Captain Christopher Hill, a 1997 graduate of Texas A&M University at Galveston, has been lauded for his part as master of the M/V Ocean Titan in a rescue at sea in the Atlantic Ocean on December 9, saving the lives of all seven crew members of the bulk carrier M/V Florece as that vessel sank in extremely rough seas.
“The tanker M/V Afrodite collided with the M/V Florece at about 3:30 a.m. that morning approximately 250 miles southwest of Land's End in the Bay of Biscay,” according to an article posted in the American Maritime Officers January newsletter. “An hour later, the ship sank as the Ocean Titan arrived on scene.” Article
Captain Hill described in detail the rescue operation, which he said was conducted in near gale force winds and 12- to 14-foot seas on a pitch-black and bitterly cold winter North Atlantic night.
"I steered to windward of the life raft and tried to keep enough way on the ship to prevent broaching while at the same time proceeding slowly enough so that I could stop upon reaching the raft,” Hill said. “Too slow and I would lose control of the bow and run the life raft down; too fast and I'd fly by the raft and risk getting the raft caught under my stern.”
He described the scene as “dreamlike” when his vessel closed on the life raft.
"Each breaking wave was lined with unrecognizable debris from the Florece. Lights were flashing everywhere from locator beacons attached to life jackets and life rings which had gone adrift on the water, orange smoke from emergency smoke canisters was being whipped across the water by the winds, reflective tape could be seen flashing everywhere and distress flares were being fired from the rafts in rapid succession and in every direction. Most of all I will remember how insignificant the life rafts looked under my bright deck lights rising and falling with each massive wave and how helpless, how scared the survivors looked in their survival suits waving their arms from the life raft canopy's open hatchway.”
Kudos for the rescue included a letter from John Toner, technical director for Maritime Management, responsible for the Florece.
"I would like to send our sincere and heartfelt gratitude to you and particularly Captain Hill and his crew for the noble, professional and valiant actions on Friday morning to save the entire crew of our vessel Florece," Toner said. "You were their only chance of survival at that location. There are many sons, daughters, wives, mothers, fathers and friends of the men you have saved who will be thinking of you and how you have brought their loved ones back safely."