Delivery and Loss of Guppy
In the early morning hours of August 8 th , 2018, the sailing vessel Guppy, a 40’ cutter
rigged ketch and former boat of Laura Dekker, the youngest ever solo circumnavigator,
was wrecked on Manihiki, a remote island in the South Central Pacific. The vessel Guppy
was donated to LifeSail by Ms. Dekker in late 2017, and departed New Zealand in April
of 2018 with a crew of LifeSail volunteers on delivery to Southern California.
LifeSail repeatedly expressed heartfelt regret to Ms. Dekker. We ourselves were
saddened for the lost opportunity to further inspire youth through Guppy, but of most
importance, no one was seriously injured, and the environment was protected.
During the salvage effort, our highest priority was preventing environmental impact.
Vessels can be replaced, but reefs, oceans, and the people who live there cannot. Special
thanks are owed to the people of Manihiki, as well as the LifeSail volunteers. Their
combined work made possible Guppy’s removal from the reef, in compliance with
directions from the central Cook Island Government and local island council.
LifeSail hoped to provide details to address supporters, as well as fans of Ms. Dekker
who expressed anger over the loss. LifeSail’s regular communications with Ms. Dekker
ended when Ms. Dekker chose to engage legal counsel, and therefore precluded a
complete public statement from LifeSail. Ms. Dekker made numerous threats of legal
action, despite Ms. Dekker having no responsibility for Guppy, crew liability, the
extensive salvage operation, or potential environmental impact.
LifeSail has engaged in no wrongdoing or mishandling of the donation, and claims of her image being damaged by LifeSail have no legal merit. LifeSail accepted full
responsibility from the outset, and has in no way involved Ms. Dekker.
LifeSail has made numerous attempts to repair the relationship, including offers to donate the balance of insurance proceeds to Ms. Dekker for the purchase of her next vessel. After additional costs related to salvage, installation of new equipment, and repairs for Guppy, the remaining insurance is comparable to Guppy’s market value when donated. Our offer leaves LifeSail supporters to carry additional related costs, which we believe to be fair, and in the spirit of our initial understanding with Ms. Dekker.
Despite our best efforts, Ms. Dekker has declined our offer. She instead demands a sum
of money far beyond Guppy’s value, and continues to threaten legal action for emotional and immaterial damages. That said, LifeSail remains committed to our understanding with Ms. Dekker, and has no intention of retaining these funds.
The LifeSail board has voted to donate these proceeds to one or more independent
charities on her behalf. LifeSail will choose organizations that perform rescue at sea,
marine environmental recovery, or other marine related activities. In order to maintain a
high level of integrity, we will document these donations and inform the public as made.
Now that LifeSail is free to release details of the Guppy loss, we hope to clear confusion
with the following comprehensive timeline.
Timeline of Guppy Donation
-In April of 2017, Ms. Dekker contacted LifeSail to offer Guppy as a donation. She
explained that she and her husband were seeking to purchase a larger boat to embark on a new sailing endeavor. They needed to sell Guppy to raise funds, but after two years had been unable to do so.
Instead, a couple in the United States offered to donate the value of Guppy to Ms. Dekker for her new boat, on condition that she arrange for a worthy organization to accept the donation of Guppy. After researching LifeSail, Ms. Dekker stated she felt our program would be a fit.
LifeSail responded that if certain conditions were met, we would be able to accept Guppy as part of the existing program, by giving under privileged youth the experience of coastal cruising aboard Guppy.
At that time, Ms. Dekker represented Guppy as in proper condition to sail west to east
across the Pacific.
-In May 2017, LifeSail CEO Matt Schulz traveled to New Zealand to inspect Guppy. He
found Guppy had been left on a mooring for several years, and would require significant
work and preparation for a delivery trip to the United States.
-Between May and September of 2017, the details of the donation and delivery were
-In October 2017, Ms. Dekker and LifeSail entered into an initial Memorandum of
Understanding. LifeSail agreed to take full financial responsibility for Guppy starting
November 2017, and requested Ms. Dekker sail with the volunteer crew on the initial leg
of the delivery starting spring of 2018.
Ms. Dekker wanted to insure Guppy would serve children, and not be sold for cash upon
reaching the US. LifeSail therefore promised that if for any reason LifeSail could no
longer use Guppy, and before the vessel would be sold or transferred to another
organization, Ms. Dekker would have a first right of refusal.
-In November 2017, LifeSail paid for haulout, and sail, rigging, and hull repairs. A full
assessment of the vessel was made. All indications were that despite the vessel’s age,
with additional attention and careful weather planning, Guppy could be sailed to the US
-In December, LifeSail wired funds to Ms. Dekker sufficient to pay for insurance, taxes,
mooring, and other miscellaneous repairs up until the scheduled departure time of April
LifeSail also offered to hire Ms. Dekker to crew Guppy for the entire delivery, along with
LifeSail volunteers, as a way to raise additional money for her new venture. LifeSail
offered her delivery fee, and Ms. Dekker conditionally accepted, if she could arrange
time for the trip.
-In January of 2018, LifeSail began work on a series of fund raising events to pay Ms.
Dekker’s delivery rate, and costs for flights, provisions, and equipment for the volunteer
-In February, Ms. Dekker was brought to Los Angeles at LifeSail’s expense for the
premiere fund raising event, and to announce the donation of Guppy. While in the US,
Ms. Dekker informed LifeSail she would not be able to participate as a delivery skipper,
but agreed to sail with the crew to Fiji as originally agreed, in order to familiarize the
volunteer crew with Guppy.
-In March of 2018, Ms. Dekker, Matt Schulz, and LifeSail Vice-President Hartmut
Eggert, traveled to the US Consulate in New Zealand to sign a federally notarized
donating Bill of Sale, and officially transfer full ownership of Guppy to LifeSail,
superseding the earlier Memorandum of Understanding.
-In April of 2018, US Documentation was approved for Guppy, and the delivery crew
arrived in New Zealand to complete final repairs and provisioning, including replacement of radios and other electronics, installation of two satellite communication systems, replacement of rigging components, and repair of areas of dry rot found during prior inspections.
One week prior to departure, Ms. Dekker informed the crew she would be unable to
participate in any part of the delivery, including the leg to Fiji as had been planned.
LifeSail made crew adjustments and continued with the plan to depart as weather
Timeline of Guppy Delivery
The route east from New Zealand to the US, against the trades, required flexibility. The
general plan was to sail first to Fiji, then east as weather permitted, until crossing the
equator to Hawaii. To fulfill the mission of inspiring youth sailing, the crew would video
log and make contact with youth sailing clubs as opportunities permitted while enroute.
-May 2018 Guppy sailed from New Zealand to Fiji with the first leg crew of four. Matt
Schulz, Professional Marine Surveyor and 45 year blue water sailor; Hartmut Eggert,
Commercial Licensed Captain and ASA sailing instructor; Lori Kallestad, 20 year Sailor,
Boat Owner, and Off Shore Racer; Josh Park youth graduate of LifeSail. On the crossing,
Hartmut Eggert suffered what was believed to be bruised ribs.
Upon arrival in Fiji, Matt Schulz and Josh Park returned to the US. Britta Fjelstrom, a 25
year Sailor with extensive cruising experience, relieved Matt Schulz, leaving a crew of
three aboard Guppy.
Guppy waited to insure Hartmut had recovered, but after two weeks of no improvement, x-rays revealed two broken ribs. Hartmut returned to Germany, leaving Guppy with a crew of two. In addition, the first signs of engine trouble made it necessary to clean fuel lines and perform unexpected maintenance prior to departure. Guppy was delayed in Fiji by a total of 3 weeks.
-June 2018, light winds and prevailing Easterlies made sailing to American Samoa via
Tonga a favorable route, additionally tracing the route Ms. Dekker had sailed across the
Pacific. While underway, both engines failed, and both were leaking salt water into the
bilges, requiring a sail directly into the Easterlies, delaying arrival to Pago Pago in
American Samoa by several days. At the time, it was believed American Samoa would be
the best place to repair the engines and re-provision.
-Late June to July 2018, Guppy was delayed by over three weeks in Pago Pago waiting
for shipment of engine parts, new raw water pumps, and new filter assemblies from the
United States. Mechanics were hired to replace the aged filter system, fouled lines, and
other engine accessories. While waiting in American Samoa, a storm further delayed
departure, and resulted in the loss of portions of running rigging, which were sacrificed to secure Guppy in the harbor, as well as sail and sail cover damage.
Limited sail and rigging supplies in Pago Pago required Guppy to sail to Apia Samoa,
further delaying delivery. By the end of July, Britta had exceeded her two month
commitment, which meant she would not be able to continue to Hawaii. Britta returned to the US from Apia.
Attempts were made to take on replacement crew in Apia. Arrangements had already
been made for Matt Schulz and Steven Schulz, also a LifeSail Instructor, to meet Guppy
in Kiribati in mid-August. When no crew was found in Apia, Lori Kallestad requested
permission to continue on from Apia to Kiribati solo.
The meteorologist felt the timing worked well with the pending forecast, coupled with
pilot charts, and LifeSail authorized Lori sail Guppy Solo to rendezvous with Matt and
Steven in Kiribati. Guppy would then hold in Kiribati to watch for hurricanes before
continuing on to Hawaii, or waiting out hurricane season to the south.
-Late July to August 2018, sailing was lighter than forecast, and progress north from
Samoa was slow. Problems continued with both Guppy engines as well, especially the
more fuel efficient wing engine, which was critical to making the passage with Guppy’s
limited fuel capacity. Starting both engines was difficult, and both engines would die
after start, indicating more fuel line or tank obstructions.
After 6 days making slow progress to the North in light winds, shifting weather forecasts
called for better routing to the East in the direction of the Northern Cooks. After 4-5 days Easting, Guppy would turn back north to Kiribati from the Northern Cooks and with any luck, would have reached Kiribati on or before August 17 th .
Additional fuel and working engines would have assisted traveling further East, and
insured a successful passage to Kiribati, regardless of wind conditions. Because the
Northern Cooks were on a direct line of travel, the decision was made to stop in Manihiki and Penrhyn Islands, the two most inhabited islands, to change fuel filters, and secure additional diesel fuel if available.
-August 6 th , Guppy anchored at Manihiki Island, with the intention of departing by
August 8 th for Penrhyn Island.
An anchoring position near the municipal pier channel was recommended by the local
Manihiki authority, on the west facing side of the island near the village of Tauhunu.
There was sufficient room to swing, and the anchor was properly set. The evening of
August 6 th passed without incident.
-August 7 th , supplies of fuel were low on the island and none could be spared. Completing engine maintenance and other preparations made first light on August 8 th the safest option for departure to the next island of Penrhyn. Winds and swell were light, and the extended forecast on both Predict Wind and European models showed no significant prevailing changes for the next 5 to 7 days.
After midnight on August 8 th , the wind and seas were calm, and the skipper’s scheduled anchor check detected no dragging.
Approximately 3am, winds had shifted from ENE to WNW as a light squall moved
through. Lori was again on deck for anchor check, and she reported feeling no tension on the anchor rode. Later it would be learned that the anchor rode was cut by the reef.
Lori attempted to start the main engine to reset the anchor. The engine ran momentarily and allowed slight progress out to sea, then died. Guppy was now adrift without power. Before the spare anchor could be set, the swell carried Guppy’s keel against the edge of the reef. While attempting to restart the engine, the skipper fell in the cockpit, striking her head against the wheel. The laceration later required stitches.
Guppy was then rolled onto her port side and fully grounded. When Lori called for help,
two nearby fisherman came to assist as she abandoned ship. At daylight, the squall had
passed and Guppy was laying beam on to a flat drying section of reef, approximately 40
yards from the municipal pier.
Attempts were made to move Guppy for approximately 12 days, but neither vessels near the island, nor resources available ashore, were sufficient to pull Guppy off without
significant damage. Fuel, oil, coolant, and batteries were removed from the boat to
prevent spillage. Matt Schulz traveled to Manihiki by the first boat available from
After a second squall wedged Guppy between two sections of reef, she was holed and
driven into the deeper water of the channel. It became necessary to break Guppy into
sections, and salvage bags were brought in from the United States to remove the pieces
The final cause of the grounding was determined to be a loss of anchor when a section of anchor rode was cut loose by the reef, and the boat was carried ashore by the wind waves produced by the squall. A contributing factor was the engine failure, which made
maneuvering to safety not possible. An additional contributing factor was the inability of
the skipper to set the spare anchor, exacerbated by the injury she suffered and the boat
initially hitting ground.
LifeSail believes that Lori Kallestad took all reasonable measures to secure Guppy, and
did all that could be expected in the situation above. Some will find it easy to judge after
the fact. We choose to look at all the facts. Lori’s integrity is highlighted by the over
three months she and the other volunteers spent taking responsibility for the salvage.
It is important to note that Manihiki is an extremely remote island, over 600nm from the
nearest island with regular supplies or air service. 4-5 hour flights are made once a month or less to Manihiki, but are not regularly scheduled. Supply vessels arrive every two to three months, with a passage that takes over 3 days from the capital of Rarotonga. With no cranes or other heavy equipment useful for salvage operations, the island people and LifeSail volunteers did the best they could, but ultimately Guppy was not salvageable.
Once again, special thanks must go to the people of Manihiki. We at LifeSail are grateful
for their generosity and kindness.
LifeSail Board of Directors