French Polynesia: Morning Dove Lost on Tuamotu Reef

At roughly 8 p.m. Tuesday 3 May, what should have been an easy inter-island passage turned tragic, as the Alaska-based Amel 46 ketch Morning Dove — one of 183 boats registered with the Pacific Puddle Jump fleet — struck a submerged reef in the Tuamotus, while en route from Apataki atoll to Rangiroa, a passage of about 80 miles from entrance to entrance.

Published 8 years ago, updated 5 years ago

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This report from Latitude 38:

Owner Bruce Moroney, 67, explains, “Morning Dove was motoring in no wind and light seas… It was dark and there was no moon. I was in the cockpit monitoring the chart plotter and radar, which showed no hazards. With no warning we hit something. We could see the reef from the cockpit, we were lodged on a reef. …I tried to reverse with no effect. Within 10 minutes conditions became extreme. The surf was not big, but the power pounded us; the hull and diesel tank breached. We were in water and diesel up to our knees with surf pounding. The boat was lying on the reef, and eventually on her side. The EPIRB was activated, and a mayday was put out via SSB/VHF. Within 15 minutes the radios were underwater.”

As explained in a video on the boat’s blog site, early in the crossing all aboard had wisely rehearsed which tasks each crew member would be responsible for in case of an emergency. “We had our ditch plan… Life raft out, ditch kit out, portable radios, GPS and extra water. The Dove was getting pounded and with the seas around us she was still our best bet, we were ready.

“As the incoming tide and surf continued to push the vessel 50-75 yards farther onto the reef, we took refuge on the deck high side, away from rigging and mast, should they fail.” At roughly 2 a.m. a French Navy helicopter arrived, whose crew hoisted the four survivors aboard unharmed and flew them to Rangiroa. They are now on their way home to Alaska, no doubt with heavy hearts. “Needless to say, this is an experience none of us will soon forget,” says Moroney, who is a pilot and past participant in the Iditarod Sled Race.

This morning we’ve been informed by cruisers in Apataki that an effort is being made to extract the hull from the reef and bring her into the Apataki Carénage (boatyard).

It’s worth noting that during the 20+ years that we’ve been reporting on the annual Pacific Puddle Jump migration from the West Coast of the Americas to French Polynesia, we can recall only one boat that was abandoned at sea before making its initial landfall. Other incidents of injury or boat damage have occurred near shore. So, as we are often reminded, regardless where you sail, hazards are generally fewer in mid-ocean than near shore.

In any case, we wish Bruce and Diana Moroney the best of luck in whatever they tackle next.

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  1. February 6, 2019 at 7:16 AM
    Data Entry5 says:

    Reports say, “It happened at 15’25 S, 146’42’1 W on the Arutua atoll.”

  2. February 6, 2019 at 7:16 AM
    Data Entry5 says:

    I have been in contact with owner Bruce Moroney and he doesn’t have a Lat/Long, but says it was on the SSW side of Apataki Atoll.

  3. February 6, 2019 at 7:16 AM
    Data Entry5 says:

    This is the second place this article appeared and I do not yet know that Lat-Long of this reef. If anyone has it please post it!

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