Monday, July 21, 2014

Texas Equusearch Weighs In On Nina Search Report

The multi-state search and rescue organization, Texas Equusearch, (TES) weighed in on the Rescue Coordination Center, New Zealand's, (RCC-NZ) official "independent review" of the search for the SV Nina. Sources indicate TES representatives were dismayed with the report in general, and specifically with references suggesting TES had different objectives than the original search. The report suggests TES was interested in a recovery operation for bodies, rather than a search for living beings.

Ralph Baird from Texas Equusearch indicated the only TES objective was finding the seven sailors alive during a group phone call. Included in the search effort were Ricky and Robin Wright, parents of crew member Danielle Wright, and Ian and Sue Wootton, parents of crew member Matthew Wootton.  

The families raised over $600,000 for a private search after the RCC-NZ suspended it's official search.  The bulk of the funds were spent in New Zealand and Australia on search aircraft.

TES issued this paragraph along with the response to the report which we printed in a prior post: 

"The search for the missing schooner Nina by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) fell short and was poorly managed according to the Families of the seven (7) missing crew, including six (6) Americans and one Brit," the release states.
"The Families do not agree with and have responded in writing to the so-called ‘independent’ review of the efforts by the RCCNZ to search for the 70 foot historic schooner Nina. The text of the Families’ summary letter delivered to Mr. Keith Manch, the Director of Maritime New Zealand follows," representatives say in the release.

A celebration of life will be held this Weekend in England for crew member Matthew Wootton.  Similar celebrations were held for the David, Rosemary and David Dyche, IV, for Danielle Wright, Kyle Jackson and for Evi Nemeth, earlier this year.

More information can be found HERE.

Nina Families Respond To RCC-NZ Report, Serious Concerns Remain

The Families of Crew On Board The Missing Sailing Vessel Nina
Mr. Keith Manch,
Director Maritme New Zealand
1 Grey Street
Wellington, New Zealand

Nina in New Zealand, photo not submitted with the letter

July 20, 2014

     We have received the Independent Report of the search and rescue (SAR) for the Nina and her crew. We respectfully send our sincere thanks to the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) for all their efforts in this lengthy and complex effort.

     Our wish is that if the crew members have indeed died, their deaths and all the extraordinary effort that went into finding them will not have been in vain. We hope to save others the same anguish.

     In this spirit, we offer the opinion that several aspects of the report are not adequately addressed and warrant further inquiry. We remain particularly concerned about the delay in launching the search and the initial selection of search coordinates. Questions about what was known from the Iridium satellite phone data, how the information was used in the first crucial days, and whether that data should have been used at all are raised by the report itself:

"analysis raises deep suspicion on the reliability of the Iridium positions". (page 36)

     Also questionable is changing the ETA in Australia. Scheduled arrival was June 10; extending that to June 25th may have been harmful. Regarding use of radar data, some research shows that small wooden vessels cannot be detected over 20 miles. Additional serious, documented concerns remain; we would be pleased to work directly with you if you are inclined to address them.

A constant concern throughout this episode has been that there was an underlying, counterproductive undercurrent of contention between us – that is, between RCCNZ and Texas
EquuSearch (TES) working with associated volunteers on our behalf. Author David Baird notes:

“The relationship between TES and RCCNZ did not start well; they did not appear to share the same objective”. (page 56)

     The report goes on to state various criticisms of TES actions, ignoring in spirit the tireless effort of people bound together by faith, determination, and courage. This is unfair, contrary to an overall attitude of fortitude and common purpose, and this attitude dominates the report.

     We cannot, however, overlook the admirable traditions of professionalism and dedication that continue to distinguish the RCCNZ. We can grow closer in our mutual goals. For example, perhaps we can exchange thoughts on expanding partnerships with private companies, as suggested by Diane Hockenberry of Iridium Communications Inc, McClean, Virginia, and DigitalGlobe, Inc., which re-tasked satellites to assist us.

     We know that in the final analysis you join with us and the mariners of the world in embracing the words of Psalm 107, forever in our hearts:

Those who go down to the sea in ships . . . they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses.

* *

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Nina Families Preparing Response To Search

A lengthy document was recently completed reviewing the actions of the Rescue Coordination Center, New Zealand, (RCC-NZ).  It contained glowing praise for the role the RCC-NZ played in the attempted rescue of the crew of the SV Nina, a 1928 schooner that disappeared in the Tasman Sea on June 4th, 2013.  Many people would like to see what the response will be from the families.  Are they in support of the review, or do they oppose it's findings?  What would the families like to see going forward?

The review can be found HERE.

Sailing Savoir Faire has a very strong point of view over the independent review.  However, we will not voice an opinion on the Nina search review until the families have had an opportunity to make their own response, in public.  Even then, we may delay our response because we have come very close to this search, having covered it in detail nearly since the day the Nina was reported missing in the news.

After the RCC-NZ was unable to locate the Nina, the families went to work with fundraisers so they could conduct their own search.  They raised over $600,000 from family, friends and well-wishers.  It has been first class all the way, headed up by a public-private partnership, Texas Equusearch (TES), which acts in a similar role in the U.S. that is played by non-governmental-organization in other countries.  Unfortunately, TES was unable to locate the Nina, or her crew, either.  

A lot of people have a difficult time understanding the TES mission.  While they have had successes in finding the remains of people lost and who perished, their primary successes have been in rescuing people who are alive.  They have found more than 300 people alive and about half that number of missing persons who in fact perished.  

Most recently, TES challenged the Federal Aviation Administration on a prohibition on the use of drones in the U.S.  TES has used drones to find lost people in terrain that would take weeks to search, although the FAA sent them an email note telling them not to conduct drone flights for "commercial purposes".  A judge ruled TES could in fact use drones.

 TES says the Nina search has been an effort to find the Nina sailors alive, though no drones were used.  Most of the search fund was paid to New Zealand and Australian aviation companies, making it's way into the local economies of New Zealand and Australia..  A tiny portion of funds raised were used to pay for super-technical drift analysis.  The families say they still hope the Nina will float back to civilization, or the crew will be found on a desolate island or atoll.  TES is an all volunteer organization made up in part by people grateful for the results of the many searches.

There are seven people who ventured forth on the Nina.  They are the family that owned the yacht, David Dcyhe, Rosemary Dyche and their son, David Dyche, Jr., world renown author and mathematical genius, Professor Evi Nemeth, Kyle Jackson, a former senate page and survivalist, Danielle Wright, a musician a student and a photographer, all from the United States.  Also on board, Matthew Wootton, from England.  Matthew is an advocate for the environment who took a 3 and a half year voyage around the world to learn and speak on environmental issues.  Matthew crewed on various boats and ships because he does not approve of the carbon footprint left by jets.

The Nina families have put together a comprehensive web site.  They say they hope it will comfort those who wish the Nina crew well, and provide insight to other families who are missing a loved one, no matter whether that is on land or at sea.

We wish peace to all, and fair winds.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Family Asks Time To Respond To Nina Review Report

For those who are following this blog, you might expect an immediate reaction from the writing team about the document prepared by an independent reviewer over the efforts by the RCC-NZ in the search for the 1928 schooner, Nina, and her 7 crew mates, which disappeared on June 4th, 2013 in the Tasman Sea. Of course I have read the report and I have some strong points of view which I am about to express.  Probably.

First, though, out of respect and gratitude, we think it is best to give the family their chance to say something if they want to.  What is clear is a fundamental desire from many people who would like to see search and rescue at sea improved.  Back seat drivers and Monday morning quarterbacks are always incredibly sage, until it is their time in the hot seat, at which time their present wisdom usually escapes them. At the other end of the scale, we are talking about lives.  If we don't look at how things were done we will never get better at what we do.

So, sure.  Considering nothing of the Nina was ever found, and considering the report which mostly praises the RCC-NZ, one must think, isn't there anything that could have been done better?  

What I am not going to do is parrot the lauding of the RCC-NZ as multiple publications have done without asking serious questions.  Instead, I want to congratulate the team that took over the search after the RCC-NZ halted it's search.  I want to thank the RCC-NZ for the effort that was made.  Finally, I am going to say a prayer for the sailors who are missing and perhaps through the miracle of the sea, will one day come back into the lives of their families.

If you want to read the report, you can find it on-line here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

And Baby Makes 4 - To Be Rescued

Parents who brought two toddlers along on their dream of a world cruise aboard a 36 foot sailboat are getting blistered in the media today. Mother, Charlotte Kaufman, expressed misgivings about taking her two daughters, ages 1 and 3, on the family Odyssey from Los Angeles to New Zealand in a 36 foot boat in her blog. After battling multiple storms and with 1 year old Lyra ill, husband Eric decided to pull the plug, so to speak, and call for help.

Most captains know if you call for help and it comes, it means the end of the boat. With no one left aboard, the boat becomes a hazard to navigation and is usually scuttled. That is what was done with the 36 foot Hans Christian, the Rebel Heart, the well built, ocean going sloop that had become home to the Kaufman family.

From the Kaufman blog

"We believe that most people lead lives of quiet desperation, and we have vowed to not let our lives end up accordingly. We want to squeeze out every precious drop of our existence together, because tomorrow maybe I’ll die, or Eric will die, and where will we be then?" Charlotte said in a letter to her critics published in the San Diego Magazine.

Charlotte continues, "We don’t believe in waiting for far-off “afters,” like after Eric gets a promotion, after Cora finishes kindergarten, after the girls graduate, or after we retire. No. Life is too short and too valuable to gamble on pushing your dreams off until later. We believe in going now, and doing it with gusto.

Many don't agree with the Kaufman decision to take two tots sailing on a major crossing. A relative, Charlotte's brother, 
James Moriset, said "the whole thing is nuts."  He claimed he saw the potential for all of the problems the sailing couple encountered.

Critics argue the rescue cost over $600,000.  This is a bill the Kaufman's won't have to pay, as it is time budgeted in training drills or rescue, whichever comes in first. One thing made clear, the couple was as prepared for the trip as one could be.  They popped the EPIRB satellite rescue device and both the California Air National Guard 129th rescue wing and the U.S. Navy responded.

Eric Kaufman said in his blog, "Rebel Heart allowed us to see ourselves for who we were. We learned what we really could accomplish. We learned that chasing down dreams and doing the impossible is actually quite possible, and not just for other people. We learned that we could be so much more than we thought. "

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Venezuela Remains A Dangerous Place

Many sailors have made a second home in Venezuela.  It used to be a great place to go to dodge hurricanes while enjoying some of the best that South America had to offer. 

 Hugo Chavez changed part of that.  While making life a little better for most Venezuelans, he seized private companies and private property and gave a cold shoulder to Americans.  Using the Fidel Castro approach, he set up block captains whose job it is to keep track of dissenting citizens, rather than to protect their barrios.  

Meanwhile, violent crime in Caracas has made the country one of the most deadly places to live in the world short of bona-fide war zones.  Protests have rocked the country with midnight roundups and rumors of torture, common.  

Corruption is rampant and inflation has made nearly everything more expensive in Venezuela.  Price controlled items are cheaper if they can be found.  However, corrupt people buy out price controlled items and sell them on the black market at the world price.  One of the most prized possessions today is a simple roll of toilet paper.

While citizens might be better off, they are only slightly better off, rather than wealthy from the billions of dollars in oil revenue generated every year.  At least 10 billion dollars of those profits that could go to Venezuelan citizens is given to Cuba, which sells the oil to finance domestic operations and to oppose "imperialistic thinking".

The Nicolas Maduro government, which was handed power after the death of Hugo Chavez, and then elected after silencing opposing views in the press, blames the U.S. for an alleged wild plot to overthrow the government.  Journalists have been expelled from the country and a major television station removed from the air for reporting on the Maduro regime.  Hence, visitors should obtain press credentials when reporting, while non-professional reporters should be careful what they say, lest they be accused of plotting against the government.  Social media is subject to government scrutiny.  

Still, the people of Venezuela are wonderful people who welcome tourists, as outside of oil, tourism is one of the few industries left.