I was on a diving boat that sank back in 2003. Below are various articles and reports on the incident.

The Wildcat is a (29m) 120ft Red Sea liveaboard boat.

Configuration 2003:

  • 13 Berths (6 twin cabins en suite, 1 single).
  • Based in Sharm el Sheikh.
  • 2×450 Hp MAN Marine Engines
  • Power: 2×30 Silent Marine generators (220V & 380V)
  • VHF, Radar 48 Miles, GPS, Depth Sounder
  • 2 Central Air conditioning systems
  • Water Capacity: 9 Tons
  • Fuel Capacity: 12 Tons

The Wildcat underwent refit in 2004.

9th October 2003

Wildcat Sinking

In the night of 9/10/03 at 02h38 AM SAR received a mayday call from mv Wildcat diving safari informing of the imminent sinking of the boat. Position of the Vessel GPS is N 27.44.874 E034.09.903http://www.multimap.com/map/browse.cgi?lat=27.7479&lon=34.1651&scale=1000000&icon=x

in “Dahara? national part of Ras Mohamed. The caller was requesting an urgent evacuation for 22 people (14 guests and 8 crew). After checking the call SAR launched 2 rescue rib’s CY 1071 and CY 1012 at 02h55. Coordination and alert with the marine police, coast guards and navy were given at once. Rescue ribs reached the location at 03h50 where the following facts were noticed.

1} MV Wildcat three-quarters under water with the bow section out of the surface. 2 crewmembers on top of the wreck.

2} 14 guests {some in their underwear} on top of a small fishing boat at a distance of less than 50 meters.

3} Rest of the crew on a small dingy {6 crewmembers} after checking for all guests and crew for any medical attention, proper count and crew list check was done. They were all checked sounds and safe with 3 of the group showing signs of shock and hypothermia. All members were briefed on the condition of the medevac and navy was called in from Sharm El Sheikh port to assist with the transfer. At 04h30 “Tehsah�? war ship signaled its approach to Ras Mohamad observatory area. The 14 British guests were transferred in two groups of seven into the rescue ribs and evacuated from the location of the incident to the war ship which took them on board at about 05h00 am. The rescue rib’s returned to the sunken vessel and awaited the arrival of a chartered vessel, mv happy princess, to further evacuate the crew and attempt salvage of the guests personal belongings and diving equipment.

At 05h30 SAR conducted an underwater evaluation of the wreck. Stern of the vessel is lying at -13 meters on a sandy bottom. Forward part of the hull lying on a coral head in an unstable position. Examination of the hull showed no signs of grounding or hit on the reef. Probable cause of sinking is from the sea valve intake, which flooded in engine room. All guests and crew were asleep according to their saying. And when one of the passengers woke up during the night and found water to his knees, he sounded the altert. In minutes water reached the open portholes and the boat sunk immediately.

SAR attempted to enter the vessel but due to instability, poor visibility and fuel leakage no attempt was made to recuperate any belongings. SAR left the seen at 08h30 am after guiding mv happy princess to the incident location. At 16h30 same day mv Happy Princess returned with diving gears and personal bags of guests {uncounted} and were received by the Sharm El Sheikh TRAVCO jetty officials.

This report was prepared at the request of all guests for insurance claim purposes. Each guest signs and approve that SAR has provided them with sea medevac and medical support if needed and should SAR not have bin there, situation could have been life threatening.

Story on Divernet

http://www.divernet.com/news/stories/wildcat141003.shtml

Wildcat Owners Response, published in letters section of DIVER, March 2004: http://www.divernet.com/letters/letters0304.shtml

Your article Wildcat Liveaboard Sinks North of Sharm (News, December) is one-sided and misinformed and is damaging to the reputation of Wildcat, which has served many happy divers from the UK and all over the world for five years.

The Wildcat had water in its engine room in 10m of water only. The stern went down but the bow never sank, so legally it’s not a sunk boat.

You mentioned that divers had hypothermia after jumping into the water. As this was the Red Sea on 8 September the water was very calm and 26°C. The divers were taken with two Wildcat tenders to a nearby fishing boat only 50m away within minutes until within the hour Search & Rescue boats came along with the Egyptian Navy to take them to shore.

They were taken to my house and offered full board and hospitality, including new clothes. A hotel with full board was also offered but after a night the guests decided that they would rather stay at my home. I stayed at a hotel until their departure to the UK.

Later a diamond ring, wallets containing money, cameras and dives watches were found along with many guest belongings and returned to the divers.

The Wildcat is now being repaired. It will be better than new and soon ready to welcome divers from all over the world.

We have offered Martin Morgan, the owner of Blue Ocean Club, a free trip on the Wildcat. This has been approved and we look forward to having his club back onboard. Adham Khamis, Wildcat owner, Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt

Comments by Tim Sheerman-Chase

Did the wildcat sink? Or was it simply shipwrecked? Are there any difference?

As stated in the search and rescue report, the stern was supported by the sandy bottom at a depth of 13 metres and the bow on a coral head. This would suggest that the boat did not have enough buoyancy in the bow or stern to remain afloat. It would have sunk to the bottom depth, whatever that may be. The boat was certainly sinking!

To say that a boat that was sinking and came to rest on the bottom would describe the Wildcat accurately. I would call that sunk but that might not be “legal” term for what happened. In the common understanding of “sunk” (the past tense of to descend to the bottom) then we can say the Wildcat sunk.

Consider the definition of a wreck: To destroy, disable, or seriously damage, as a vessel, by driving it against the shore or on rocks, by causing it to become unseaworthy, to founder, or the like; to shipwreck. –Webster dictionary http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/wreck

I think that fits the circumstances perfectly. The Wildcat was wrecked and it sunk, which ever you prefer. I hope that clears up the use of words.

Furthermore, the search and rescue did not arrive on the scene “within the hour”. This is detailed in the search and rescue report. Incident time 2:30AM. Arrival 3:50AM.

I was interested to read the words about suffering from hypothermia. The air temperature is not mentioned, which would have been more relevant than water temperature! Hypothermia was also mentioned in the search and rescue report.

Accommodation was provided by Adham which was quite confortable (expect for the unusual circumstances). This is probably in response to the line “The group arrived back in Sharm penniless, and with only the minimal clothes they were standing up in.”. This line is simply stating facts. When we arrived in Travco marina, I only had my passport, a pair of shorts and a towel. (Clearly as a homage to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).

The news item on Diver was essentially correct in facts and in substance. —Timothy 23:00, 4 Sep 2004 (GMT Daylight Time)

Tim Sheerman-Chase’s Statement

I arrived in Egypt on 5th October 2003 on a flight from Gatwick, London. The flight number was MON6264. I plan to leave Egypt on 12th October 2003 on a flight to Gatwick.

On 8th October I was on board the Wildcat. The boat arrived at Dahara Bay at approximately 4pm.The boat was moored when it arrived. We conducted two dives after this. We then watched a movie aboard the Wildcat. There was a boat moored approximately 150 metres from the Wildcat. I went to my cabin after we had finished the movie. My cabin was number five, which was on the port side at the bottom of the stairs.

I awoke on 9th October when the lights in the bathroom and air conditioning stopped working. I could hear the sound of flowing water. The cabin had several centimeters of water in the bottom on the floor. I searched for a torch in my cabin. After a few seconds I opened my cabin door and heard voices of the other passengers. I ascended the stairs and went to the stern of the boat. I saw the Wildcat was listing. There were several people awake at this stage that I could see. I continued to search for a torch. I was wearing a pair of shorts only. After failing to find a torch I helped Avril Gilliam-Hill move scuba equipment to the port side of the boat near the bow. The boat was gradually listing by a larger amount. I was near the bow with Avril Gilliam-Hill and Tracy L Norton. People on a RIB at the stern shouted at us to get off the boat. I jumped into the sea and swam to the RIB. Martin Morgans performed a head count. We saw some crew members were on the boat. The boat was mostly underwater at this stage. We were transferred to the nearby boat.

We waited for the arrival of search and rescue. They arrived some time after and established everyone was safe. I was given a towel by one of the passengers. The search and rescue service put me on the first RIB with about six other passengers to an Egyptian Navy boat. This waited for the second RIB with the remaining passengers. They then sailed to the harbor. I only had my shorts and a towel. I was told that our passports had been saved. I was unhurt during the sinking. I do not know what caused the Wildcat to sink. The sea was calm and there was only a light wind. The moon was close to full. I did not notice anything unusual that could cause the boat to sink before the emergency. I was surprised how quickly the boat sank. About then minutes after I had woken up I was on board the RIB and only the bow and top of the wheelhouse was above the water.

The tour operator who booked the flights was Explorers and the operator who arranged the trip was Wildcat. The evacuation from the Wildcat was coordinated by the passengers and the dive guide. The crew did not assist in the evacuation. I hold the boat, crew and owner responsible of the loss of any equipment and belongings. The actions of search and rescue and the Egyptian Navy were very professional.

Lessons Learned

  • Take travel insurance and DAN insurance.
  • Check to see if scuba equipment is covered on your home insurance and if not consider additional cover.
  • Keep money, ID, tickets and passport in waterproof bag.
  • Be familiar with safety equipment.
  • Know the location of a local Western Union for emergency money transfers.

Further Information

Wildcat web page http://www.redseadiving.com/