Saturday, October 30, 2010


STV Fryderyk Chopin

This year has seen several accidents, some fatal, in sail training vessels (STV). While it is an excellent way to teach people of all ages about ships and the sea it requires considerable planning. Just this week there have been two maritime incidents in the same general area namely the English Channel Approaches. First there was the FFV Athena which caught fire and the Master wisely evacuated the crew to survival craft keeping a small team aboard to fight the fire. The second incident was of much greater concern to the maritime community even thought things worked out well.

The UK Coastguard had to launch a rescue operation in response to a distress call from the Polish sail training ship STV Fryderyk Chopin which had lost one of its two masts in severe weather and was in danger of losing the second one. Ships in the area headed for her and helicopters were launched from bases in Cornwall and Devon. The ship was located about 100 nautical miles southwest of the Scilly Isles and had 47 people on board. So far so good one might say however of those 47 persons 36 were teenager cadets between 14 and 16 years of age - children at sea.

NAUTICAL LOG thinks this is beyond unwise with so many young persons on board it is irresponsible behaviour. Autumn storms are common in the area and the weather forecasts are superb both long range and short term. The operational planning of this training voyage leaves a lot to be desired and one wonders about a Master who proceeds with this type of voyage when the forecast is bad. With 14 to 16 year old cadets aboard there are plenty of places within the Baltic and southern North Sea to gain adequate sailing experience. In the event of poor weather there are plenty of ports and areas to seek shelter.

With the background of 60 years seafaring, including command experience, of which some 30 years involved training of both officers and crewmembers ashore and afloat, NAUTICAL LOG would suggest a complete overview of the Operational Command both afloat and ashore of those associated with the STV Fryderyk Chopin. There has been some very bad decision-making in this Passage Planning.
It is now understood that the vessel is under tow to a UK Port for assessment and possible repairs. There is a comment today from a CAPT. Jan Dobrogowski to OLD SALT BLOG, a highly respected maritime blog, that her Master is 100 years old and that the STV Fryderyk Chopin was on passage to the Caribbean. NAUTICAL LOG has asked that he comment here to explain and clarify this statement. If this is true it is extremely disturbing that 14 year old children are in his care, we should be thankful the voyage has ended as it has - safely in the United Kingdom.
Updating: CAPT. Dobrogowski did not comment to us but did to OLD SALT BLOG in which he stated that the Master was not 100 years old. His comment continued that if the ship had been dismasted in the Baltic or southern North Sea it would have been much more dangerous. Indeed no doubt, however if they had been in those areas they would not have suffered the dismasting from a Channel Approaches storm in the first place. NAUTICAL LOG would suggest his logic to be a little confused.

Good Watch.

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