A brief report on the capsizing of the Kyrenia-Liberty in October 2023

Dr Crystal el Safadi

On Friday September 29th 2023 we set sail on Kyrenia-Liberty as part of the Eastern Mediterranean Experimental Sailing project. This is a University of Southampton project, supported through Dr Crystal el Safadi’s HFF sponsored position. The project’s aim for this year was to undertake a short trip on board the Kyrenia-Liberty as an experimental exercise to capture data and explore research potential on vessel performance and sailing. The Kyrenia-Liberty (KL) is one of three replica reconstructions of the Kyrenia Shipwreck, a 4th c BC Greek merchant ship found 1km offshore on the north coast of Cyprus outside the port of the town of Kyrenia at a depth of nearly 30m. While KL was subject to prior experimental trips, our aim was to record sailing parameters and variables systematically, digitally, and accurately. This project involved Dr Crystal el Safadi and Dr Felix Pedrotti from the University of Southampton, collaborating with Dr Pat Tanner, specialist in shipbuilding and digital reconstructions, Dr Maria Michael, Glafkos Cariolou and members of the KL crew: Christina Pandjarou, Theodoros Lafazanis, and George Paphitis.

On Friday afternoon, we started our experimental trip from Limassol Marina, with a plan to head west to Paphos. This followed a three-day period of preparation by the team to ensure all equipment is functioning and positioned appropriately on the vessel. the KL crew were preparing for the trip for a much longer period, ensuring that the vessel was sea-ready, with water tanks (ballast replacement), radio, chart/GPS and AIS system installed and in place prior to departure. We set sail from Limassol marina with a forecast of 17-20 knots of wind WSW and as soon as we were in the open water, the strength of the wind and its direction, WSW, meant that our sailing course had to be changed. The captain altered our itinerary instead of sailing towards ancient Kourion to sail towards ancient Kition and we headed east . After sailing for approximately 3 hours covering 11 NM and as the wind speed increased to 25 knots, we set course towards Zygi fishing shelter, sailing on broad reach, to find shelter and update our course. However, our experimental trip was interrupted, first by the starboard quarter rudder breaking almost 3 hours into our sailing course. We carefully monitored the performance of the vessel controlling our course with just one quarter rudder and with more than an hour apart, the port side rudder broke as well. This caused the vessel to destabilise, and it capsized at about 18:00.

Thankfully, the team and crew were not injured, and the Cypriot Centre for Coordination, Search and Rescue responded to our call with a helicopter and two rescue boats that brought the team ashore. KL was abandoned and drifted at sea at a depth of over 100 metres, remaining on the surface as it is unsinkable when free of millstones and amphorae. Investigations to locate it began next day on Saturday by the KL crew and community. It was reported by a passing ship in the afternoon, 4 nautical miles from the coast, and had drifted to the southern area of Larnaca Airport. On Sunday 1/10/2023, KL was safely towed back to Larnaca harbour; She had suffered considerable damage on her sail, yard, mast support and rigging but not on her hull and planking, although not extreme, and repairs are needed now to return it into its functioning, seagoing, state.

The project continues, despite or due to challenges, with various research packages in plan. But importantly, warm thanks are due to Glafkos Cariolou, George Pafitis and Theodoros Lafazanis and of course to every single KL crew and scientific team members for their courage, composure and coolness, to the rescue team, to all those that helped in locating and towing KL back to port and to the community that sponsors and supports this vessel. Now is a time to repair and rebuild, continue and look forward. The scientific team is now collecting measurements and observations from the crew log books for further studies.

To learn more about the Kyrenia-Liberty and the ongoing repair work, please visit the Facebook page dedicated to the ship. 

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