The Survey from Hell

I’ll get it to it, I’ll get to it. But first, a word from our sponsor…

We are eight weeks out from the delivery of our (or even better, your) Zeelander 55! It takes about ten months to build a Z55, depending upon the level of customization. But with yachts this size just about everything comes to life in in her last 60 days. To quote Hemingway (on an entirely different subject), completing a yacht happens…

“…two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

Well, as you’ll see here, we’re knee deep in the suddenly right now:

If you would like to accompany us for her first early Spring sea trials in Rotterdam, please let me know right away. I’ll do my best to smuggle you aboard. Otherwise, I’d be thrilled to take you on a sea trial in Connecticut in the late Spring.

But if you cannot wait that long too see the finished product, we will be displaying a sister ship at the Palm Beach Boat Show from March 26th through the 29th. You can cruise through her virtual tour (I just love the unhurried views this technology provides) right here.

We will also be presenting in Palm Beach our Zeelander 72….

…. and that particular 360 degree tour awaits your arrival here.

And, finally, we are presenting one (maybe two) Zeelander 44’s at the show, almost identical to what you can tour here.

The specific listings for these boats three fine yachts…..

are just three little clicks away:

https://www.yachtworld.com/boats/2020/zeelander-72-3640530/

https://www.yachtworld.com/boats/2020/zeelander-55h-3640027/

https://www.yachtworld.com/boats/2012/zeelander-44h-3483654/

Ok, loyal clients, I commend you for your patience. Here now, the story of a survey from hell. And I apologize in advance for being a bit flippant about a very serious story.

The USS Fitzgerald, after narrowly escaped sinking.

This photo is of the USS Fitzgerald, a destroyer that in the summer of 2017 collided in the Sea of Japan with a tanker ten times its size. Seven sailors lost their lives is this tragedy, and only the selfless bravery of a number of seamen prevented many more deaths. Indeed, they kept the ship afloat until all could be rescued.

Collisions at sea are something I try to keep tabs on, having been involved in one myself. So I read the initial reports that summer, and wondered how two massive vessels – in this age of modern electronics – can collide at 20 knots in clear weather, in relatively sheltered waters.

Direct impact to the Captain’s cabin.

A few months ago I read an upsetting account of exactly how it happened. It is a very sobering read. In short, it was a combination of:

  • Extremely short-staffed boats, some 15% under headcount;
  • An over-taxed and over-scheduled Pacific Fleet, on an almost wartime footing with Korea;
  • Thoroughly exhausted and under-trained crews.

But what really jumped out at me was the horrendous level of deferred maintenance of the Fitzgerald. The Navy’s investigation of this accident was largely what we would recognize as a ship’s survey. And it truly was, in my mind, a survey from hell. It listed things that we (so fortunate that our missions are just recreational) would never tolerate on our own boats.

The Freighter

Simply put, the systems that we take for granted in our modern yachting life were broken. Some were inoperable for months before the collision. Crew and officers repeatedly complained to HQ that the vessel was at risk of a collision, but they were ignored. These include the radar systems (one was completely non-functional, and the back up radar’s tracking function required a crewman to manually punch a reset button 100 times per minute to track other vessels. AIS systems, VHF radios, chart plotters (crew used laptops as backups), vessel intercom systems, and even critical emergency pumps were inoperable.

This story will make you sad, and angry. But there are real heroes here, and you will be moved by their courage. You can read the full story here:

https://features.propublica.org/navy-accidents/us-navy-crashes-japan-cause-mccain/

Or you can do what I did, and listen to its riveting podcast on Audm.

I do believe there are lessons for us all here. When you have absorbed it all (the podcast is over an hour, and worth every minute of your time), please feel free to share your thoughts with me, online or off, and I will cover them in future posts of The Fog Warning.

Casting off now, loyal readers. Launch a flare if you need anything.

[Big Wave] Dave

About Dave Mallach

It amazes me to say that this now my twentieth year as a yacht broker. I'm lucky enough split my time between Manhattan and Westhampton Beach, but in season you are most likely to find me on my trawler “Gypsy” at mooring #44 in Coecles Harbor, Shelter Island. Or, of course, you can just call me at 516-816-1703. I do look forward to it.