Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ham Radio, Maritime Rescue, Spraydust, Tom Morgan

This story relates to the role of radio hams in maritime events, in this case it was Tom Morgan in trouble near Tristan. Event is recounted in the words of Graham Griggs, who recently took over the lead of SA Maritime Net from Allistair.
Yacht crew rescued. Spraydust

I first heard from Tom and Sue Morgan by email about 6 months ago when Tom sent me an email informing me that they would be sailing from Salvador Brazil to Cape Town with one crew member Chris Cadwell and that I should listern out for them.
At that stage I asked them to email me all their information in regard the their yacht “Spray dust”, crew etc, which they did, never thinking that I would need it.
Our first ham radio contact was on the 3 February 2011 at 13:40 SAST at that time they were at 16South and 36West just to the South East of Salvador.
I then kept daily contact with them getting their position and weather conditions and giving them a 4-day wind forecast. All went well until the 22nd February when Tom told me that they had a broken fore stay and asked it I could phone Associated Rigging in Cape Town and ask them a whole list of questions which he gave me. I asked Tom to stand by on frequency while I phoned them. To cut a long story short and after many phone calls back and forth to Tom and the riggers Tom had all the answers he needed. The problem was that they would have to go up the mast to effect the necessary repairs and due to the fact that they were in very strong wind and 4-5m sea swells this was not going to be possible. I told Tom that the winds were going to go up to gail force within the next 8 to 10 hours and that it would remain strong for the next 4 days. Tom at this stage was still hopeful and in good spirits. On the morning of 24 February I received an email from Andy the Chief Radio Officer on Tristan da Cunha Island informing me that Tom “Spraydust” had requested assistance from him and that they required a rescue. When I called Tom at our usual time 13:40 SAST Tom confirmed that they were needing an urgent rescue as the mast with out the fore stay was under severe stress and they feared it may break. I asked Tom to stand by on frequency whilst I phoned the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) to find out if they had received the request. Mark at MRCC told me that he had received it from Andy on Tristan and that he had sent a request to the Brazilian MRCC who in turn had sent it on to the Argentina military for action but they had passed it on to Uruguay Military as Tom was in their area of responsibility. Mark had not heard anything else. I gave Mark all the yachts information required to pass on.
I called Tom and told him the status quo. And also give him an update on the weather, it did not look good. I arranged to call him again at 14:30 to give him an update.
I contacted MRCC and told them when I would next call Tom and asked them to ask the Uruguay Military to call at the same time on our ham radio frequency so they could talk to Tom them selves. When I called to at 14:30 I told him that I had requested the Uruguay Military to come up on our frequency we both called but heard nothing. I took Tom’s Position and weather and arranged to call him again at 20:30 SAST. I emailed Tom position to the MRCC and again asked them to ask the Uruguay Military to come on frequency at 20:30 SAST or 18:30 UTC.
When I called Tom at 20:30 he sounded very tired, we called for the Uruguay Military and back they came. I stayed in the background while Tom talked to them and explained his problem, they asked him to come back on frequency I 1 hours time. That would be at 21:30 SAST. I told Tom that I would also listen in at that time. When the Uruguay military called him at 21:30 I was on frequency and could hear Tom giving them his position and weather and arranging further contacts. After Tom had ended his conversation with them I call him and arranged to call him again at 10:30 SAST the next day. Later that night I got an email from the MRCC informing me that Tom had drifted back in to Brazilian waters and that a ship Jag Lakshita is sailing from their position to rescue the Spray dust crew. When I called Tom at 10:30 SAST I got no reply. Then I got news from Andy on Tristan that the Ship Jag Lakshita had picked the crew from Spraydust and they were well. This was later confirmed by the MRCC. Jag Lakshita is an oil tanker and is now headed for West Africa. I await further news. Thanks Andy ZD9BV Tristan and all for their help. Yet another successful rescue by HAM RADIO and Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC Cape Town)

Graham Griggs, ZS2ABK, South African Maritime Mobile Net. www.sammnet.org
Brigette is Toms daughter in the UK. Message from Tom & Sue Via Brigette's e-mail home e-mail:

Hi All, We will arrive in Africa in about a week. However, not the way we planned. The main forestay broke at the stemhead and the furling gear broke up. So, we were unable to bring the sail down. After several days, and attempts to bring down the sail, I came to the conclusion that we were doomed to sail downwind and never land, just like the Flying Dutchman! The other problem was the mast was moving and liable to fall down at any time. SO a rescue was initiated throuh the SA Maritime Mobile Net. The MRCC system took over and we were picked up very shortly by the tanker Jag Lakshita. They are treating us wonderfully.

We are well but sad to abandon sucha big part of our lives, and Tom had a whole radio station on board. We will have to start up again (number for the bank etc. all lost in the transfer). Will be in touch as soon as we get back to civilization.
Brgs Sue and Tom