Why I created this long post about Concordia sinking

Concordia by Wojtek Voytec Wacowski

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to ask why have I gone to great lengths to create this long post about the high school tall ship Concordia sinking. There are lots of reasons.

  1. Personal – I spent my high school years on a tall ship called Tabor Boy and launched The Tabor Boy Project, a website/living history project/social network, about that experience. So as a product of a long established, successful sail training program, I passionately believe in the power to transform young lives.
  2. Professional – I was the executive director of the American Sail Training Association from 2001 to 2008. During that period I had the opportunity to work with hundreds of different sail training vessels and tall ships from around the world.
  3. Professional/Personal – When speaking with the public or media at big tall ships events, I was invariably asked which was my favorite. As ASTA executive director, the only answer could be that “Like parents love their children,  I love them all equally.” (politically correct)  However, each sail training vessel and tall ship is unique in its own way and back on April 2, 2008, I wrote “I had the great fortune to spend my 4 years of high school sailing on a tall ship. If there was one educational sailing experience I could be jealous of, this (Class Afloat on Concordia) would be it.” By the way, I still feel that way today.
  4. Leadership – Over the years, I had the opportunity to work with Class Afloat’s founder Terry Davies and believe that it would be difficult to find another educational leader more professional and caring about young people and more knowledgeable about ships.  Similarly, my experience working with various captains and crew members of the Concordia was always very positive.  Leadership defines the success of a program and Terry Davies charted a proper course for Class Afloat.
  5. Reference – Today modern technology and media allow information to be distributed fast, far and wide. Unfortunately, accuracy isn’t always one of the characteristics but that might be a fair trade under many circumstances. Over time, inaccurate reports are generally weeded out and tossed aside.  I’ve attempted to collect as many of the stories told to and by the media as possible. Going back later and trying to find this kind of information would be a gargantuan task. Doing it in real time is slightly easier. This is the web and many of these links will die but overall the post can serve as a pretty comprehensive reference for anyone interested in learning more about the casualty.
  6. Lessons to Be Learned – The Concordia sinking is a sad story with a happy ending. And while it’s very early days in the investigation, it presents a great opportunity to try to figure out what happened without the usual high emotion that surrounds an incident involving casualties or fatalities. In some respects, this is similar to the Miracle on the Hudson. As Sergeant Joe Friday used to say, “All we want are the facts” and there are more than 64 individual stories that can be told today but which over time will consolidate into one overall narrative from which we will hopefully learn some valuable lessons for the future.

Up to this post, I’ve avoided editorializing, analyzing or making any judgement about what actually happened on the Concordia on February 17, 2010. I think that I’ll continue to leave the technical analysis to the professional investigators and others with more direct experience and knowledge about these things. I will continue to collect links about the sinking but anticipate (and hope) the pace of stories slows down so that I can get back to Sea-Fever’s regularly scheduled programming.  I will also try to interpret/translate some of the technical findings so that non mariners can get a better understanding of the issues. I believe my Tabor Boy and ASTA experiences leave me well suited to the task. Finally, I will continue to champion sail training because I believe more than ever that there is no greater teaching platform than the tall ship and or campus than the sea.

Published by

Peter A. Mello

Husband, father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

11 thoughts on “Why I created this long post about Concordia sinking”

  1. Crewing on Tall Ships is extraordinary and life-changing. I wrote about them in the 1980s when they came to Toronto and many years later crewed aboard the Endeavour, the Australian replica, from Norwalk, CT to Newport, RI. Climbing the rigging and working 100 ft in the air on a foot-rope is an experience, however terrifying, I’ll always treasure.

    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting Caitlin. The diversity of people who have benefited from the tall ship sailing experience always amazes me. Was Chris Blake the captain when you sailed Endeavour?

      Thanks for introducing me to Broadside and it sounds like I’ve got to see “Inside Job.”

      Fair Winds and Happy Holidays! Peter

  2. Amazingly perhaps, I only now became aware of the “Concordia” incident because I happened to see a shallow and poorly put-together story on CTV-TV in Canada that aired this evening. In 1953 I set out around the world with Irving Johnson on his famous “Yankee,” the next to last of seven 18-month voyages around the world. It was a am experience that formed the rest of my life. Fortunately, the “Yankee” was never hit by a “micro-burst,” otherwise known as a “white squall”—as was Chris Sheldon on his 92-foot “Albatross” in 1961 in the Gulf of Mexico. As Chris later testified, ”In 15 seconds the “Albatross” was on its side. In 60 seconds it filled with water. And then it was gone.” In that tragedy, he lost his wife Alice and five other crew members.

    None of these incidents should discourage young people (or their parents, for them) from seeking to go to sea with a professionally-run training organization like Class Afloat out of Lundberg or the Sea Education Association out of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

  3. Peter. I would like to thank you for sharing sea fever blog space that has allowed colleagues in our industry, trainees, educators and tall ship afficianados to follow and glean lessons from the loss of our blue lady. When there is a loss of this magnitude, it is more often than not the confluence of two or more factors that are potential contributors to the outcome. Much money and time is being givem by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Flag State investigators and Insurance underwriters to make those determinations. I am not qualified to comment and solid explanations, brought by experts will, in due course, generate reasonable explanations. That being a given, three things may be said with some measure of certainty; 1) it was not a fluke that 64 souls were safely evacuated from the Concordia and tall ship operators everywhere may take both pride and comfort when and where they practice a culture of safety. No number of abandon ship drills is too many. 2)there are many types of sail training adventures and those that engage in longer term itineraries are advantaged by the training and teamwork that accompnay longer sailing periods…obvious I know, but a defining variable in this outcome. 3) I knew little if anything about microbursts other than their effects in aviation. I have some training in meteorology, am a private pilot with some vintage but have had to slog through some of the cocepts in Ken Pryor’s (NOAAA meteorologist) blog. He has traced conditions that he presents as explanatory of the loss of the Concordia. Have at look at his blog…good graphics and even a Nexrad radar echo loop to view! See:http://windstormreview.blogspot.com.

    In due course, I will pass along the final reports which close a chapter in the Class afloat program, this as we work tirelessley to launch the next chapter in our history. You will appreciate, as an alum of Tabor Boy, that the alumni will drive this next chapter. Thanks for the space Peter….more to follow. Terry Davies

    1. Terry, thanks for visiting and, more importantly, commenting. It’s great to have your contribution.

      It’s really one of those sad stories with a very happy ending. All souls are safe but we lost a ship that shaped so many young lives over her years of sailing around the globe. In reality, the ship is just an easy thing that we identify with; the real learning takes place as a result of the efforts of shipmates (crew and fellow trainees) and shoreside support. It sounds like Class Afloat’s shipmates are determined to continue to change young lives into the future and that’s great news.

      I’ve devoted a lot of attention to this story because it’s so important to the entire sail training/sea education community/industry. There are so many lessons that can and will be learned from so many different perspectives. I’m sure (hope?) that this casualty will be a major topic for discussion and presentation at many future ASTA conferences.

      Thanks again for joining in the conversation. We all look forward to learning as much as we can from this extraordinary event.

  4. Hey Peter,
    Do you remember the “Albatross”?She was a sistership to the Tabor Boy, only she was steel.She went down in the Gulf of Mex. after being hit with a “White Squall” with T’sails set. She split open her Garboards and went down standing up.A friend of mine Tod J. was on the wheel. Sounds similar to the “Concordia”…Tim

  5. Thank you for posting all these articles. I used this page extensively in my search for information on the SV Concordia. I was on the first voyage of Class Afloat. I sailed on the SY Pogoria and although I only boarded the Concordia once, I found it to be a magnificent ship. I was saddened to hear that it sank. During our voyage that year we met the crew of the Pride of Baltimore. Three weeks later it sank. Now 25 years later, our ship meets a similar fate. I agree with your characterization of Terry Davies. He was a visionary when he created Class Afloat and he helped shape my youth. I am forever indebted to him for the experience that he provided for me. It would be a shame if the program were not to continue. I am surprised by some of the negative comments posted on some of the news websites. I wish those who are so quick to judge had the opportunity to experience the program. I and many others were by no means considered wealthy but we found a way to become part of an amazing journey. I can say first hand that safety was always a primary concern right from the beginning. The fact that everyone survived is a testimonial not only to all the training but the abundance of life rafts. Unfortunately, the crew of the Pride of Baltimore was not as lucky, they lost 4 of the 8 crew members and had to survive in a faulty life raft until the survivors were rescued. Thank you again Mr. Mello for creating this informative post!

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