand drill, usable underwater, albeit slowly.

This solution carried the catamaran Ensemble over 800 miles when it was holed on a remote Pacific atoll while at anchor. Nearby cruisers came to Ensemble ’s assistance, including retired engineer Ed Butt, who helped fix a piece of wood to the outside of the hull by diving underwater and driving fixings through the hull.

Interior access to the hull is another consideration, particularly when buying a new yacht. Some modern moulded interiors actually make it quite difficult to get to parts of the hull that might be holed, so the means to break through the interior quickly is an additional consideration. A weighty axe is carried by many offshore cruisers for this purpose.

Under-bunk boards were cut, glued and drilled into place underwater on the catamaran Ensemble after she was holed

An engine driven bilge pump, common on fishing boats, can shift a large quantity of water and isn’t dependent on battery power

Modern yachts are usually equipped with both electric and manual bilge pumps, but surveyors often remark that electric pumps are poorly installed, meaning they are inefficient, while manual pumps would be of little use in an emergency. The sums make difficult reading for anyone with only a standard sized pump on board.

A hole 2.5cm in diameter, 30cm under the waterline, will let in 2,700 litres of water per hour. A 5cm hole in the same position will let in 11,000 litres. Most underwater collision damage occurs even deeper, meaning an even faster ingress of water.

Being able to pump out a large volume of water won’t save your yacht on its own, but it might just buy you enough time to affect a temporary repair, or abandon the yacht in a controlled way. So how do you go about increasing your yacht’s pump-out capacity significantly?

Something that’s common on even small commercial fishing boats is a main engine-driven bilge pump. Not reliant on electrical power to run (your yacht’s batteries could quickly find themselves underwater) and with a very high pumping capacity when compared to an electric pump, they operate directly from the engine.

Another option is fitting an oversized electric pump that’s rated for continuous use, or better, having one you can deploy quickly in any part of the boat on a long lead. Another tool Ed Butt used, two 4,000 gallon per hour (gph) pumps strapped together, made an enormous difference, buying enough time to make repairs with help from others in the same anchorage.

how-to-stay-afloat-ensemble-water-pumps

Twin 4,000 gallon per hour pumps kept water ingress at bay for long enough to effect a sturdy repair on Ed Butt’s catamaran Ensemble

The obvious and unexplained

Despite our best efforts, incidents in the past, such as the unexplained sinking of ARC yacht Magritte in December 2015 , demonstrate that well prepared and equipped yachts can and do sink without explanation.

In parallel, the risk of hitting a semi-submerged object, such as debris, sealife or a shipping container, would appear to have increased. So while preparing your yacht to avoid sinking, consider making preparations at the same time to abandon in a matter of seconds rather than minutes.

Pan Pan or Mayday?

In the event of finding out that you are taking on water, letting the Coastguard and other yachts know about your situation is wise. A Mayday should only be used if life is in ‘imminent danger.’ If you are sinking rapidly and anticipate abandoning the vessel very soon, send a Mayday.

A Pan Pan says ‘it’s serious, we need help, but there isn’t a grave or imminent danger to the boat or those on board’. Should things deteriorate rapidly, they will already have information about your position and situation.

Finding the source of a leak

  • If you are sinking, locating where the water is coming from can be challenging, particularly if the source is below the waterline.
  • First check that it is definitely seawater. A failed hot water tank valve on a larger yacht will result in a lot of water in the bilge! While it’s not generally advisable to taste bilge water, in an emergency, this is a quick way of determining whether it’s salty or fresh.
  • Work logically through all of your boat’s through-hull fittings from bow to stern. A laminated diagram should be kept with the yacht’s documents. Be sure to include the stern gland.
  • Pump as much water out as possible, this may well reveal where the water is coming from.

About the author

William Bruton, 27, grew up in Lancashire and learned to sail in 2012. He now works as a freelance skipper all over the world, specialising in Oyster yachts.

First published in the August 2017 edition of Yachting World.

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Video: 2 rescued from sinking boat caught in ‘rough’ vilano beach waters.

VILANO BEACH, Fla. – Two boaters were saved from a sinking 55-foot boat that reached “rough” conditions Wednesday in Vilano Beach, according to St. Johns County Fire Rescue.

A St. Johns County Marine Rescue crew member noticed the boat in distress around 3:15 p.m.

On Wednesday, June 19th, the SJSO Air Unit located two people on board a sinking 55-foot boat near the Vilano Inlet. The waves were rough. Both passengers put on life jackets, jumped into the water, and waited until rescue arrived. The response to the area and rescue of the two… pic.twitter.com/w1IlRFAhne — St. Johns County Sheriff's Office (@TeamSJSO) June 21, 2024

Water started taking over the boat after it ran aground on the north side of the Vilano Inlet.

The boaters sent a mayday call and got off the boat with their life jackets. The current pulled them out to sea, and SJCFR located them about 200 yards from the sinking boat.

The boaters were evaluated and will be okay.

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64 people missing and many rescued from 2 shipwrecks off Italy. At least 11 have died

Sixty-four people were missing at sea after a shipwreck off the Italian southern coast on Monday, United Nations’ agencies said in a statement. In the shipwreck, which took place about 200 kilometres (125 miles) off Calabria, a boat that had set off from Turkey eight days earlier caught fire and overturned, the U.N. agencies said, citing survivors. The Italian Red Cross said overall 12 people were rescued although one person died. (AP video shot by Valeria Ferraro)

Some of the 11 migrants saved from the sea after their sailboat sank in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and Greece early Monday, June 17, 2024, are assisted in Roccella Ionica, southern Italy where they were brought by the Italian Coast Guard. (AP Photo/Valeria Ferraro)

Some of the 11 migrants saved from the sea after their sailboat sank in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and Greece early Monday, June 17, 2024, are assisted in Roccella Ionica, southern Italy where they were brought by the Italian Coast Guard. (AP Photo/Valeria Ferraro)

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This picture taken early Monday, June 17, 2024 by the Italian Coast Guard shows a sail boat used by migrants half sank in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and Greece early Monday, June 17, 2024. 12 survivors were brought to the Italian port-city of Roccella Ionica but one died on arrival, while searches for some 60 more occupants are being carried out. (Italian Coast Guard via AP, Ho)

ROME (AP) — Sixty-four people were missing in the Mediterranean Sea and several were rescued after their ship wrecked off Italy’s southern coast Monday, United Nations’ agencies said in a statement.

In a separate shipwreck, rescue workers evacuated dozens of suspected migrants but found 10 bodies trapped below the deck of a wooden boat off Italy’s tiny Lampedusa island, the German aid group Resqship wrote on Monday on the X social media platform.

The boat that wrecked about 200 kilometers (125 miles) off Calabria had set off from Turkey eight days earlier, but caught fire and overturned, the U.N. agencies said, citing survivors.

The search-and-rescue operation started following a mayday call by a French boat, the Italian coast guard said in a statement. The boat was sailing in a border area where Greece and Italy carry out search-and-rescue operations. The survivors and people still missing at sea came from Iran, Syria and Iraq, the U.N. agencies said.

The Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center immediately diverted two merchant vessels sailing nearby to the scene of the rescue. Assets from the European border and coast guard agency Frontex also helped.

The bodies of some of the 64 migrants missing in the Mediterranean Sea after their ship wrecked off Italy's southern coast are disembarked at the Italian southern port-city of Roccella Ionica, early Wednesday, June 19, 2024. U.N. agencies said the boat that wrecked off Calabria had set off from Turkey eight days earlier and caught fire and overturned. Eleven people were rescued Monday, but one died soon after they were brought to land. (AP Photo/Valeria Ferraro)

The survivors were brought to the Calabrian port of Roccella Jonica, where they were disembarked and entrusted to the care of medical personnel. One of the 11 rescued migrants died soon after, the coast guard said.

In the second shipwreck, the crew aboard Resqship’s boat, the Nadir, found 61 people on the wooden boat, which was full of water.

“Our crew was able to evacuate 51 people, two of whom were unconscious,” it added. “The 10 dead were in the flooded lower deck of the boat.”

Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

sailing yacht sinking

Southern Fried Science

Over 15 years of ocean science and conservation online

sailing yacht sinking

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Experts respond to concerns over the relative risks of electric boats and shark encounters

A joint statement from David Shiffman Consulting, Inc and Blackbeard Biologic: Science and Environmental Advisors

A 2024 presidential hopeful recently expressed concerns regarding the relative risks of electric boats and shark attacks, stating that:

“What would happen if the boat sank from its weight, and you have this tremendously powerful battery, and the battery is now underwater and there’s a shark that’s approximately 10 yards over there … by the way, a lot of shark attacks lately. Do I get electrocuted or do I jump over by the shark?”

In response, Dr. Thaler, a deep-sea ecologist and marine technologist, would like to emphasize that the risk of electrocution from high-capacity batteries in the unfortunate condition where an electric vehicle becomes submerged is extremely low. Electricity follows the path of least resistance and the human body offers greater resistance than surrounding seawater. High-capacity batteries that become compromised in seawater will experience rapid discharge, producing significant heat that could present an elevated fire risk. “Batteries submerged in seawater pose limited danger of electrocution,” says Dr. Thaler. “We are tiny resistors in a sea of more conductive fluid.”

In conjunction, Dr. Shiffman, an expert on shark ecology, reiterates that shark bite incidents are exceedingly rare and there is no indication that there has been a disproportionate increase in shark attacks recently. “More people die taking selfies than are killed by sharks, and more people are bitten on the New York City subway each year than are bitten by sharks.”

Dr. Thaler adds that “while low-voltage batteries like the 12-volt systems found in almost all powered vehicles are connected to a chassis ground, which can result in electric shock when contact is made with exposed metal surfaces, the high-voltage batteries found in electric boats and electric cars use a floating ground, which is isolated from the body of the vehicle. The risk of shock is lessened in a system using a floating ground compared to one using a chassis ground.”

Dr. Shiffman also adds that “despite being misunderstood and demonized, sharks are not only not a threat to you and your family but are incredibly important to healthy functioning coastal ecosystems that humans depend on for livelihoods and food security. We are unfortunately in danger of losing many species to extinction. These animals need our understanding and support, not our fear.”

Regarding whether he would prefer to be in a boat with the above candidate or in the water with a shark, Dr. Shiffman replied “I choose the shark. Every time.” Dr. Thaler concurs.

The above statements do not apply to freshwater bodies like lakes and rivers, where water has greater electrical resistance and fewer sharks.

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One thought on “ for immediate release: experts respond to concerns over the relative risks of electric boats and shark encounters ”.

Thank you for this hilarious article. I knew the effect of an electric boat “sinking under its own weight” is also wrong: the boat displaces its weight in water, which is why It floats in the first place.

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team building-lost at sea

You have chartered a yacht with three friends, for the holiday trip of a lifetime across the Atlantic Ocean. Because none of you have any previous sailing experience, you have hired an experienced skipper and two-person crew.

Unfortunately in mid Atlantic a fierce fire breaks out in the ships galley and the skipper and crew have been lost whilst trying to fight the blaze. Much of the yacht is destroyed and is slowly sinking. Your location is unclear because vital navigational and radio equipment have been damaged in the fire. Your best estimate is that you are many hundreds of miles from the nearest landfall.

You and your friends have managed to save 15 items, undamaged and intact after the fire. In addition, you have salvaged a four man rubber life craft and a box of matches. Rank the items correctly and you will survive until rescue comes. Make too many mistakes and... Download (pdf) the complete 'Lost at Sea' team building game.

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Posted by Grahame Knox in Team building games | Permalink

Yes thanks a lot for sharing - v excited to do this w my team cheers

Posted by: steve b | 09/11/2016 at 11:53

This is a great game because it forces everyone in the team to work together. It fosters trust and friendship among the team, which will most likely be working together a majority of the time. By having games and tasks like this for teams to complete, it better helps them perform and succeed at their job.

Posted by: Stephan Bashkir | 31/03/2015 at 21:55

Had done this test a decade ago. The trainer used this game to demonstrate the concept of synergy and leadership quality. First, soled the game individually. Then formed teams and selected (by members) one leader for each team. Team collectively solved the problem. Then compared the individual scores with team score. In all cases, team score was better than average scores of team members. Also done several permutations like comparing the best individual score among team members to combined score, leader's score to combined score etc. A lot was there to learn from such games.

Posted by: Krishnakumar | 25/07/2013 at 11:35

Great resource for indoor team building.

Posted by: Toni | 07/07/2013 at 06:01

There's a couple of ideas here that I have not seen before, so I'm adding them to my repertoire asap. Thanks Grahame...

Posted by: Mark Collard - ice-breakers & team-building games expert | 25/05/2013 at 09:09

You have published a fantastic resource.

Posted by: www.gforcebc.com.au | 06/01/2013 at 07:56

This was an awesome project to do with my class mates.

Posted by: Haley | 03/01/2013 at 00:49

Hi there, I enjoy reading through your article post. I wanted to write a little comment to support you.

Posted by: work in cruise | 23/12/2012 at 08:23

It was so funny today with my team.

Posted by: Account Deleted | 06/02/2012 at 12:23

This worked very well, thank you!

Posted by: Tobin Crenshaw | 03/11/2011 at 22:39

I'm the head of the non-profit English Club in Novosibirsk State University (Russia). Your games is pretty well written and I used it in our meetings several times with success. I had known some of these games before due I participated in Intel's trainings but when I tried to find description of these games your web-site was the only one where I could get it for free. Thank you for you work.

Posted by: Kirill Lykov | 16/05/2010 at 06:21

Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to put together such a wonderful resource for us all to access. God bless you!

Posted by: Kishi | 26/11/2009 at 10:41

What a wonderful find. Have just started a youth group for tweens - this site is amazing. God Bless.

Posted by: Carol Dubery | 17/08/2009 at 12:09

only one word to describe this site - Awesome!! may God bless you for the efforts you have put in. - kenman

Posted by: kenman | 13/04/2009 at 23:02

If only I knew about this site while I was volunteering in Sunday school lol. It would have made things much less painful

Posted by: Lukewarm | 14/02/2009 at 23:27

@Lukewarm. Thanks for your comment. I write all the discussion starters, talks and reflections myself. The icebreakers and team builder ideas have been collected over 25+ years in youth ministry and come from a variety of public sources. I've just tried to put them together in a way which is helpful to youth workers. At least that's the plan :-)

Posted by: Grahame | 13/02/2009 at 23:09

This is such a great resource. Do you come up with these yourself? Because they are great.

Posted by: Lukewarm | 13/02/2009 at 21:36

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2 rescued after boat sinks in Haulover Inlet

Andrea Torres , Digital Journalist

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Two people needed rescuing after a boat took on water on Saturday in the Haulover Inlet.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue personnel with the Ocean Rescue Lifeguard units responded to the “hazardous situation” shortly after 1:20 p.m., near the 10800 block of Collins Avenue.

MDFR personnel asked boaters to remember to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejacket, have a VHF radio, and all equipment “in working order.”

Local 10 News Assignment Desk Editor Joyce Grace Ortega contributed to this report.

Copyright 2024 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.

About the Author

Andrea torres.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.

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Fiji works to recover patrol boat that ran aground after being gifted by Australia

A boat sits in the ocean with its rear covered by water against a blue sky

A mission to salvage a boat that ran aground on its maiden voyage after Australia gifted it to Fiji has begun, with efforts underway to minimise any environmental impacts including a potential oil spill.

Fiji's navy said on Saturday that favourable weather conditions would assist the recovery of RFNS Puamau, which hit a reef on Fiji's remote Lau group of islands on Monday, during its first patrol.

It said in a statement that Australia had sent specialised recovery equipment that would be used to extract the boat from the reef, with a second vessel set to transport the gear to the site.

A boat sits in the ocean in a strait between two islands with its rear submerged by water and two boats alongside it

"The Republic of Fiji Navy reaffirms its commitment to minimising environmental impact during the de-fuelling process now underway," it said.

"Measures to mitigate a potential oil spill have been deployed, and navy divers and engineers on scene continue to monitor the situation."

A boat sits in the ocean with its rear partly submerged by water

The crew of RFNS Puamau returned to Suva after being collected by another vessel, RFNS Savenaca, on Saturday morning.

There are no reports of injuries due to the grounding incident but the extent of the damage to the boat remains unclear.

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The event is a major embarrassment for Fiji's navy, which accepted the vessel at a ceremony in Perth in March.

The Guardian-class patrol boat is a popular choice with Pacific countries, with many using them to survey and protect vast marine zones.

As part of the Pacific Maritime Security Program, 19 boats have been so far handed over to Pacific nations.

However, the Australian government has admitted the boats are flawed, with Pacific Minister Pat Conroy revealing the vessels have some defects including potential exhaust issues.

Two of the Guardian-class boats were destroyed by cyclones that hit Tuvalu last year.

Another boat was gifted to Samoa after another Guardian-class boat was damaged beyond repair there in 2021.  

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Opinion Is Donald Trump okay?

His story about hypothetically being electrocuted is another glimpse into a mind that is unwell.

sailing yacht sinking

It is irresponsible to obsess over President Biden’s tendency to mangle a couple of words in a speech while Donald Trump is out there sounding detached from reality. Biden, who is old , at least makes sense. Trump, who also is old , rants like someone you’d cross the street to avoid.

We in the media have failed by becoming inured to Trump’s verbal incontinence — not just the rapid-fire lies and revenge-seeking threats, but also the frightening glimpses into a mind that is, evidently, unwell. In 2016, Trump said outrageous things at his campaign rallies to be entertaining. In 2024, his tangents raise serious questions about his mental fitness.

His rally on Sunday in Las Vegas offered a grim smorgasbord of examples, but the obvious standout (and not in a good way) is the story he told about being aboard a hypothetical electric-powered boat . He posits that the battery would be so heavy that it would cause the craft to sink, and he relates his purported conversation with a knowledgeable mariner about this scenario. Bear with me, but it’s worth reading the passage in full:

“I say, ‘What would happen if the boat sank from its weight, and you’re in the boat, and you have this tremendously powerful battery, and the battery’s now underwater, and there’s a shark that’s approximately 10 yards over there?’ “By the way, a lot of shark attacks lately, do you notice that? Lot of sharks. I watched some guys justifying it today: ‘Well they weren’t really that angry, they bit off the young lady’s leg because of the fact that they were not hungry but they misunderstood who she was.’ These people are crazy. He said, ‘There’s no problem with sharks, they just didn’t really understand a young woman swimming.’ No, really got decimated, and other people, too, a lot of shark attacks. “So I said, ‘There’s a shark 10 yards away from the boat, 10 yards, or here. Do I get electrocuted if the boat is sinking, water goes over the battery, the boat is sinking? Do I stay on top of the boat and get electrocuted, or do I jump over by the shark and not get electrocuted?’ Because I will tell you, he didn’t know the answer. “He said, ‘You know, nobody’s ever asked me that question.’ I said, ‘I think it’s a good question. I think there’s a lot of electric current coming through that water.’ But you know what I’d do if there was a shark or you get electrocuted? I’ll take electrocution every single time. I’m not getting near the shark. So we’re going to end that, we’re going to end it for boats, we’re going to end it for trucks.”

Trucks? He’s actually talking about the transition to electric vehicles , which he has vowed to halt. That entire hallucination is part of Trump’s rationale for one of his major policy positions.

Trump has told the electrocution-or-shark story at least once before , at a rally in Iowa last October. Stormy Daniels , the adult-film actress who received $130,000 in hush money to keep quiet about her sexual encounter with Trump — a payment that led to the former president’s conviction on 34 felony charges — has said that Trump is “obsessed with sharks, terrified of sharks.” Way back in 2013, he declared on Twitter: “Sharks are last on my list — other than perhaps the losers and haters of the World!”

The White House press corps would be in wolf pack mode if Biden were in the middle of a speech and suddenly veered into gibberish about boats and sharks. There would be front-page stories questioning whether the president, at 81, was suffering from dementia; and the op-ed pages would be filled with thumb-suckers about whether Vice President Harris and the Cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment . House Republicans would already have scheduled hearings on Biden’s mental condition and demanded he take a cognitive test.

The tendency with Trump, at 77, is to say he’s “just being Trump.” But he’s like this all the time.

Also during the Las Vegas speech, Trump tried to deny the allegation by one of his White House chiefs of staff, retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, that he refused in 2018 to visit an American military cemetery in France, saying it was filled with “suckers” and “losers.” Trump told the crowd on Sunday that “only a psycho or a crazy person or a very stupid person” would say such a thing while “I’m standing there with generals and military people in a cemetery.”

But he wasn’t “standing there” with anybody. He never went to the cemetery .

Except in his mind, perhaps, which is a much bigger problem than Biden fumbling a name or garbling a sentence.

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