Friday 20 October 2017

Inexperienced sailor at helm of boat during fatal capsize off Irish coast - report

Baltimore lifeboat crew carring the remains of Douglas Perrin to shore after his body was found
Baltimore lifeboat crew carring the remains of Douglas Perrin to shore after his body was found
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

AN inexperienced sailor was at the helm of a boat when it capsized without warning, resulting in the death of a man from drowning.

Douglas Perrin died after his boat capsized at the mouth of Schull Harbour in August 2014.

The 66-year-old may have survived had he been wearing a wet suit, an investigation report has found.

Mr Perrin and two elderly friends set off in his 19-foot Drascombe Lugger, named ‘Zillah’, from Schull Harbour in Cork on August 13.

They planned to head for Long Island Channel, before returning to Schull.

Although one of the guests was feeling uncomfortable and slightly sea-sick, and had requested that they come back to Schull, the vessel sailed between Castle Island and Long Island. 

At the time the wind was quite gusty, but was considered to be “good sailing weather”, the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report found.

All three, who were wearing life jackets, were taken by surprise when the boat “gybed unintentionally” and capsized, throwing them into the water. 

Read more: Couple's miracle escape as friend dies in sea tragedy

The MCIB found Mr Perrin, who was an experienced sailor with over 30 years experience, was not at the helm at the time.

His “inexperienced guests” were taking turns to sail the boat, and one of them was in control when the vessel capsized. 

Their lack of experience meant that they “did not react correctly” to the developing situation, the report found. 

While both guests managed to climb onto the upturned hull, Mr Perrin was unable to do so, despite repeated attempts.

He remained in the water alongside the vessel.

One of the guests tried to attract attention by standing on the upturned hull waving - but there were no other vessels close enough to see them. 

It became obvious that the boat would most likely drift out to sea, and Mr Perrin commented that he was beginning to feel cold.

Following discussions amongst the three, they decided that they should attempt to swim some 50m to the uninhabited Castle Island in the bay.

Both of Mr Perrin’s friends, aged 76 and 60, managed to reach land, and climbed rocks to reach a dry, grassy patch.

But when they looked out to sea they spotted Mr Perrin “lying passively” in the water, with his head “clear of the water.”

Read more: Major search operation underway for three elderly sailors

They spent the night on the Island, before being rescued the next morning.

Mr Perrin’s body was recovered on the north-west side of Sherkin Island.

He was later confirmed to have died from “drowning associated with hypothermia.” 

Although the water was “relatively warm”, the crews’ clothing would have provided “very little insulation”, the MCIB said.

“The wearing of wet suits or other suitable sailing clothes would have considerably increased the deceased’s chances of survival.”

The report also found that had Mr Perrin a VHF radio, he could have alerted the emergency services.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News