Sailboat Refuelled by Russian Oil Tanker, 235 miles offshore in the Mid-Atlantic

Once the weather mostly subsided, what was left was a lighter breeze and 6 to 10-foot swells. We had difficulty making good seaway towards Newport Rhode Island, as it was upwind and pushing through the swells on the bow. At times we were actually being pushed further and further offshore. We have been sailing during this entire 9 day adventure, only running our engine for the purposes of charging our batteries, which provided power to the refrigeration, freezer, electronics and communications systems. At this point we had about a 1/4 tank of fuel left and thought it prudent to refuel somehow before we completely ran out of fuel.

We carry a SAT phone on our ocean passages. My wife Roxane is our land crew, who is continuously updating us on conditions and weather forecasts even though we have live Sirius weather on board Black Diamond. We made a call to Roxane and asked her to reach the coast guard for us. Making calls, and sitting on hold while on a SAT phone is not as easy as it sounds. It doesn’t act like a cell phone, and you often lose the signal, and can’t be on hold very long. So its a good idea to have land crew make the call, and set up the emergency ticket. This way they can you directly and you’ll be speaking to the actually dispatch that can help you. We called Roxane at 4am, knowing this might take awhile, and wanted to do this during day light hours.

It took her almost 3 hours, after being told to call various coastguard offices before one was willing to help us. When she first called, they asked where is she calling from, and since we are Canadians, they asked us to call the Buffalo New York station, regardless of where the boat was. Then she was told to call New England, and Newport our destination. Then finally after realizing the actually GPS lat & long coordinances, they realized we were closest to the Long Island, NY station. Which is the one that ended up helping us. What also made things much easier, was we have a SPOT GPS locator on board, we will use this to send our location out manually every 6-12 hours. It is posted directly to this website on our blog page, which is only active when we are using this service. But in case of emergencies, we set up the SPOT so it sends our location out automatically every 5 mins. We had it doing this during these calls to the Coastguard.

We had it doing this during these calls to the Coastguard. The Coast was able to see in real time where we were at all times, and which direction we were heading and at what speed. So when we were on the SAT phone, we didn’t even have to give our coordinates. During this same storm Ana, 5 boats had either sank or went missing and sadly there were casualties. At first the Coastguard thought we may be in a serious situation and even offered a helicopter lift for crew if we felt the vessel was in danger. Apparently it is entirely up to the Captain of the vessel, which would be me if we wanted an air-lift, it doesn’t really matter what the conditions are like or the status of our vessel. They went over the status of the boat and crew, if everything was in order, with vessel and crew, our engines, sail conditions etc. They determined we only needed fuel, asked if we need food and water also.

We started this call with Roxane at 4am, started speaking to the Coastguard ourselves at 7-8am. They had a Russian Oil Tanker diverted to us immediately and by about 3-4PM we were getting refueled. Good think I thought to start this at 4am.

In the old days things didn’t go as smoothly, first of all, No GPS, No SPOT, No Sat Phones, and No AIS. AIS actually played a huge roll is this. The coastguard is able to see all the commercial traffic, their speed and heading, and their destination. They make a call to that vessel, and ask them, but really tell them to come to our rescue. They can’t really refuse. In the old days, the Coastguard would not know who was available, and would simply make a blanket call out on the radio, and many vessels on schedules, would not bother to answer the call, thinking someone else will do it or and some would not be truthful about their location etc.  Now they don’t even volunteer but are told to do this, mariners international law. They can only refuse if it would cause danger to their own vessel or crew.

In any case, this is just a side-bar for your interest. We are very thankful to the Captain and crew of our Russian Oil Tanker Mariposa. They were definitely professional seamen and women, and very kind to help us out the way they did.

See below for the actual video footage, and below this video frame, see the conclusion of this episode.

After our, we received our fuel, and Mariposa was on her way, they told us that we need to call the coastguard and report that we received our fuel. We failed to do that immediately, as it was not so simple to get a signal and make the call on the SAT phone. We thought we better get this fuel in the boat and once we are heading toward Newport we could make that call.

We set the boat to Autopilot, and had her drifting down-wind with the waves as stable as we could. We rigged up a system to refuel, meanwhile, the boat was just drifting at 1-2 knots with the swells. Perfect for refueling the jugs.

Meanwhile, Mariposa had left, and all the Coastguard could see our SPOT GPS location, pinging that we were at drift with the wave action at 1-2 knots. The Coastguard was very worried that we had been damaged by the tanker, and that maybe the tanker had taken off and left us there. They called my wife Roxane, to see if she was in contact with us, and she wasn’t either. So there was a bit of a panic until we called to report in. Apparently, all kinds of things happen at sea, so they were taking precautions and would not simply believe the tanker that everything was fine.

Thankful to the good men and women at the Coastguard and for all they do!

Once we were refueled and on our way, we made to Newport Rhode Island in about 36 hours, and 2 days to spare before the Newport Volvo Ocean, in-port races. Black Diamond was Spectator boat during this, watch for more videos and content to come.

s/v Black Diamond

I have been boating for over 25 years, at the age of 43, this is more than half of my life time. Starting out with a number of smaller power boats, then switching to sail about 8 years ago. I have sailed various boats from wind surfers, dinghies (lasers), keel boats from 26 to 45 foot yachts. I live in the area of Toronto Canada and sail mostly on Lake Ontario. I have been racing yachts for the past 7 years. I have also entered many long distance races such as the Fort Lauderdale to Charleston, completed in 2 days 8 hours, we received 4th place in division, 8 minutes in PHRF behind a 3rd place trophy. Then 4 times finishing the Susan Hood, a 75 mile over night race, 4 times entered in the Lake Ontario 300 the worlds longest fresh water race, a 308 knotical mile race around the perimeter of Lake Ontario. My crew and I on Black Diamond finished in 2 days 12 hours in 2009. In 2009, delivering the boat back up to Canada from the Bahamas we entered in a couple of interesting races, one from Fort Lauderdale to Charleston described as a sled ride up the gulf stream, the Charleston race week regatta series and the New Year's Day Staniel Cay Regatta in the Exumas, Bahamas. This race we came in 2nd over entire fleet, only lost by 3 minutes in a 2 hour race to a 47 footer. This was a boat for boat race, no PHRF scoring. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do, than by the ones you did do. So cast off the bowline, Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain Blue water experience include yacht deliveries from the Abacos, Bahamas to Charleston South Carolina 2006. This delivery was a non-stop, 3 and half days, total of 500 miles. We crossed parts of the Bermuda Triangle, and during most of the delivery were over 200 miles offshore. The delivery of Black Diamond a 40 foot Jeanneau racer/cruiser has been delivered to New York City and then offshore to Florida and the Bahamas from Toronto, Canada. This delivery from NYC to Florida was completed 100 miles offshore, for a distance of over a 1000 miles non-stop to Jacksonville, Florida. Completed in what might be a cruisers record of 5 days 3 hours non-stop offshore. This fall my family and I added another 500 miles of sailing throughout much of the Bahamas. Spending 6 weeks aboard Black Diamond sailing the Abacos, Nassau and the Exumas. I then sailed the boat back to New York, completely offshore, entered a few races along the way, and back to Toronto through the Hudson River and Erie Canal. During the 2009 season, we sailed Black Diamond off the dock 148 different days out of 365, winning the Vacant Dock award the second year in a row. Most recently, 2011, completed the delivery of friends boat Tracey & Nilson Ruiz, from Tortoal, BVI to New York. Tortola to Georgetown Bahamas in 5 days non-stop. Last leg from Charleston to New York over the momorial day long week-end non-stop Friday to Monday in 4 days. All completed safe and sound without incedent. Need any deliveries let me know. I am also an Open Water Certified diver and an active member of the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron, certifications included Power/Sail boat handling, Seamanship Sail, Piloting/charting, GPS Navigation, Extended Offshore Cruising and a VHF Radio operation license. I hope to further my education, qualifications and experience in long distance cruising and racing. One of my goals is to obtain a commercial Captains License. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]

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2 Responses

  1. Artem says:

    Everything in this video is true 🙂 i can swear on it 🙂

  2. john snow says:

    hope you guys paid the russian tanker back for the fuel and diversion and also sent a box of chocolates to the crew.

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