For affluent surfers, the ultimate escape is to take a luxury charter boat to surf perfect waves on distant islands. The Mentawai Islands of Indonesia are just such islands and the Quest 1 was just such a boat. Or it was until the night of July 21, 2015 when the Quest 1’s engine room flooded and it quickly sank while on an expedition in the Mentawai. Fortunately, the eight guests and five crew were all rescued safely. Now, however, the passengers on the doomed charter boat are suing Rip Curl, the owner of the Quest 1, claiming, among other things, that the boat’s captain and masseuse fled together on a jet ski abandoning them in the Indian Ocean.
The 21 meter long Quest 1 was considered to be legendary for scouting exotic surfing locales and for helping to develop the Mentawai Islands as a surfing destination. The boat also appeared in several surfing movies.
As reported by the Washington Post: The passengers were five Californians and three Australians, described in the complaint as an “avid and active group of surfing enthusiasts.” The complaint said there was a masseuse on board the boat, as well as several crew members.
After paying more than $30,000 to charter the Quest 1, the group set sail in mid-July 2015 from Padang, Indonesia, for a two-week trip to the Mentawai Islands. Located about 90 miles off the coast of West Sumatra, the islands are a popular destination for competitive surfers, boasting “limitless waves” and some of the “best, most consistent surf on the planet,” as the website Surflineonce put it.
At about 2:30 a.m. on the third day of their outing, one of the surfers woke up to find the crew scrambling around the ship and speaking in “agitated voices,” according to the complaint. When he approached the back of the ship, the lawsuit said, he saw three feet of seawater rising into the engine room.
Without warning, just before 4 a.m., the captain hopped into a Jet Ski and fled the Quest 1, leaving the passengers, crew and moribund vessel behind, according to the complaint.
“Chaos ensued,” the lawsuit read. “The masseuse panicked and jumped onto the Jet Ski with the captain. The remaining crew was incapable of launching the life rafts and fled to launch the motorized tender boat. The tender quickly became overloaded as the crew transferred on and cast themselves off from the Quest 1.”
The surfers and an unspecified number of crew members were left clinging to their boards and a pair of small inflatable life rafts, according to the complaint. For the next several hours, the group floated there in the open ocean, the lawsuit said, battling seasickness in the six-foot waves. Around dawn, the Quest 1 sunk below the surface.
The suit alleges negligence, breach of contract, fraud and unjust enrichment. A representative from Rip Curl didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Monday.
Fortunately, the stranded surfers were able to summon another nearby charter boat. They were rescued approximately seven hours after the sinking.