The Cruising Network Help Single-Hander Transatlantic Sailor in Trouble

Ship to Shore Mail Forwarding service never thought they would be involved in helping assist a vessel in distress mid Atlantic, but when British single-hander Joe Shepherd put Lindsay Trotter of Ship to Shore Mail Forwarding down as a contact, that is exactly what they became.

Published 3 years ago

Joe left St. Maarten on 22 June aboard his 12m British-flagged yacht, returning to the UK single-handed. Mid-Atlantic he got into trouble when he started having engine problems and damaged his jib.

Finding herself as a go-between with Joe and the Boston Coast Guard as Joe’s difficulties became more severe, Lindsay reached out to Seven Seas Cruising Association and the Ocean Cruising Club to appeal for help from the cruising community. As the Atlantic crossing season is pretty much over, there were no yachts out there to render assistance, so the cruising net pulled together to give Joe support and assistance. 

Karen Nettles, Joan Conover and Glenn Tuttle of the SSCA, Alex Blackwell of the OCC and Duncan Sweet of Mid Atlantic Yacht Services in the Azores, all worked together over the weeks that followed to help and support Joe as he made his way towards the Azores.

Alex communicated daily with solo sailor Joe (who is possibly in his 80’s), who not only had his jib halyard stuck and jib torn, but was low on fuel when his engine died, plus he was running out of food. His vessel DellaMyra was floating mid-Atlantic with no wind for many weeks but his “shore crew” of volunteers helped as much as they could with routing advice to find wind, jury rig suggestions, engine trouble shooting and moral support.

On board Joe only had a Spot device for communications, limited to 140 characters including the email address. Through the USCG, two merchant ships helped deliver additional fuel and food to Joe and Duncan Sweet of MAYS tried to help with engine repair advice and suggestions. Jo continued sailing slowly towards the Azores under main alone and Lindsay updated everyone daily with position reports.

On 12 August, 178 nautical miles (about 330 kilometres) west of the island of Faial, with food shortages, no engine and sailing under main only in light winds, Jo requested assistance via MRCC Ponta Delgada as once again he was running very low on food.

The Portuguese Navy oceanic patrol vessel Sines was immediately engaged to provide support, including logistical assistance and engine repair. With the engine now fixed, Joe began motoring steadily towards Horta.

On Saturday 15th August, three weeks after Lindsay first appealed for help, Joe safely entered the Port of Horta and dropped anchor at 03:00 UTC. Joe and his un-official support team, breathed a sigh of relief. With assistance from the USCG, Marinha Portuguesa and MRCC DELGADA, NRP Sines, the OCC, the SSCA and Ship to Shore, Joe had finally completed his challenging transatlantic voyage safely.

A very happy ending to a nightmare crossing for Joe and a wonderful demonstration of how cruisers help cruisers.

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