About 0800 local time on November 14, 2018, the fishing vessel Aaron & Melissa II sank approximately 70 miles southeast of Portland, Maine, after it flooded while transiting to fishing grounds during a storm with gale-force winds. All four crewmembers abandoned ship and entered an inflatable liferaft when attempts to dewater the vessel proved unsuccessful; they were later rescued by a US Coast Guard helicopter. One deckhand received minor injuries. Approximately 3,000 gallons of fuel and lube oil were discharged. The loss of the vessel was estimated at $650,000.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the flooding and sinking of the fishing vessel Aaron & Melissa II was the captain’s decision not to return directly to port with forecasted gale-force conditions, combined with the clogged bilge system, which prevented the crew from dewatering the flooded lazarette.
Full report here.
The crew was able to secure the two stern ramp gates despite water on deck and waves crashing on them. However, the makeshift rebar pins kept breaking, so the gates would open again. Shortly thereafter, the hinges connecting the bottom of both gates to the vessel’s hull also broke, which meant the gates could no longer be secured, so the crew returned to the wheelhouse.
The captain ordered the three crewmembers to continue attempts to secure the stern ramp gates. The crew refused to do so, informing him that it was “too dangerous” for them to go out on the aft main deck. With the stern gates open, boarding seas caused the loose cover on the port lobster tank to wash off the vessel.
At 0500, the Aaron & Melissa II started to list to starboard. At the helm, the captain attempted to maneuver the vessel to reduce the effect the approximately 40-knot winds and 16-foot waves were having on the vessel. About 2 hours later, the Aaron & Melissa II listed further to starboard, submerging the handrail on the forward bulwark. The captain stated he suspected that the containers of catch had broken free and moved toward the starboard side of the fish hold. Around that time, the hatch cover for the fish hold dislodged, allowing water to enter and increase the starboard list.
At 0745, the Coast Guard responded to a mayday call from the Aaron & Melissa II on VHF channel 16. The captain continued to maneuver the vessel in an effort to save it. At 0758, when the port engineer called the captain on his cell phone to discuss normal vessel business, the captain informed him of the situation. The port engineer then contacted the Coast Guard to ensure the seriousness of the crew’s plight was fully understood.