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Anatomy of a tragedy at sea

Published on July 21st, 2022

by George Day, Bluewater Sailing
The following account was written by veteran cruiser Sheldon Stuchell based on reports from the two crew aboard the cruising boat Escape and official Coast Guard reports.

While the incident and the loss of the skipper and his wife, Germans Karl and Annamarie Frank, are alarming, we bring you this report not to be sensational but because the detail that Sheldon is able to provide shows just how quickly a situation at sea can go from normal to a tragedy in a split second, even to experienced sailors who were doing everything in a seamanlike fashion.

At the end of this story, we will post some thoughts, but we will not second guess the skipper and his wife; they were experienced sailors who knew what they were doing.

This is the personal accounting of the tragedy on S/V Escape by the crew.

On the 2nd of May, 2022, the owners of S/V Escape posted on a crew service web-site, looking for crew to sail with them from Bermuda to Halifax. The responding crew (1 USCG licensed captain; 1 with over fifteen years of sailing experience) had met Annemarie and Karl the year before at a boat show and responded as interested in being crew.

After exchanging emails, and a few video chats, the volunteer crew were invited to help crew the 4-5 day passage to Nova Scotia.

Escape, a Bordeaux 66 built by CNB, had sailed to Bermuda from St. Martin days later than initially anticipated – delays waiting for parts and servicing the watermaker. This meant they missed an opportunity to participate in a Salty Dawg Spring Rally and would be sailing as an individual boat.

After tropical storm Alex had passed through, there was a narrow weather window between two low pressure systems that Karl and his weather router identified as safe to sail from Bermuda to Nova Scotia. Karl decided on Tuesday evening to set sail Thursday morning and informed the crew they needed to arrive in Bermuda by Wednesday. – Full report

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