The yacht Moquini which went missing with all six crew last September has been found 9/2/06

The yacht Moquini which went missing with all six crew in September last year has been found floating upside down 500 nautical miles off the notorious South African Wild Coast. See previous news story here. 

The upturned vessel was spotted on Sunday 5 February at 10h49 UTC in a position of 33 32 south and 38 21 east by Patrick le Masson the Master of the MT ALGARVE (Motor Tanker).

This information was immediately transmitted to the MRCC (Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre) in Cape Town. The MRCC immediately requested that the MT Algarve stand by the vessel to establish a drift pattern. Despite tight deadlines the ship’s owners agreed and the MT ALGARVE stood by for 12 hours, relaying the drift pattern to the MRCC.

The MRCC also sent an SAAF search and rescue aircraft out on Tuesday to obtain a position, and did the same again yesterday when they located the upturned vessel and directed the salvage tug to the casualty. There is also a fishing vessel in the area which has offered its assistance if needed.

The MRCC immediately dispatched a salvage vessel, the Smit Amandla, to the area. The Smit Amandla has divers aboard who were able to inspect the hull and positively identify it as the Moquini.

Moquini is a sorry sight as it is completely inverted with the rudder and engine’s saildrive unit in their normal position – although the keel is completely missing.

The big question is what happened?

“We don’t know yet” said Matthew Thomas who headed the private search initiative when the vessel first went missing. “However, with the keel missing, the yacht would have immediately inverted 90 degrees, and within less than a minute would have completely inverted. There would have been little or no time for the crew to do anything. Anyone on deck would have been flung into the water. Anyone down below would have had little time to evacuate, and if they had been asleep in a bunk, may well have been badly injured in the initial inversion as they were flung sleeping from their bunk.”

And in the very short time available between the keel coming off and the boat inverting, they may well not have had the time or ability to launch the liferaft. Plus, whether the crew were wearing lifejackets or not, it would have been almost impossible for them to stay close to the boat as there is nothing for them to hold on to on an upturned slippery hull.

If conditions were relatively calm and the wind not blowing too hard, the yacht would also have had some hatches open, and these would immediately have caused the vessel to fill with water.

It will take some investigation to determine whether Moquini hit anything, causing the keel to come off, or whether it was a catastrophic failure.

At this point it is pure speculation as to when the incident occurred. If it happened when the single blip from the EPIRB was transmitted on Friday morning 16 September last year at approximately 03h40, it would have been dark, and difficult for anyone to locate the EPIRB in the cabin and set it off. However, knowing that the keel was off, may explain the single blip from the EPIRB, as an EPIRB will not transmit when more than half a metre below the water – and with the boat completely capsized it would have been under water.

The six crew aboard MOQUINI were:

Graham Cochrane

Neil Tocknell

Kurt Ostendorf

Sheldon Dickerson

Mark Dickerson

Michael Goolam