January 2, 2009.
First off, Happy New Year everyone. Things are going along nicely here in Vero Beach.
Jay and Di picked us up and we all went down to a huge marine salvage shop. It was mostly geared towards powerboats but a lot of the items they had crossed over and were of interest to us sailors.
The place was comprised of 2 huge warehouse like buildings connected together with another acre of larger parts located outside. We’ve been to a couple of really cool places like this before but this place put them all to shame.
There was aisle after aisle of gauges, water and fuel tanks, hatches, hardware, bimini frames and sunbrella. There was just so much to look at we spent at least an hour wandering around.
We decided to celebrate our News Years Eve in a little bit of an unorthodox fashion. We met up with Jay & Di from Far Niente and Jeff & Tessa from Inamorata at the Riverside at 1800 hours. The Riverside Café is a great waterfront pub that we can easily dinghy to, but the whole staying up until midnight thing was going to be a problem though. We’re just never up that late so we decided to do things a little differently. Instead of celebrating midnight Eastern Standard Time we opted to have our toast at Greenwich Mean Time. That meant that midnight was at 1900 hours EST, perfect. Celebrating New Years on Zulu time had us on our way home just after 2100 hours. Personally I think it’s a habit that all sailors should adopt.
Once back on the boat I settled in to do a little reading and Christy headed off to bed. Just as I was about to turn in the VHF came to life. A vessel broadcast a Pan Pan. A pan pan (Pronounced Pon Pon) is the second most serious of the three safety notices that you might hear on the VHF.
The first and least serious is a Security call. (pronounced securi-tay) You might broadcast a Security Call if you were in a narrow area with a bad current and you wanted to tell other boats that you were about to transit the area. This way if there was a tug and barge about to enter this tight spot from the other direction then he would be aware of your presence. That way he could speed up and get there while you’re still in the tight spot and scare the hell out of you. At least that’s the way it often seems.
The third and most serious call is the Mayday call. (pronounced helppp!!!) You only use mayday if you’re in imminent danger such as fire, sinking, heart attack onboard, etc. You need help….NOW. You broadcast a mayday and everything stops and everyone listens in case they’re in a position to help. We’ve heard mayday calls that have mobilized Navy and multiple Coast Guard assets.
On this night however I heard the following. “Pan Pan, Pan Pan, Pan Pan…. hello all stations this is the good ship Carnival Sensations starting man overboard maneuvers at position yada, yada, yada.” That was it, just one time and the guy was calm as hell. The guy didn’t say it was a drill or practice he just said that they were starting man overboard maneuvers. About 3 minutes later the Coast Guard called him and asked him if it was a drill or did they really have somebody fall in the water. The guy answered that they did indeed have a crew member fall off the boat and it was not a drill.
The Coast Guard asked a bunch of questions and learned that a 26 year old member of the ships entertainment had fallen off the boat. There were a half dozen people that saw him fall and one had the brains to throw a life ring over the side. The radio exchange was agonizingly slow and was on the verge of putting me to sleep.
I finally went to bed and found the incident on the internet the next morning. The Coast Guard had sent a small plane, a helicopter and at least one boat to search the area. Since the incident had happened 21 miles offshore they were looking north of where he had fallen because the edge of the Gulf Stream was right there.
I read somewhere that this was the seventh person to fall off a cruise ship this year. Kind of hard to believe that so many people fall off those big ships. This guy fell over 80 feet to the water. Hitting the water from that height would be pretty violent so I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t drown even before the ship turned back for him. They Coast Guard looked all the following day and nothing was found.