My wife Margaret and I returned yesterday from a cruise across the Atlantic to New York on the Queen Mary 2 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Cunard line. One of the most haunting sights was not in the staged programme of celebrations but this abandoned boat 500m off the coast of Ireland.
The sight of the boat – almost in the path of the transatlantic liner – brought the Queen Mary 2 to a halt. There was no response from it when the ship blew its foghorn. The captain employed infra-red cameras on the vessel for signs of life. But there was no one alive on board. No attempt was made to board the boat and after an unscheduled 20 minute halt the QM 2 went on its way leaving the boat to continue drifting in the Atlantic.
The captain reported he had informed HM Coastguard in Falmouth about the sighting of the boat and evidently it is being left to the coastguard in Cornwall – which must be over 800 miles away – to decide whether to do anything about it.
What was extraordinary about this incident is that this appears to be the second time this boat has been sighted in the Atlantic and no one is doing anything to investigate it.
One could not but wonder if this is new maritime policy to leave small boats to drift aimlessly across the atlantic like a message in a bottle. And one could not help speculate about the story behind this particular Marie Celeste.
Was it as someone speculate a boat cut adrift from its moorings in Ireland or the United states that had just drifted out to sea? Was it abandoned in a storm and its crew drowned? Were there still dead bodies on the boat that showed no sign of life? Or was it a bad fishing trip, a failed transatlantic crossing that ended in tragedy, a failed and,misguided attempt to seek asylum in Ireland?
Or as some wary passengers worried a plot by Al Qaeda or Islamic State to put an abandoned boat loaded with something nasty in the Atlantic shipping lanes?
We shall probably never know. The mystery like an old sailor’s tale remains to be solved.