June 7, 2017
The schooner Sorca foundered 180 miles south-east of Nova Scotia while on a voyage to Bermuda. Sorca had made the passage several times under the command of her owner Rick Welsford. After days of rough weather and headwinds, which were driving the yacht ever further east, the skipper and crew decided they’d rather head back to Nova Scotia to wait for better weather.
Sorca was built by Murray Stevens on 2nd Peninsula near Lunenburg in 1978. She was 67’ overall and drew 7’. Constructed of mahogany and oak she had made many successful passages, including numerous Atlantic crossings and most recently a voyage to the Caribbean which we featured in CYOB.
Although they had been through some hard slogging there was no sign of trouble until they put Sorca on the starboard tack and headed west towards home. The crew came and told Rick they had a problem. Water was accumulating fast in the forward compartment. They quickly checked all through hulls and although they had access to about 90% of the hull, they could not find the source of the leak. Very quickly it became apparent the pumps could not keep ahead of the water. When water began to flood the engine room with the flywheel spraying water it was time to consider their next course of action. Rick concluded rescue was the only option so the inReach satellite communicator was activated and with about a half hour contact had been established with both the Joint Search Co-ordination Centre in Halifax and the Coast Guard. Although both a Hercules aircraft and a Cormorant helicopter were dispatched, as well a Coast Guard ship, it was unlikely the schooner would be afloat when they arrived.
Rick had training from Survival Systems in Halifax so he was able to lay out the plans for deploying the liferaft should that be required. “Everything was working the way it was supposed to and it never crossed my mind to me there would be a bad outcome.” In the end, a cargo ship bound for New Orleans responded the SOS and took the crew off. Their last sight of Sorca was of her slowly slipping below the waves.
It is a sad loss for her owner to lose such a fine schooner, but it main story here is the successful rescue of the crew. This is due to the excellent search and rescue resources available, the boat being properly equipped with both safety and rescue communications equipment and having a skipper who was experienced, kept his cool and kept his crew well briefed as to what was needed.