December 13, 2013 at 12:49 p.m.

Sea tragedy: Skipper went down with his boat

Sea tragedy: Skipper went down with his boat
Sea tragedy: Skipper went down with his boat

By Simon [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

A veteran sailor died trying to save the floating home that was his ‘pride and joy’ from sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

Steve Cummings remained on board his motor yacht Silent Thunder along with his beloved cats, Shakespeare and Earl Grey, as the vessel took on water in the early hours of Wednesday.

The 66-year-old mariner tried desperately to find the source of the leak, which allowed three feet of water to gush into the ship’s bilge.

Last night the cause of the leak remained a mystery after investigators found no evidence to suggest the yacht had hit the reef.

Mr Cumming’s body was found on Shelly Bay at around 7:50am on Wednesday, while the boat that friends described as ‘his life’ was found on the seabed less than a mile off Devonshire Dock.

As more details emerged about the tragedy, his devastated wife, Rose, who lives in Malta, was struggling to come to terms with her loss.

Mr Cummings originally arrived in Bermuda in September for engine repairs and had been out testing the boat for around 24 hours when disaster struck as he headed back to his mooring off White’s Island.

The American sailor initially contacted Bermuda Radio just after midnight saying he needed to deal with an issue on board shortly after midnight.

Just over half an hour later, after police had been sent to Black Watch Pass to check up on the boat, Mr Cummings reported that Silent Thunder was taking in water and his efforts to summon help in the form of pumps from friends had failed.

Debris

Marine Police units were on the scene within an hour but could only find debris including an oxygen tank and a bladder pump.

Attempts to find Mr Cummings and the craft he had spent several years transforming from an old army tugboat to a luxurious motor home were unsuccessful in the darkness.

It was only the next morning at 8:20am that his body and a small dinghy were found on Shelley Bay. Both his cats are presumed dead.

At just before 10am Silent Thunder was located in 35ft of water midway between Tyne’s Bay and the South Channel.

The operation to recover the boat has been put back until Saturday due to bad weather.

Meanwhile shocked friends paid tribute to a passionate and kind mariner, whose ‘heart was as big as the sea’.

Friend Kathy Enzernick, told the Bermuda Sun: “I first met Steve when he and Rose were anchored at Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart, Florida.

“Steve was on his hands and knees in the Marina parking lot, measuring and cutting carpet for someone else’s boat. That was Steve.

“When Steve heard of a need, from a long-time cruiser friend or an overnight transient, he was the first to offer a helping hand.

“Mechanical or electrical problem — he was immediately alongside with the exact diagnostic, fix-it tool or replacement part.

“He was an analytical man who was willing to share his knowledge and experience — always.

“I found Steve to be a quiet, serious man with a heart as big as the seas.”

While Sam Portolese, the dock master from Sunset Bay Marina in Florida, where Mr Cummings moored his boat, said: “We had known Steve and his wife Rose here for three years.

“They were unbelievable guests. Steve was very mechanically minded and willing to help everyone.

“Every time he left my office he would say ‘is there anything I can do to help you today?’ That was the kind of guy he was.

“That boat, his wife and being at sea was his life.

“He has done so much to that boat he would have done anything to keep it afloat. It’s such a shame.”

A Bermuda police spokesman said a family liaison officer has been assigned to the family of Mr Cummings “to assist them at this difficult time. An autopsy is scheduled in due course and a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of Mr. Cummings is ongoing.

 “A local salvage company in coordination with Marine and Ports is currently assessing how the sunken vessel can be floated.” 


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