The Story Behind a Viral Sinking

So about that sunken Ferretti.

A couple of weeks ago, a beautiful 83-foot Ferretti yacht foundered off Chub Cay in the Bahamas. Video of the sinking posted by Miami captain Pedro Garcia soon started popping up on social media feeds everywhere. Like everyone else, we had questions. Rather than pontificating though, we decided to reach out to Captain Garcia himself. The good captain runs the Miami-based Diamond Yacht Charters. He stumbled on the boat—quite unexpectedly—on July 6 during a delivery. Initially, I’d just expected to write a short Q&A with Garcia about what he saw. But Garcia turned out to be an experienced mariner who has been plying these occasionally treacherous waters for better than a decade running charters and delivering big boats—so we thought we’d turn the interview into a podcast. Garcia not only ended up talking about the viral sinking of a very nice boat, but provided some valuable insight into navigating Bahamian waters, what happens to a boat like this after she founders, and what the future might hold for an unfortunate yacht called The Life.

PMY: Captain Garcia, tell me a little bit about yourself and your business down there driving boats.

Captain Garcia: Well, it’s freelance most often, but like I’m saying, my name is Pedro Garcia—I’ve grown up and lived all my life in Miami, Florida. We run a run a charter company with my brother called Diamond Yacht Charters. I was doing a freelance job bringing a tender from Staniel Cay back to Miami. and we ran across the 83-foot Ferretti. It actually went down on July 3. And I spoke to a couple of people that have given me some information. One of the gentlemen was actually talking to the chef on the vessel when it happened. All they know is they hit something and then started taking on water. Right east of that northwest channel marker going to Chub Cay, there’s actually a shallow bar that’s full of rocks, and my guess would be they ran right over that because it’s small. It’s not like a big sandbar.

PMY: So just an outcropping.

Garcia: When I saw it, the vessel was anchored, I guess to try to fix the problem or estimate the damage. But when I found the Ferretti, it has two anchors and only one was down.

PMY: Okay. Gotcha.

Garcia: I’m not sure if they misjudged the waters, and because the channel going into that channel marker goes from 18 feet to 700 feet to 300 feet to 70 feet to 20 feet—and that’s all like, within 150 yards.

PMY: Really? It goes that quick?

Garcia: Yeah.

PMY: Wow. So that brings up an interesting point from when you look at NOAA charts, or even Google Earth satellite images of that area around Chub Cay. If you were talking to somebody who was not used to navigating those waters and didn’t want to employ your services, what would you tell them?

Garcia: Well, that if you’re heading south towards let’s say Staniel Cay or Chub Cay or even New Providence, that Northwest channel marker is one of the points where you get a lot of traffic—especially bigger boats. People tend to be careful because it’s 15 to 20 feet, but it’s mostly 20 feet until that channel marker. If they’re going south, once they go past that channel marker, that’s where the waters get deep. Depending on which way you’re facing, the first is the closest deep section into heading towards New Providence. So, if you look at it like I’m saying on Google, it looks like an upside-down ice cream cone. And that’s the point where the channel marker is, where it starts to get deep, and that’s why people head that way.

PMY: But there are also shallow spots in between, right?

Garcia: Yes, this spot is what you find if you’re heading north past the marker. It’s usually 20 to 15 feet. There’s very, very little water on the east side. There’s like four or five bars where there’s actually rocks, and it gets really low—like five feet, four feet on low tide. That’s what I’m saying. I think that’s what they hit. That’s my guess. I haven’t spoken to anyone on the vessel. The gentleman I spoke to, like I say, was talking to the chef when they actually hit something. And the chef is now actually on another vessel—same owner is what I heard.

PMY: Did they have any indication of how quickly the boat took on water and went down?

Garcia: He didn’t tell me, but I know that the boat’s been salvaged. I have a picture of the salvage—I just can’t share it because I have to wait ‘til the insurance company surveys the vessel. It’s actually the salvage company that sent me the picture. I know it’s been salvaged, and I know it’s already at port. I’m not sure if they took it to New Providence or if they brought it towards Florida. I would guess New Providence or Chub Cay is probably your best, closest place.

PMY: How long have you been delivering boats and motoring those waters yourself—not just Chub Cay but the Bahamas in general?

Garcia: I’ve run to the Bahamas for last 10 years on and off. It’s mostly delivering vessels. The charters that I do were usually local here in Florida.

PMY: And what boat do you charter from?

Garcia: I usually drive a 52 series Sundancer. My brother has a 42-foot Sea Ray sedan.

PMY: And in terms of just those waters in general, do you ever see big marine debris that could take a boat out like that—floating in the channels. I’m thinking containers that have fallen off ships.

Garcia: No, no, no, I’ve never ran across anything like that. Never. I ran across a couple of pilots here and there but smaller debris. Nothing that would really take out a boat—it would damage a prop or a shaft.

PMY: Well, back up real quick—were you aware that this boat had foundered from radio communications?

Garcia: No. I actually found the alert when I got back to Florida. My brother posted it on Facebook. And that’s when I found out that it had gone down on the third of July, when I was going towards the channel marker. I kept looking at it and saying hey, it doesn’t look like a boat because you can’t see the whole shape. I was getting closer and closer. I was like, it looks kind of weird. Let me head that way because I saw somebody on a little flats boat out there. As soon as I actually got closer, that’s when I actually made out that it was the bow of the boat that was sticking up out of the water

PMY: That’s a trip.

Garcia: I actually found out with people texting me or emailing me after the post that the boats name is called The Life.

PMY: Well, maybe it’ll have a second life if they can successfully salvage it. I mean, I can’t imagine the level of refurb that would need to go into a beautiful boat like that—that spent that much time in the water. Do you think that they’ll actually restore the boat or that they’re just going to yank whatever’s valuable off it?

Garcia: I don’t know the extent of the damage to the hull. But as far as the vessel itself, it was pretty stripped to say the least. When I saw it, all the wires were hanging and I actually told a buddy of mine that was on another vessel , “I think they only left the one anchor that was on top of the bow and the steering wheel.” Everything else has been taken off.

PMY: It’s interesting. I read the book, The Diary of a Wrecker, and it was about these people back in the early 1900s, maybe the 1800s, who basically made a living off this type of situation. There were so many boats that foundered and ran up on reefs back before there were reliable charts in that part of the world, that there was a full economy of people that stripped boats for a living and salvaged them. It was really interesting because it talks about how these guys literally would wait until there’d been a storm and then just patrol the reefs and find a boat and then strip it. I guess reliable navigation and nautical charts make that a lot less likely now, but in this case, somebody has to do it, huh?Garcia: Yes. Somebody actually commented on the post and said anything that goes down like that in the Bahamas, within like, two, three hours once the boat is on its own, basically people start taking stuff off of it. I don’t know if that’s true or not. Like I’m saying, I’ve never ran across a sinking boat crossing, and I’ve never really ever seen anyone taking it apart. Somebody was on it, and the boat did have reflective tape on a little orange buoy on top of the roof. And I’m guessing it’s just so that if somebody were spotlighting it or driving at night navigating those waters, they could see it.

PMY: Gotcha. Well, were you surprised that this thing got shared all over the place? Were you surprised that it blew up as much as it did? You’ve gotten obviously a lot of a lot of commentary in various places since it happened.

Garcia: Yeah. I’ve been able to answer some of the questions that people have asked. Everybody asks me what happened. How did it happen? I don’t know. I tell them my guess, but I don’t know for sure. I haven’t been able to contact anyone on the vessel, but other than that, people just start questioning if alcohol was involved. As far as I know, there was no alcohol involved.

PMY: It just looked like bad damn luck. At least in part. Yeah?

Garcia: Yeah, exactly. The guy that gave me most of the information, I forgot to ask him if the accident actually happened at night. Because maybe they ran across that bar navigating at night. But I didn’t get to ask him.

PMY: Well man, thanks. I really appreciate the time, and I hope your deliveries go smoothly and you don’t stumble upon any other boats like that.

Garcia: I hope so. I hope so.

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