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.