On March 16, 2021, about 1807 local time, the yacht La Dolce Vita was anchored 1 mile north of Marquesas Keys in the Gulf of Mexico, 17 miles west of Key West, Florida, when a fire was discovered in the engine room.1 After an unsuccessful attempt to fight the fire, the crew of four and both passengers abandoned the yacht into the vessel’s 20-foot tender boat and were then assisted by two US Coast Guard boats. The yacht burned to the waterline and sank the next day. No injuries were reported, and a sheen of diesel fuel was observed. The vessel was a total loss, with an estimated value of $3.9 million.
We determined that the probable cause of the engine room fire aboard the yacht La Dolce Vita was an undetermined electrical source within the sound enclosure for the starboard generator. Contributing to the severity of the fire and total loss of the vessel was the inability to secure ventilation to the engine room, which reduced the effectiveness of the yacht's fire extinguishing system and allowed the fire to spread beyond the engine room.
Fixed fire-extinguishing systems in machinery and other hazardous spaces require a minimum concentration of extinguishing agent to either halt the chemical reaction producing the fire, displace the oxygen feeding the fire, or effect a combination of both. To ensure the effectiveness of the system and prevent the reintroduction of oxygen to the space, vessel designers and owners should ensure that the ventilation, both natural and forced draft, can be completely and remotely secured to all fire-protected spaces, and that all machinery within these same fire-protected spaces can be remotely stopped from outside the space where the machinery is situated.