Sad ending for Nina

Happier days

Happier days

The search for the 1928 schooner Nina, which I noted here last June, was called off early last July and it’s presumed that she went down with all hands. A sad ending for a fabled ship and a tragedy for the people who drowned, including the seventeen-year-old son of the owners. But in looking up the status of the search for Nina, I came across this critical assessment from someone who sounds experienced enough to know what he’s talking about: the ship was doomed before it left shore.

Nina, the 85-year-old American schooner presumed sunk in the Tasman with seven aboard, was unseaworthy and sailed by a traditionalist skipper who refused to have “gadgets” aboard, experts familiar with the boat say.

It had no long-range (SSB) radio and it appears its emergency locator beacon (Epirb) was not switched on.

The 21-metre Nina had not been out of the water for three years and, while it was moored in Whangarei, experts had noted that its hull had warped. It would have failed the standard “Cat-1” inspection Maritime New Zealand imposes on all locally flagged vessels leaving, lifelong blue-water sailor Russ Rimmington said.

He said it was known in sailing circles that while Nina looked good above the waterline, it had become hogged, meaning the hull of the boat bends upward. “It is a tragedy. People should learn from this. The vessel was not seaworthy,” he said.

If Nina had been overturned it would not have floated because it had about 10 tonnes of metal weight on its keel, said Rimmington, a former Hamilton mayor. “Nina was a lead mine – it would have gone straight down.”

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) formally ended the search for the boat yesterday.

Of course even tragedy can offer the solace of a bit of good irony, and that can be found here:

“Also aboard was Matthew Wootton, 35. A leader of the British Greens, he refused, on environmental grounds, to fly.”

If Mr. Wooten had insisted on having an EPIRB aboard, the search planes could have saved a lot of fuel looking for him. Enough, in fact, to have flown Wooten and the rest of the crew to Australia and back many times. So it goes.


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16 responses to “Sad ending for Nina

  1. Once

    Sad fate for a 17 year old boy.

  2. Cos Cobber

    sad and also fascinating.

  3. Greenwich Gal

    Only a fool would not take advantage of all the technology to potentially save not only his life but the lives of others. I bet while his boat was going down he was thinking about the couple of hundred bucks it would have cost to have that radio system.
    What makes it even more profoundly tragic is reading that almost forboding essay from the young man who was so afraid of the sea. These folks who took a ride with him thought they were in the hands of a master sailer who instead turned out to be an old fool so hell bent on nostalgia and the romance of the sea that he killed everybody.

    • anonymous

      Agree. Beyond that, isn’t there some condition of a boat registration that requires certain technology in case of emergency? Especially one this large that is ocean faring?

      • Anonymous

        Horrible tragedy, but isn’t this in a sense what many people on this site defend – the right to make your own decisions and live your own life without the nanny state checking everything you do? If I want to do something foolish, I believe that is my choice. Should I have the opportunity to understand the risks involved before I make that choice, absolutely. Should I take others down with me in my foolishness, no. But it seems like there was plenty of evidence here that this voyage was indeed risky, and tragically, the choice the skipper and passengers made here was fatal. Nonetheless, I don’t want the State to control every aspect of my life.

        • anon

          Good point. So perhaps then the passengers of this fool captain should have done their due diligence about the vessel before departing? The passengers of the titanic thought they were safe too.

  4. Went on a sailing trip years ago and the skipper refused to install a depth gauge because he said that meant you would “take too many risks” – moron!

  5. Riverslide

    Maybe the skipper didn’t have the money, and therefore his choice was either to stay home or to go and bear the risk of a low-technology trip. If that’s the case, I don’t blame him at all, as long as he advised his passengers of the added risk — and we don’t know that he didn’t.

  6. Greenwich Gal

    Anon – I understand your point entirely – and it is a good one. Freedom and state responsibility for the public is always a fine line but are not mutually exclusive. You should not be able to drive any old piece of vehicular garbage down the road. You can affect the lives of others. You cannot fly some out of date airplane either – without proper licensing. When that junker airplane falls of of the sky and maims and kills a family in their home, I think most people would agree that standards are a good thing. Same with boats.

    • The skipper of this ship killed his own son as well as his crew by his foolish stupidity and for that he should be condemned, but I’d hate to live in a world where some bureaucrat can determine whether I’m allowed to set sail in a boat.

  7. Fred2

    Well, I know that before ( insurance) bureaucrats got involved commercial shipping was a bit of disaster – shipping had always been intrinsically & historically dangerous – but people got fed up with overloaded & structurally unsound ships being allowed to operate, so stuff like plimsoll lines and basic safety inspections ( and boiler codes) came about, later having enough life rafts became an issue.

    All good.

    I’m all for basic minimal standards. Your boat SHOULD meet some safety standards, the the lack of mototr, radio and EPIRB (and whatever else) is too my mind above minimal (if willfully foolish), and sailing and old & decripit hogged boat into the southern ocean is below. ( On the other hand if you sayf “I have motor, epirbm etc… they too chould meet some basic standard.

  8. pulled up in OG

    Also onboard was well-known maritime technology expert Evi Nemeth, 73.

  9. Cap'n Yos

    What, no government bail-out jokes?