Getting to the Bottom of It
Following the sinking of the superyacht Yogi in the Aegean in 2012, a French flag-state investigation was launched to discover the causes of the tragedy. Capt. Bill Pike reviews the facts of the case and looks closely at the resulting report, a very flawed document.
Years ago, I was working a drill-pipe-delivery job in the Gulf of Mexico onboard a 197-foot, Halter-built supply boat called the Point Liberty. Sea conditions in the summer months in the Gulf are generally benign so weather was no excuse for what happened to a brand-new companion vessel of the Liberty’s type, with a sophisticated bilge-pumping system and an array of watertight compartments. While maneuvering below a drilling rig’s crane to offload pipe one morning, she got overly close to one of the rig’s legs and sideswiped an underwater appendage, opening a hole in the engine room. The hole was small—those who subsequently scrutinized the mud-coated vessel after her salvage said its diameter was not much bigger than that of a basketball.
Nevertheless, the boat sank in a matter of minutes, apparently because a poorly trained and perhaps inexperienced crew became confused, failed to deal with the appropriate watertight doors, and, in their haste to abandon ship, did very little to prevent a catastrophe that cost a high-profile boat company many millions of dollars.
By most accounts, all the crewmembers were fired as soon as they arrived dockside in Cameron, Louisiana. The marine superintendent who did the firing, witnesses said, was in such a highly disturbed state when he did the deed that he refused the crew transportation to the home office in far-distant Morgan City so the guys could pick up their cars. In subsequent weeks, word around the docks was that legal steps might be in the offing, along with the revocation of a marine license or two.
I tell this story for a couple of reasons. First, it points out the rather unusual nature of the sinking in the Aegean Sea of a virtually new, award-winning, 204-foot Proteksan-Turquoise superyacht called Yogi, a wholly stunning event that occurred on the morning of February 17, 2012 and was reported upon in Power & Motoryacht last summer (see “Mega Mystery,” June 2012). By comparison with the only slightly smaller, aforementioned supply boat, Yogi took an exceptionally long time—well over five hours, according to the Hellenic (Greek) Air Force, which handled the rescue of all of her eight crewmembers—to slip ignominiously beneath the waves. Considering that she was fully compartmentalized and equipped with a modern, highly redundant bilge-pumping system (officially inspected and approved by the American Bureau of Shipping), as well as a host of other safety-related equipment, this fact seems eminently noteworthy.
And second, the story illustrates the apparent differences between how the crew of a commercial vessel fares after a questionable catastrophe and how the crew of a superyacht fares. In the former case, consequences came swiftly and dramatically. In the latter, they’ve apparently arrived in a much milder manner, if at all.
This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.