Storm Drives Transatlantic Sailors
Into Saquatucket Harbor

Jenna Bossung at Saquatucket Harbor

by Jenna Bossung

HARWICH -- The last nor'easter of the season blew more than seabirds off their course. The Megapripri, a 38-foot sailboat en route from St. Marten to Germany, skippered by Dieter Breummer, came limping into Harwich Port's Saquatucket Harbor last week, severely damaged by the storm.

The impact of that storm, which churned off Cape Cod for a week, threw mariners from Bermuda to Nova Scotia off course as Tim O'Connor's transatlantic crossing, terminated 250 miles of Cape Breton, proved testament. Ironically, the two sailors commencing the crossing more than 1,000 miles apart, found themselves berthed within 100 feet a last week.

Megapripri a 40-year-old steel hull boat, streaked with rust stains, is expected to be docked at the marina for another week, until repair work is completed and the journey to Europe can resume. Between repair work and phone calls to the boat's owner in Germany, Breummer told a story of his journey that was reminiscent of The Perfect Storm.

Breummer was hired by the Megapripri's owner to take the boat from St. Marten in the Caribbean to the Azores and then on to Germany. When the crew of four set out on April 26, they had little idea of the problems that awaited. A storm in the Caribbean pulled the boat further north than intended and when the winds broke a piece of the mast, Breummer was forced to make landfall in Bermuda.

After seven days of repairs, the boat was once again in shape to make the transatlantic journey. After two crew members bailed out, Breummer and his mate, Kurt Krohn, once again set out for the Azores.

It was not long before they hit the system that was ultimately to bring them to Harwich Port. Battling the fierce east and northeasterly winds, Breummer was continually blown off course. When they reached the 42 N latitude, hopes for a west wind were beginning to dwindle and the storm was strengthening.

The seas were "like mountains in the night," Breummer told The Chronicle. The wind and rain were taking their toll on the boat and crew. The bilge broke, requiring hand pumping of excess water. Holes in the deck allowed heavy seas and rain water to pour through into the cabin below.

The battery charging system was faulty and the radio would only work when the engine was running. Breummer and Krohn would trade two-hour watch shifts, one attempting to keep the boat afloat while the other slept miserably in the sea-soaked cabin.

Dieter Breummer shows where his storm jib ripped out of the deck holding in heavy seas. Photos by William F. Galvin

When the storm jib ripped out of the deck holdings in the middle of the night, Breummer's repair attempts were no match for the destructive power of the storm. They decided to take advantage of the relentless east winds and head for the United States, hoping to land somewhere between New York and Washington.

As luck would have it, just 300 miles off the coast, the winds changed to a westerly direction, blowing the boat back offshore. Eleven days after the storm-worn boat and crew had left Bermuda, and with most of his equipment broken, Breummer had no other option than to radio the United States Coast Guard for assistance.

A Coast Guard plane dropped an EPIRB unit and survival suits, with the recommendation that Breummer take the Megapripri to Nantucket. Keeping in close radio contact with the Coast Guard, the boat limped slowly toward the Nantucket Shoals. With faulty radar equipment, Breummer had little hope of successfully navigating the shoals, and soon found himself in trouble. Radioing the Coast Guard for assistance, a boat was dispatched to lead the Megapripri safely to the Nantucket Boat Basin nearly after commencing its journey.

The rudder of the Theanna has been torn from the stern of the vessel now waiting for repairs at Karl's Boat Shop in Harwich. Photos by William F. Galvin

Breummer was not alone in needing Coast Guard assistance in getting into a safe harbor. Tim O'Connor was 250 miles off Halifax, Nova Scotia, heading on a solo trip across the Atlantic to Holland when his boat, Theanna, a 49-foot ketch built in Australia in 1968, suffered damage from the fierce winds and waves. O'Connor made the decision to abort the transatlantic crossing and return to port.

O'Connor, whose recorded the compact disc Hitchhiking Poet, and performed the theme song in the movie Dead Calm, a yachting thriller involving the rescue of a sinking vessel, found himself fighting the elements for 72 hours without food and sleep before communicating his status with the Coast Guard, which sent a vessel 180 miles offshore and towed Theanna back to Nantucket, according to Karl Anderson of Karl's Boat Shop in North Harwich, where O'Connor's boat will undergo repairs.

After having his boat hauled out for repairs, O'Connor caught a flight to Holland to rejoin his rock n' roll band, according to Harbormaster Thomas Leach. O'Connor was not available to provide a first-hand account of the experience.

Both sailors decided to leave Nantucket shortly after their arrival to make room for the Figawi sailing fleet descending upon that island two days after their arrival and to avoid the high cost of dockage on the island. Anderson said a friend of his recommended both skippers take their vessels to Saquatucket Harbor where work could be performed in Karl's Boat Shop. Anderson said Breummer, however, contacted a different Karl and his boat was to be hauled to another boat yard.

Leach noted that the havoc this storm wreaked with vessels at sea and its easterly pattern reminded him of Sebastian Junger's popular novel, The Perfect Storm. (This article was lead story in the Chronicle Wednesday, June 3,1998, page 1.

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