Psycho Tanker Reprise

A week after arriving in Seattle we received an email from the owners of the psycho tanker, Siteam Leader. Quite a pleasant surprise, I never in a million years expected an answer from them, yet they contacted their ship operations company and received a report from the ship. I will post here first our original correspondence to the company which wasn’t posted in this blog, followed by their answer and then our response to the ship’s report. I am eliminating included copies of previous emails since they appear earlier. If you weren’t following the blog then, this will make more sense of you go back and read our postings from mid-July.

First, our original email to Eitzen Chemical sent the day after the event from the middle of the Pacific.




I would appreciate this email being forwarded to someone in authority in your company who has responsibility for your tankers.

On July 14, 2010 we had a mid-ocean encounter with the tanker ‘Siteam Leader’. The Pacific Seafarer’s HAM net reported the incident to the US Coast Guard and we supplemented their report with our own email. The PacSea net also provided us with your company name as the owner of this tanker. The ships details are:

Tanker ‘Siteam Leader’
MMSI: 565917000
IMO: 9343194
Call Sign: 9VNR2
596 feet, 40 foot draft
Markings: Fitzen Chemical (I believe we read the first letter as an ‘F’ when it is in fact an ‘E’)

Our encounter with the vessel is documented in the below report as submitted to the US Coast Guard in Hawaii. I would like the owners of this vessel to be aware of this incident as it reflects on their company, maritime safety, and operational expenses for the aforementioned ship.

I hope your vessels are not in the practice of deviating course over 62 degrees and traveling an additional 7 miles so they can have an unnecessary encounter with a recreational sailboat as indicated below. I would appreciate you taking this seriously and perhaps investigating the decisions that were made on the bridge of this ship that led to the maneuvers around our sailing vessel. Any information you can provide that would illuminate the tanker’s side of the incident would be educational and most welcome.

We are currently underway between Osaka, Japan and Seattle, USA and do not expect landfall earlier than mid August. We can be reached at this email address but since it is received via SSB radio at very slow speeds please be advised of the following restrictions:

1. Attachments are not allowed, incoming or outgoing.
2. Do not include the previous message in replies – the connection is very slow.
3. Due to radio propagation we are able to connect to email only a couple of times a day, so be patient when waiting for a reply.

Feel free to email us with any information or questions.

Rob and Teresa Sicade
SV Yohelah
enroute Japan to Seattle

—– Begin Coast Guard Report—–

Psycho Tanker, answer from the owners

Here is the response we received from the owners of Siteam Leader. Unfortunately for them, we have photos that seem to contradict their report.


—– Original Message —–
From: “Unni Thorsen – Eitzen Chemical NO”
Subject: FW: Owner of tanker ‘Siteam Leader’
Date: 27 Aug 2010 08:53:00 -0000

Dear Rob & Teresa!

Please accept our apology for very late reply to your email.

Below is the statement from the Operations Director in V Ships UK (the ship operator) I received yesterday:

On 14th of July 2010 the mt “Siteam Leader” was en route from Panama Canal to port destination Ulsan.

The vessel was maintaining a course 279 and running with speed about 14.2knts, with moderate breeze and sea state moderate becoming rough.

At 14:00 hrs LT the ship was in position 37 47.7N, 175 41.4E with the nearest coast being about 1200 nm away. About 14:30 LT on the starboard bow a small yacht was seen about 8-9 nm ahead, without any ID on ship’s AIS.

The yacht was about 50-55 mtr long and was rolling and pitching in the moderate sea waves.

Several attempts were made to reach the yacht by VHF radio but this was aborted as the yacht kept radio silence.

By the time distance between ship and yacht was about 4-5 nm ahead on the starboard bow they were clearly visible through the binoculars.  Nobody was visible on weather deck.

The ships whistle was sounded and continued attempts to reach them by VHF was made without a positive result.

It was very unusual picture with a small yacht so far away from the nearest land rolling by the sea waves. All attempts to reach by radio
contact had been unsuccessful and no one from yacht’s staff were visible on open deck. It gave the impression that the vessel was derelict or some trouble had happened on board.

On this basis the ships course was changed to starboard about 10 degrees from original with intention to approach close with CPA about 1.5-2.0nm.

At about 15:10 LT the yacht was abeam on the starboard side with distance of about 1.5-2.0 nm. radio contact was made. We received
confirmation that all was ok and for information there was one more yacht about 30nm away.

Good luck and bon voyage was the wishes and about 15:20 hrs the vessel resumed on the original course and continued on route.
If you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact us.

Brgds John
John Kerr
Operations Director
V Ships UK ltd

Psycho Tanker – Our reply to the tanker’s report

And finally, our response to the owners with a link to photo’s that seem to be at odds with the tanker’s captain. I’m sure we’ve gone on about the psycho tanker incident enough now but I thought it was intersting enough to complete the story that started back in July.



Mr Onni Thorsen

Thank you for your reply to our email. I cannot begin to express my thanks for your answer as I did not expect an answer from Eitzen Chemical. Thank you very much for expending the time to look into this incident. My apologies for the delay in replying, since arriving back in Seattle we have hauled the boat for much needed maintenance and have been busy with re-establishing a shore-side life.

I have already sent you a copy of our report to the US Coast Guard in Hawaii, I would like to also direct your attention to a series of photos we took during the incident as the tanker passed by. The photos are at, the dates are off 1 day due to the server location on the other side of the international dateline from the boat’s location. I would like to volunteer a few comments regarding these photos and associated discrepancies in the report you were provided from the ship.

1. Weather – In all photos the wind is clearly behind SV Yohelah, we are sailing with a south westerly wind off our port stern quarter on a heading of 82 degrees True at 5 knots. Contrary to the assertion from Siteam Leader, the seas are obviously not “moderate becoming rough”. Wind was less than 11-14 knots, sea state was pretty flat with long period swell even for our small boat. NOAA Sea State Analysis for this date clearly show us between high pressure systems with no increasing winds or sea state.

2. Sea state – With wind from behind us as shown in the photos, we were not rolling in the waves, certainly not “rolling and pitching in the moderate sea waves”. The very small waves.

3. Course changes – Since the wind is from the southwest and we are heading east, Siteam Leader is heading just west of north. This seems to contradict their assertion they only changed course 10 degrees. Especially when you compare Photo 1 with Photo 5 in which they turn more than 90 degrees as they passed us the first time.

4. Distance – These photos show less than 1/4 miles separation between the two vessels. Certainly a bit closer than the 1.5-2.0 nautical miles (nm) claimed by Siteam Leader.

5. Yohelah’s size – At a range of .22 nm, it is unfathomable that Siteam Leader would describe us as a 55 meter sailboat. Our 13 meter sailboat usually doesn’t appear 4 times larger.

6. Derelict – This is the first time our sailboat has been described as a derelict. The Osaka Tannowa Yacht Club website contains many photos of our boat before we left Japan, they are at – also our website has many pictures of our boat. Our last survey listed our condition as ‘Bristol’. Please feel free to come to your own conclusion about the boat condition.

These pictures clearly contradict enough of the report you received from your ship operators to establish the complete fiction represented. I only hope the ships logs do not contain this erroneous information since ship’s logs are generally required to be accurate from a legal viewpoint.

My original hope was for the Captain of Siteam Leader to at least have to answer questions from someone in an official capacity; perhaps the experience would change his behavior in regard to recreational vessels. I believe that goal may have been accomplished and we can hope there will be no recurrence of this sort of incident with this Captain.

I will provide copies of our emails to the US Coast Guard for inclusion in their investigation and also include this in the blog on our website.

Thanks again for taking this seriously enough to look into the incident; while I do not believe you were supplied with accurate information I appreciate your efforts.

Rob and Teresa Sicade
SV Yohelah

—– Original Message —–
From: “Unni Thorsen – Eitzen Chemical NO”

Psycho Tanker, the final chapter

In the last chapter of this saga, we received a response from the CEO of the company that manages the ships for Eitzen Chemical. We could not have asked for a better response and I would like to thank both Eitzen Chemical and V.Ships (ship management) for their concern and for looking into this matter.



Dear Mr and Mrs Sicade.

I have been passed your correspondence and can assure you that we, as responsible ship managers take your concerns very seriously. We are a leader in our profession and have an excellent record in commitment to safe operation.

I do not wish to return to the discussions about how close and from where the vessel approached. I am happy to accept what you say. The reality is you were concerned at the vessel manoeuvrings. The point we would like to take from this, is that we need to be more careful in approaching sailing vessels sighted deep sea, which whilst undertaken in the spirit of common concern for those potentially in peril upon the seas, should not heighten concerns or make more fearful fellow mariners.

We will give guidance to our vessels, in this regard. We will let them understand that, in many cases the poor lookout and lack of concern by merchant shipping for fellow sailing mariners which can be experienced within the deep sea sailing community has resulted in sailors becoming more concerned that pleased when sighting merchant traffic.

As both a deep-sea mariner and coastal yachtsman I do believe I understand both ends of the equation. Years ago when I was at sea (Before satnav!) I recall, deep-sea yachtsmen were very keen to get a position off us and a VHF conversation livened up the watch. Equally, this summer whilst sailing I was concerned that a passing vessel was not showing an early indication they were going to alter course. They did, but I was ready for them not…

So thank you for sharing your concerns with us and we will follow up on the matter.

Best regards,
Bob Bishop
V.Ships Ship Management