A 95-year-old tall ship used for sail training became trapped against the cliffs of the Irish coastline earlier this week when its engine gave out while it was motoring from port.
The crew of the 138-foot Dutch-flagged, square-rigged brig Astrid was unable to raise the ship’s sails in time to pull it safely from the rocks. Battling seas reported as more than 6 feet and strong 17- to 22-knot southerly winds, Astrid was driven into the cliffside and it sank.
Only a quick and well-coordinated rescue by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution safely removed all 30 people aboard the ship without injury.
Click play to watch footage.
“Everyone was very fortunate,” RNLI Coxswain Sean O’Farrell said in a statement. “I want to praise the quick thinking of the skipper and the crew from the Astrid. They kept calm and did everything we asked them to do. We were able to get them to safety quickly and a major tragedy was averted. To be able to recover 30 people was a great day for everyone involved. It was a great team effort between the RNLI lifeboats and all the vessels that came to their aid.”
The vessel got into difficulty July 24 near the Sovereign Rocks as it made its way out of Oysterhaven, a sea inlet on the coast of County Cork and the site of “The Gathering Cruise” parade of sail into the nearby port of Kinsale for a regatta.
The crew, mostly trainees of Irish, French, Dutch, British and Spanish nationalities, tried to raise the sails in a desperate attempt to turn the Astrid away from danger, but the ship lost sail, hit rocks and began to take on water.
“We were fairly close to the rocks, we were putting up sails, we were trying to get there, but the wind was pushing us and tide was pushing us towards the rocks and then they started handing out life jackets and we all sat down,” 16-year-old trainee sailor Rose Lynch told The West Cork Times. “Everyone kept calm. We were chatting to each other. Then the RNLI came, and we each individually jumped onto a boat. A lot of people left laptops, passports, money but, you know, it’s all immaterial. It doesn’t matter. Everyone was safe. We were saying how much we all love each other.”
Click play to watch more footage.
Irish Sailing Association CEO Harry Harmon was on board an ISA RIB that tried to save the Astrid from hitting the rocks after the captain of the tall ship contacted him for help.
“Between us we agreed that if I could manage to turn him around using my engine and point him out to sea that he could set enough sail to get himself out of trouble,” Harmon told the Times. “Unfortunately I just didn’t have enough power to do that despite a couple of attempts. By that stage we realized he was going to drift onto the rocks, the Coastguard was called and effected their rescue.”
Capt. Pieter de Kam issued a mayday signal, and the RIB and yachts in the Gathering Cruise flotilla stood by until the RNLI arrived.
The captain thanked those involved after the rescue.
“I would like to thank the lifeboat and the Coastguard for the safe rescue of all my crew. We very much appreciate their outstanding work,” he told TheJournal.ie.
Click here for that report, which includes video of the sinking ship taken from the cliffs above the accident.
The Astrid was built in 1918 as a freight logger in a Dutch shipyard. She is owned by a Dutch-based charity and was visiting Ireland as part of a regatta.
The Irish Coast Guard has said there was no sign of any diesel pollution from the sail training vessel the day after the sinking. Only the Astrid’s mast was visible above the water.
Hugh Barry, pollution and salvage officer with the Irish Coast Guard, said there was no indication that the ship's hull was broken up and it seemed to be "holding fast" in its current position, according to RTÉ New's Morning Ireland.
Barry said the Irish Coast Guard will have to approve any salvage plan, which he said would be "challenging," given the proximity of the stricken vessel to the shore.