Usually when you hear about some wealthy businessman spending an ungodly sum on a boat, it's for a luxury yacht for the owner and his friends on which to hang out/possibly use to buy drugs offshore. But Christopher Catrambone and his wife Regina decided to put their luxury boat money towards a different kind of seafaring vessel, after a voyage on their own private yacht showed them firsthand the risks run by refugees fleeing the Middle East across the Mediterranean Sea in order to get to Europe.
That firsthand knowledge came in the form of a floating life jacket, which Chris and Regina learned belonged to a drowned refugee – only one of an estimated 3,500 to drown in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean. In order to try to get that number as low as they can, the Catrambone's sank $8 million (maybe we shouldn't use the word "sank") into a 40-meter rescue craft, which includes two drone cameras and a crew of 20 people.
It's called the Phoenix, and it will sail between Libya and Italy, under the auspices of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, to find marooned or wrecked sailors along that treacherous route.
The Phoenix is said to be the first totally civilian craft to use its sophisticated technology for saving lives at sea, and hopefully it will inspire a trend among other rich industrialists to follow. There's certainly a strong feeling of satisfaction in it for Christopher and Regina Catrambone, who are reported to have rescued 271 people on the ship's first voyage alone, a number that included more than 100 women and children. Since then, more than 3,000 lives have been saved by the Phoenix in just about 60 days of operation. If figures like this continue to hold strong, the $8 million other businessmen spend on yachts and pleasure cruises will probably start to seem a little bit hollow. As for why official government channels don't patrol these waters for wrecked migrants more carefully, one theory holds that it would be politically risky to be seen as endorsing or encouraging individuals to make the trip – a consideration that the Catrambones just don't have to worry about, one way or the other.
Once on board the Phoenix, rescued refugees are taken care of with blankets, food, and water, the latter being especially important in a lost-at-sea situation, and they also have access to medical attention on board the ship if need be. So it's a good thing that Christopher and Regina Catrambone have no plans to stop now, with the Phoenix having recently embarked on another series of search and rescue missions this month, and will hopefully continue to save a lot more lives as the months go on.