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Sailor’s amazing luck

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A SAILOR from the Azores who had to abandon his yacht in mid-Atlantic just over a month ago, yesterday (Thursday) spoke of his delight at being reunited with the 35 foot boat in Downings, County Donegal last Sunday.

Dino Silva was sailing from his home in the Azores to Iceland, intending to come back via the Faroe Islands when the rudder on his self-built yacht ‘Lua’, failed, forcing him to abandon the 5,000 mile-round voyage.

The Azores are located approximately 900 miles west of Portugal.
Having unsuccessfully repaired the steering mechanism five times on the aluminium sloop the 41-year-old used his satellite phone to call Falmouth Coastguard and request assistance.

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A German freighter was directed to his position, lifted him off the yacht on June 17 and dropped him in Philadelphia, USA.

On Thursday evening last Michael McVeigh of Rosguill Charters in Downings was returning to harbour with a group of divers aboard his 45 foot ‘Rosguill’ when he spotted the drifting yacht which appeared through the thick fog. They were approximately 20 miles north of Fanad Head.

“It looked so eerie. We passed by it first at about 30 metres away to port and I saw a rope floating in the water which didn’t look right.

“It was a real Marie Celeste moment. You find an abandoned boat and you automatically think the worst. I put two of the dive party on board who reported rotting veg and food which suggested days rather than weeks since anyone was aboard. It was a relief in many ways not to have found a body on board. I notified Malin Head and was relieved when they came back to tell me Falmouth Coastguard confirmed that the owner of the yacht had been rescued. I took the boat in tow back into Fannie’s Bay,” Mr McVeigh explained.

“I boarded the boat on Friday and saw Dino’s email address and details written on the cabin table with a marker. I had taken photographs as we approached the deserted yacht and I sent them to him. He replied immediately expressing his delight and arrived in Donegal on Sunday,” Mr McVeigh added.

Amazing luck
Speaking yesterday aboard ‘Lua’ in Downings, the Department of Agriculture worker from the Azores said the “big chance and big luck” was Michael finding the boat and towing it in.

“I am so lucky, there are a lot of rocks and the boat was very near shore. Hundreds of vessels must have passed it in the past month. It’s just incredible and I’m so grateful to Michael for all he has done,” Dino said.

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He explained that he abandoned the boat at Latitude 53 around 500 miles west of Ireland on June 17 when his rudder was irreparably damaged. He had used various parts of the boat to try to repair it but nothing worked in the rough weather. The German freighter left him in the USA which had its own complications as he did not have his passport.

Dino returned to the UK where his partner of 12 years – Anna – joined him from the Azores and they launched an appeal through Yachting Monthly magazine in the hope of possibly finding his boat again. They also notified the coastguard. They travelled to Scotland having worked out with a sailor friend that the tidal drift and winds might take the boat up the west coast of Scotland towards the Shetland Islands or Norway.

“We were due to fly back to the Azores on Sunday past and I was really resigned to the fact that I would never see ‘Lua’ again. I had put so much into building it, it was a part of me and I was sure it was gone and it wasn’t insured.

“I don’t have my email up and running yet but I really want to thank everyone for their help especially Michael – I’m a very happy man – I’m in heaven. When the rudder is repaired next week we will sail to Valentia where we have friends. I will probably leave the boat in Ireland until next summer and then sail it home to Terceira. No more Iceland for me – my family have suffered enough,” Dino added.

Michael happily displayed his Azorean flag, signed by Dino, which was his salvage reward for saving the ‘Lua’. Dino also extended a very genuine offer for Michael and his wife to come and visit the Azores.

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Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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