Stein Hoff’s Rowing Attempt Comes to an End

Force-11 Storm Disables Fox II
Stein Rescued by Freighter Ludolf Oldendorff

Here are the events as they unfolded this past Saturday morning, as reported by Stein’s wife Diana:

08:00 UTC approx – Emergency signal received:
– Epirb emergency beacon activated. Position received by Norwegian rescue in Bodø.

10:35 UTC – Status:
– Epirb is active now since this morning. British Rescue are heading the rescue mission and have received a few additional positions.
– Currently no ships and/or planes are en route to his position. Nearest ship 34NM, but have been unable to make contact. No rescue planes available.

10:40 UTC — RECEIVED MESSAGE FROM STEIN via YB-tracker. He is alive and still in FoxII! Reads:
“Activated EPIRP two hours ago”.

10:45 UTC – New message from Stein:
“Sorry. This is end of my trip. Lots of damage to rudder, sea anchor gone. Rolled around and knock downs many times. Activated EPIRB 2 hrs ago. Not dared to get out iPad before now, but was worried in case thought false EPIRB activation. I deeply regret this, no choice, hope the boat stands it till a ship comes. But I have a story to tell, even filmed rolling around – if I get off this boat with camera and stuff… Only minor personal injuries so far. Again sorry and thanks again for your support and interest. Probably last message from “Fox II”.

12:00 UTC – New position report from YB-tracker:
Thankfully the YB-tracker is still functioning and is together with emergency beacon EPIRP is also sending out a position (via Iridium satellite) each six-hours. Weather conditions are still extremely challenging with winds approx 26-35kts and 7-9m waves – but to calm down tonight. Waiting from updates on rescue situation from NMOC (National Maritime Operations Centre / UK Coast Guard).

12:55 UTC – New message from Stein & update from NMOC:
– FoxII rolling around. Upside down for several minutes. Stein injured but not severe. Still has liftraft ready if necessary.
– NMOC still trying to contact ships in the area. No success yet. Organizing plane to send out to locate him and call ships via VHF to send to his position. One of the ships approx 30NM from Stein might have turned towards him they think (seen via satellite), but not certain. New update from them in an hour…

14:39 UTC – SHIP EN ROUTE TO STEIN!
Great news! Tanker Ludolf Oldendorff (300m bulk carrier) approaching FoxII, 30nm from north. Rendezvous in approx three hours. Rescue planes now on standby in case he cannot be located. Weather still extremely challenging for getting Stein up on ship – may have to lay alongside him for shelter until weather/waves calm tonight. Updates to follow.

15:15 UTC – AIRCRAFTS EN ROUTE
NMOC has confirmed that two planes from UK and Ireland are en route to assist Ludolf Oldendorff in locating FoxII and Stein. ETA is 17:30 UTC.

15:54 UTC – REPORT FROM STEIN/FOXII
“Just got news that a ship is diverting to me and should be here in 2 hrs – at 17.30 UTC. Been almost as bad as in my worst dreams. Was a bit better just now, but seems to get rougher again. Three of my four oars now broken, one gone completely. Cannot row without oars or rudder. Lots of other breakages after about 10 complete rolls. Some cuts here and there. Been only inside in my tiny cabin, just leaning out occasionally. Almost a knock-down just now! I am taking chances here with the iPad, but with the knowledge above and the EPIRB peeping and flashing away in the half-full cockpit, rockets ready and AIS still working, I am prepared to chance it for a penultimate greeting to you all from my little ship. Thanks for the company! I was on my own, but not lonely for 84 days. I got 3/4 way. Again sorry! A dream for me for many years – but not for me, now or ever… What an amazing achievement by my heroes Harbo & Samuelsen in 1896! 55 days!!”

18:39 UTC – Ship Ludolf Oldendorff soon at FoxII/Stein:
Ship en route to Steins latest GPS position. ETA estimated around 30min. First they must locate him. Stein has VHF and flares available. Aircraft can assist in locating. NMOC reports that they may not be able to get him aboard ship today due to still extreme weather.

19:30 UTC – STEIN IS SAFE
Just received confirmation that Stein is safely aboard the ship Ludolf Oldendorff!!! No details on how they managed to get him aboard yet, but they are attempting to connect us to him via satellite phone. He is ok – although probably extremely exhausted. The ship is continuing its route towards Canada! Great work from the National Maritime Operations Centre – we are extremely thankful for their fantastic work today! And of course the detour/rescue of the Ludolf Oldendorff!

20.30 UTC by Diana.
I have just spoken to Stein aboard Ludolf Oldendorff!! He is tired, a bit battered and bruised, a bit disappointed, but very happy to be safe and sound, and looking forward to some proper food! It was lovely to hear his voice after over two months, and I am looking forward to seeing him in a few days. The ship is on its way to Canada, tomorrow I will get the details of where and when it will dock, and will probably fly over to meet him. So that is the end of his Atlantic crossing, he was unlucky to meet such extreme weather, but he has made a heroic attempt and I am very proud of him. Like my son, I am very grateful to the ‘redningssentral’ in Bodø, Norway, the National Maritime Operations Centre in UK and the captain and crew of Ludolf Oldendorff for a fantastic rescue operation. Many thanks to all.
That is all from Martin and me at the moment, I expect Stein will be back tomorrow with some more tales of his experiences in the storm.

On Saturday, Stein wrote several letters to family and rescuers from aboard the Ludolf Oldendorff. Here are some excerpts:

I owe my life to the persons in the British Coastguard who responded quickly to my EPIRB signal yesterday morning, who found the good ship “Ludolf Oldendorff” 33 nautical miles away from me to the north and requested the possibility of rescue. The management and owners were contacted. Owners Oldendorff Carriers in Lubeck and managing owners Peter Dohle in Hamburg gave their permission immediately. Master on the ship, Edi Cherim and crew altered course 105 degrees to go SSE to find me.

They arrived as I had been informed by mail via my YB Tracker device about 17.30 UTC. Then became a very difficult operation to get close to me and upwind from me. I was unable to help maneuver myself, all my four oars were broken, the rudder was broken and seas were very big and rough, the wind strong. They managed on their third attempt.

They used line-throwing rocket appliance 4 times. The first was shot perfectly and landed 1 m to my starboard side, but I had not understood what was happening quickly enough and by the time I had untied my boat-hook it had drifted too far away. Eventually they managed to maneuver very close to me and after several attempts got a line into my boat. I tied it to the front stanchion on starboard side. Then a line came which I tied to my special life jacket with harness, got another line down which I used for my most important properties prepared in three bags. These went aloft, 18 m above me safely and efficiently. Then I got another rope down, which I also grabbed and hoped to tie to myself, but could not. My boat is bumping into the side of the big ship while going up and down with 2-3 m oscillations. I just held it while trying to enter the also wildly swinging ladder, one second high up and then next second into the water or banging the rigging of my boat. I tried to grab it without managing a transfer, my hands were quickly weakened, my survival suit had only socks, no shoes and I shouted to just be pulled up. This was done successfully, but with a rope just going over the side with no special appliance above, was slow and difficult. I bumped into the water and into the ship side, was once completely submerged with my own boat heaving up and down just outside me and quite a scary situation, but the men above managed their job, I received a few bruises, but was brought up and on deck and was suddenly an extremely happy man!

Since that moment I have had incredible help and hospitality in every way, given clothes and food, a comfortable cabin and altogether treated as a VIP! Clothes are washed and dried, all my equipment is unharmed.

So I have gone from hell to heaven in a few hours!

Being tossed around by a violent force 11 storm, seeing and hearing my boat equipment being broken and destroyed around me and wondering how long the hull and I could take it was a near-death experience. I rolled right around about 10 times, several knock-downs in addition. Twice I spent more than a minute practically upside down with howling wind wondering if the boat was ever going to get upright and if I was going to survive.

In my 84 days at sea, I managed almost 3/4 of my, for years planned, solo row from New York to Isles of Scilly. But it was not to be. Still I do not regret it. It has given me highs and lows and getting safely aboard M/V Ludolf Oldendorff is forever going to be a major highlight of my life.

I thank you all, Coastguard, Managers and Owners, Master and crew, from the bottom of my heart!

As for me, I was sort of reborn yesterday. So in the middle of a genuine sorrow for a failed project and a lost boat and equipment, I feel that this was beyond my own fault or control. Maybe not totally, as I will never know the exact sequence of events. It the sea anchor had held, i.e. I had had stronger sea anchor rope, maybe the rolling and worst destruction would not have occurred… I will never know, for sure. The fitting in the bow held, however. It was very frightening and twice I thought the end was approaching fast with the boat remaining upside down for seemingly ages… I had the camera on for one of the occasions and you can see for yourself next time we meet.

I am now having a luxury holiday being treated like a king. Great cabin, shower, washing machine, dryer, bottled water, amazing food and great variety. Dinner in 1 hr, I thought the 3 courses at 12 was dinner, too, no that was lunch!

Crew yesterday filmed me being rescued,by the way. I have not seen it, was dramatic, allright. Hope to get copies.

I am now en route slowly as far as modern ships go, due to berthing problems, to Sept-Îles. We arrive 14th, but cannot get ashore before 15th at the earliest. They cannot tell me exactly when I can get off yet. A surveyor has to come aboard first, 15th earliest, apparently.

OldendorffStein Hoff is currently aboard the bulk carrier Ludolf Oldendorff en route to Canada.

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