Giant cruise ship Carnival Magic, carrying more than 4,500 passengers, sailed to the rescue of a tiny motor boat in the Mediterranean last night. Two Frenchmen, a father and son, sent out a Mayday call from the motor yacht Jean Michele when it lost power in heavy seas off the Spanish coast.
Magic, which had left Barcelona a few hours earlier at the start of a week-long voyage, had already had to cancel a scheduled visit to Monte Carlo today because forecast high winds were expected to make it impossible for the 128,000-ton vessel to enter harbour. She was the closest vessel to the emergency and with Captain Giovanni Cutugno at the helm, used its bulk to shelter the yacht from the worst of the wind and waves until a rescue boat could reach the scene.
Cruise director John Heald was on the bridge for much of the time, and posted updates and pictures to his Facebook page. He also kept passengers – including 548 from the UK – informed of what was happening and hundreds of them lined the rails and stood on their balconies as the drama unfolded.
The French as a nation are often the butt of some of his most cutting jokes, so you can imagine John’s reaction when he discovered where the two men were from – and what he thought when he could see that the father did not appear to wearing a life jacket!
At one point, he wrote: “Wind is getting stronger, the ship is bouncing a bit as the captain keeps her alongside the yacht – we are approximately 100 metres away and that’s about as close as we can safely get.”
He continued: “Rescue boat still one hour 30 minutes away. Father and son staying on board and we continue to offer assistance and keep them out of the rough waters,” and later reported: ” The Jean Michele is on her way under tow by a coastguard boat to Majorca and we are heading back on course to Messina. I have no idea if we will make it on schedule
After snatching a couple of hours sleep, John was back on duty this morning with his morning show broadcast throughout the ship, and told me: “The captain was brilliant. He manoeuvred the ship within 50-100 metres of the Jean Michele to act as protection against the swells throughout the night. Carnival really does employ some of the best navigators and masters in the industry.”
John will post a full version of the night’s events on his daily blog, and more pictures can be seen on his Facebook page.