The Element Quest
An important update from Ken and Ashley...
Sunday November 1 2009: 12:00pm:
We had arrived in New York and we were planning on heading to Bermuda within the next few days, weather pending. At noon we connected to the internet
and began our checks for wind patterns, tidal charts, expected storms, precipitation and low and high pressure patterns. Ken took the afternoon to
meet with five experienced Captains all planning on departing from NY to Bermuda --- coordinating the safest time to leave the harbour and begin the
550 mile sail across the Atlantic. A decision was reached among all Captains, and Monday November 2nd at 1:30pm following slack tide, it was decided
upon to leave 79th Street Boat Basin. Our route was planned and a passage was marked based on a 7 day forecast that was appearing with no more than
5-10 knot winds and no more than 2-6 foot waves.
Monday November 2 2009: 1:30pm:
Our final crew member D.J had arrived and we had spent the morning provisioning and checking all rigging and final safety equiptment before
departure. At 1: 00pm we filled our water tanks, secured our extra diesal fuel and re-checked our chartplotters , spot trackker, satellite phone and
radio to ensure all was in working order and headed out of the harbour.
Tuesday November 3 2009:
It was a beautiful day...the sun was shining, 12 dolphins had swam alongside our boat for the afternoon, we had a few birds that came to hang out
that we generously fed and gave water to, Leana.s Ransom our travel buddy was within radio contact and their crew was enjoying the beautiful
conditions...everything was going as expected. It was a great day!
Wednesday November 4 2009 1:00am:
We had reached The Gulf Stream, Ken was navigating the boat and Ashley and D.J were down below asleep. The air was warm and the water even warmer.
The currrent entering the Gulf was running fast and kept the boat motoring at 1kt . down from it.s consistant 6.5kts while under power. It was slow
moving but the weather was clear and the waves were 1-2 feet. Around 3 am a violent wind started to blow but there were no clouds in the sky and no
waves were apparent, just a crazy north wind blowing up to 70kms. D.J and Ken put a reef in the sail and fureled the stay sail and the boat leveled
out and continued on moving through the current till sunrise when the wind subsided.
Around mid day we were hit with another blast of wind that appeared to be coming from a distant storm front, but this time D.J and Ken could see
lightening in the storm. As a percaution Ken rapped up all the backup electronics in tinfoil and plastic bags and put a second reef in our sail to
steady us and decrease our heel. The storm front came and the winds hit at 90kms...much stronger then we expexted and that the weather had called
for. This storm passed after a few hours.
Thursday November 5 2009 1:00am:
Still set on a SE heading to Bermuda the skies were clear, the stars were out and there was no indication of any unpleasant weather approaching.
Around 2am a small storm pocket started to devlop off in the distance to our Starboard Aft. Over the next hour it circled over top and made its way
over to the boat producting rain, high winds and increased waves, then once again it cleared away to open clear skies and consistant winds. Our SE
heading was clear in front of us and the storms seemed to stick to the west in a line and would circle around then return to the west... but now
there were about 4 storms pockets that we could identify. Waves and swells were increasing to 50-60 feet, but the boat was still on autopilot and was
doing well - it was not heeling over more then 5-10 degrees and with only the main sail up with two reefs it it was cruising along at 6.5 knots.
Around 6am the swells became bigger and the wave size began to grow rapidly producing waves that were noticably bigger than the last. The winds
starting get more violent and they were reaching speeds upwards of 100kms, there was no clear sky or calm water anywhere; our course was now any
direction that would get us away from the storm. We changed coarse and headed SW... it looked a little clearer and we believed most of the weather
was coming from the West even through the winds were from the North. We wanted to get behind this strom front and wait it out and then follow it down
SE (which seemed to be the heading the storm was on).As night fall came we were getting bouced all over no one could sleep or eat but the boat was
still sailing in control, we changed coarse again seeing more clearing in the SE.
As darkness set in around 5pm we turned the boat to head into the waves, we figured this was the safest way to proceed through the night since we
weren`t able to see the breaking waves. We close-hauled the sail and headed NW but we couldn.t hold a course, so we continued to consistently change
course to where we thought the storm may let up. We chased pocket of clear sky all night long trying anything to get ahead or away from the storm but
every direction just seemed to get worse. We had all been awake now for over 24 hours and the fear was rising in each one of us as we were struck
with elements that became worse with each blink of an eye.
Friday November 8 2009: 5:00am:
Around 5am the sun started to rise and when we had some visibility, we then realized that we had shredded the lower half of our main sail and the
carbineer holding the preventer had bent open. We made repairs to the rigging and decided that the safest alternative was to engage the engine and
try and motor through the storm to keep forward momentum and not risk tearing any more sails or off balancing ourselves with a sail raised. We tried
to keep a heading of NW still using the autopilot but the winds and waves often turned us in different directions and then would try and correct to
the set course. D.J and Ken began to count boat lengths to try and get an adequate measurement of the wave height, which is when we were faced with
the terrifying realization that we were in heights of 100- 120 foot waves that rolled for over 200 feet and winds whipping at 120km.
7:00AM: The three of us were watching in horror as we surfed waves and climbed steep walls of blue water hoping that the boat would continue to
remain sturdy. Suddenly, with no warning a huge wave sideswiped us and we all found ourselves upside down, underwater . the boat had been rolled!
Within seconds we were brought back over by the weight of the keel and the momentum of us correcting into an upright position sucked all the water
out of the pilothouse and back to sea...including our SPOT Tracker.
Once we realized what had just happened we began to check the damage done to the boat (D.J secured the 4 by 5 foot hatch that was above our galley
since it had been cracked open and water was entering with each wave that hit the deck), Ken started the bilge, D.J hand bailed additional water and
Ashley began Mayday calls across the VHF and from the satellite phone.
At the time of our rollover we were 400 miles offshore so our VHF was virtually useless from that range; our satellite phone was our only hope for
reaching someone. Ashley was able to make three calls from the satellite phone to Brian McGraw, Alan King and Ashley Goodyer stating our coordinates,
that we had suffered a rollover and to call the coast guard. Ashley prayed that the calls were received because the wind was too strong for her to
hear if she had reached their message machine or if they were listening to her plea for help...seconds after her last call the phone had become wet
and died . they now had no way to communicate to the rest of the world.
As for the physical condition of the crew following the rollover both Ken and Ashley were in good shape but D.J had sustained a back injury and lost
a hefty amount of blood from gashes that he suffered on his hands. The cuts on his hands were a result from broken wine bottles that had been ejected
from starboard cabinets but had broken among the downstairs debris. Although he was injured D.J assisted in as many ways as possible; he secured the
boat from water, secured the bunks from heavy or sharp objects in the event of a second rollover, helped to refuel while underway, and assisted with
engine maintenance and removal of water and debris from the boat.
During the course of the day we all battled the storm and held together as a strong crew. Ken never left the helm for over ten hours while he fought
the ongoing monstrous waves and raging wind. Ashley continued to attempt 3 mayday calls every 8-10 minutes for 15 hours, planned and secured a Level
six dry bay which we use as an emergency bag equipped with a water maker, tetra-packed and freeze dried food, sound and sight signalling devises,
medical equipment and heat packs and assisted with engine servicing and maintenance.
Ken had motored us over 40km due west in a period of 15 hours. The waves were down to 60 feet and the wind was blowing 80km. We were thankful that
conditions had lessened but they seemed to be growing yet again. Just shortly after 10pm we heard someone call to us over the radio. It was the
Canadian Coast Guard that flew from Halifax and they were within 50 miles of us. It was a great feeling to know that we were rescued and someone was
By 11: oopm the Canadian Coast Guard was flying overhead, two merchant vessels picked up the transmission from the Coast Guard and had headed in our
direction and the U.S Coast Guard along with the U.S Navy was on their way to our aid. The boat was still thrashing too violently for an evacuation
from ship to ship so the Coast Guards made a decision to send a rescue swimmer who would take us one at a time to a rescue basket and lift us to the
helicopter. D.J was taken first. Ashley second and Ken was the final one to leave the boat. One by one the rescue swimmer swam us the basket and
lifted us to safety into the helicopter. Onboard we had a U.S Navy medical doctor and wonderful attentive Coast Guards that took care of all of our
needs until we landed at 6am in Elisabeth City North Carolina after a quick stopover to re-fuel on an aircraft carrier that was over 300 miles off
the coast of North Carolina. Once we were back on dry land we were taken to the Albemarle Hospital in North Carolina and treated for dehydration and
hypothermia. Everyone that was part of our rescue and rehabilitation were the greatest, most caring and compassionate people any one of us had ever
met. We are forever grateful.
The Element Quest will not be continuing with the circumnavigation, we feel that we do not wish to risk our lives and the lives of others that we
We would like to thank everyone for their support and help along our journey.
A special thanks to Brian McGraw, Alan King, Ted and Diane Greene, Joan Kell and Allen Acheson who spent time and energy figuring out our
coordinates and working closely with the Coast Guards to bring us home.
Thanks to Level 6 for sponsoring our technical gear which kept us warm and prevented hyperthermia while we were struggling to stay alive for over 24
hours in cold, wet conditions.
Thanks again to the amazing team of Coast Guards both in Canada and the U.S.A, the Navy, Captains and Crew of the vessels who were ready to assist us
offshore, the rescue team, paramedics, hospital staff and the fantastic citizens of Elisabeth City.
And thanks to all our friends and family who kept positive and prayed for our safe return home.
We love all of you.
INFINATE, LOVE AND GRATITUDE
Ashley and Ken xo