Author Topic: Lessons Learned  (Read 858 times)

catsailorbill

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Lessons Learned
« on: October 11, 2020, 08:56:16 AM »
This thread is for lessons learned on the water, particularly those involving safety.   

BMartinez

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Re: Lessons Learned
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2020, 09:40:21 AM »
Since my primary boat is a Dart 18, I use a small sponge to take out any water from both hulls. I have to tilt the boat, due to the design, and the only access is through the port cover openings.. So, why the long intro? Because the last thing you should check before entering the water is the drain plug!!! Out of habit, I lowered my Prindle 18-2 into the water and just made it to "Kiddie Beach" and had to empty a ton of salt water before I could screw the drain plugs back in!!! Check your drain plugs!!!

unShirley

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Re: Lessons Learned
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2020, 11:25:30 AM »
went for a sail yesterday (June 12, 2020) on my Weta.  It was both a dream and a nightmare.

Dream

After 3 days of calm conditions the predictions were for mid-teens westerlies in the Santa Barbara Channel for Friday.  I left the Ventura launch ramp at 1 p.m. and headed out into perfect conditions.  Relatively flat seas, 12 - 14 knots of wind.  I headed straight out into the channel on starboard tack and decided to keep going out for at least an hour.  The Frenchys Rum Run is coming up (out to Anacapa and back) I wanted to test myself for that kind of long distance sail.  Sailing comfortably at over 6 knots, my butt on the ama and leaning back into my harness against the tether,  Platform Gail was becoming enticingly close.  It is about 9 miles offshore from Ventura.  So, my goal became to go around Gail.  The wind kept picking up and by 2:30 was blowing  14 - 16 kts on the East Channel Buoy.  I tacked onto port about 1.5 miles east of Gail. As I rounded Gail to starboard, I saw that it was a close reach to Platform Gilda.  So I cracked off and two sail close reached down to Gilda.  After rounding Gilda to starboard, I cracked off to head back to Ventura and unfurled my Gennaker.  Gilda is about 7 miles offshore.  I had rounded Gilda before and was eagerly anticipating the broad reach home.  By now the seas had built to about 4' @ 10 seconds on the East Channel Buoy.  As I was surfing downwind I moved to the aft deck of the main hull.  I don't usually sail from there, but a lot of Weta sailors do in heavy conditions so I thought I would give it a try.  Up until this moment my sail had been a dream, just tons of fun.

Nightmare

I had only been blasting down wind, surfing down whitecaps for a short while when I was suddenly swept off the back of the boat.  I don't know what happened, I can only guess that I didn't negotiate a whitecap properly.  I was probably between 1 and 2 miles from Gilda at that time.  So, now I am being dragged behind the boat by my tether and harness.  I could just reach the aft crossbar and tried to drag myself back on board, but the boat was still sailing downwind at a good clip and I couldn't pull myself up.  I was being dragged like a bonita on a forgotten trolling line.  I could reach the rudder so I tried heading the boat up into the wind.  Nope, she just kept heading down wind.  The Gennaker was uncleated, but the jib and main were cleated.  With great effort I was able to pull myself up enough to uncleat the main.....no improvement.  I tried to gybe the boat see if that would slow it down....nope.  Nothing would slow the Weta down.  It was like a horse headed to the barn.  I think I must have been dragged at about 4 - 5 kts.  After several attempts at heading up, heading down to gybe, pulling myself up, I finally resigned myself to being dragged behind the boat until we landed somewhere on the beach.  I checked my GPS later and I estimate that I was dragged behind the boat about 5 miles and for at least an hour.  I was wearing an armless long john wetsuit and booties, rash guard and splash smock.  I had lost my board shorts pretty quickly.  I started getting cold but was fortunate that water was about 60 degrees, so not too bad.  With my left hand I was pressing down on the tether to keep my head above water and with my right hand I held the trailing edge of the rudder to steer the boat on what I hoped was the shortest, quickest course.

I ended up coming into the beach just west of the Ventura river mouth.  Fortunately, there was a narrow ribbon of sand between the rocks underwater and the cobblestones piled on shore.  In fact, the locals call that surf spot Cobblestones.  Obviously I was unable to lift the daggerboard, so as I landed the boat perched up into the air until I was able to get to my feet, disconnect my tether, and get to the daggerboard and remove it.  Later inspection revealed  a decent sized chunk was taken out of the leading edge at the bottom of the board.  It will be an easy fix.  A kite boarder ran to me on the beach and helped me pull the boat up onto the sand, out of the water.

I was exhausted and could barely speak.  My throat and voice were almost inoperable due to salt water incursion I suppose.   By this time, the wind was starting to back off, but I still needed to launch and get out through the 1' to 3' surf to get back to the harbor.  I wrestled with the boat in the shore pound and was gradually getting swept down towards the river mouth but was eventually able to jump on and sail out through the surf. 

But the ocean wasn't done with me yet.  On the 3 mile reach down to the harbor the wind started backing off dramatically.  I actually started feeling a little sea sick from the slapping around in the left over seas and light wind and I very seldom get sea sick.  By the time I got to the harbor I had to drift into the ramp at about 1 kt.  I got the boat on the dolley, went up to the truck and called my wife to tell her I was running a little late.  She immediately became concerned because I could barely speak.  I reassured her that I was alright and would tell her all about it when I got home.  Once I did that , though, as she was tenderly taking very good care of me, she threatened to divorce me because she doesn't want to join the "Widows" club that 4 of her friends comprise.

 

Today I am so sore and stiff I can hardly move, but I am alive and grateful to have survived my ordeal.

 

Lessons learned:

1.   I am fucking 63 years old and I have to realize the my mind writes checks that my body can't cash.

2.  ALWAYS wear the tether and harness.  Although mine tried to drown me, it actually save my life.  What would have happened to me if I wasn't tethered and fell overboard 5 miles offshore?  BTW: I wasn't wearing my PFD.  I can't wear both it and the harness.  Perhaps I will start looking for a PFD that I can wear with the harness.

3.  NEVER go more than 1 or 2 miles offshore unless accompanied by other boats and/or a chase boat.  Here in Ventura we have an active beach cat fleet that I can sail with.  In fact they are going out today (Saturday), but I wanted to take advantage of the lesser crowd at the ramp and smoother seas of yesterday.

 

It was a dream and a nightmare, but as soon as I fix my daggerboard I will be back out there.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2020, 12:38:17 PM by unShirley »

Bill

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Re: Lessons Learned
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2020, 04:50:32 PM »
There are other versions of this account online elsewhere.  I just edited this up a bit with knowledge acquired since.

1999 Milt Ingram Race: An unsuccessful attempt on a Hobie 16

My seventeen year old son and I had done quite a bit of buoy racing on the Hobie 16, and decided to go big and enter it into the Milt Ingram Trophy Race. We were the smallest boat in a relatively large field of boats, but came back on a Coast Guard boat with the Hobie in tow...

The Milt Ingram Trophy Race is a 42 nm course across the Santa Barbara Channel, off the coast of southern California. It starts about 2 miles south of Ventura Harbor, runs west to Oil Platform Grace leaving it to port, then runs around Anacapa Island leaving it to port, then returns to Ventura Harbor.

One requirement for this race is a boat length of at least 18 ft. However, 16s would be allowed at the discretion of the RC. In consideration of our prior racing experience, we were allowed to enter the Hobie 16. There was a short list of other requirements, including "standing rigging less than 3 years old". In my case, I replaced the trap wires prior to the event, since it was "about that time" anyway.

As soon as my son Thomas and I left Ventura Harbor and made our way to the starting line on Saturday, I knew we were in for a rough ride. The sea was choppy, and the wind was already up at 10:45am. We parked ourselves near the starting area, noting the diversity of participating boats, which included beach cats, trimarans, and various mono hulls, including a 70 footer with a crew of 12.

At this point we considered the conditions to be well within the limitations of both us and the boat. But we also realized that conditions could be expected to deteriorate significantly as we made our way out into the channel. If either one of us became unsure of our situation, we would retire from the race and head home. Safety gear included the obvious full wet suits and PFDs, and also included a 30 ft tow line, aerial and hand held flares, marker dye, a compass, a chart, binoculars, a flashlight, personal light beacons, whistles, knives, a hand held GPS,
VHF radio, and a cell phone. All gear was stored in a tramp bag with the exception of the aerial flares, whistles, and knives, which which we kept on ourselves. The crew also had the GPS on him.

We had a decent start on the RC boat end of the line. I'm not sure if this was favorable, one factor being the small cannon used as the start signal. (My right ear rang for a while.) The Hobie 20s, Prindle 19s, and Nacras began to pull away from us. Our 16 trailed the pack, sans a Hobie 20 which was behind us having been late to the line.

It was a 2 1/2 hour trek to Drilling Platform Grace, with my crew trapped out the entire time. The swells, waves, and wind were growing. Winds were reported to be around 20 kts. Not sure what the gusts were, but they were kicking our butt. Seas around 5 ft, and surprisingly steep, with healthy wind waves as well. Of particular concern was the steepness of the swells. It was going to be an exciting ride home, anyway. It was on a port tack, still beating to Grace, that we heard it: A sharp pop. The boat shuddered. I sheeted out and had the crew come in from the wire to check things out. After a good examination, everything checked out okay. We assumed we had hit some debris in the water, and continued on.

The GPS was a nice tool at this point, giving us a reliable bearing on both Grace as well as the lay line. Once we were on the starboard lay line to Grace, things started getting "challenging". We were taking heavy seas off our starboard bow, and the crew was now off the wire, since he was having a tough time staying on the boat. We decided we would make a decision once we were around Grace and on a reach.

Once around Grace, the point of sail was more of a broad reach than the beam reach we expected. While we had slowly passed a few of the mono hulls on our way to Grace, it was on this broad reach that we were really screaming past these boats that had started 30 min prior to us. The beam seas were a problem, and had reached approximately 7 feet. Due to the steepness, I had to head up at the crests of some of the larger waves to avoid straddling the crest and swamping the boat. Near pitchpoles were numerous, but my expert crew was releasing the jib to recover, then re-sheeting. At this point we were running a tight downhaul and outhaul, and were travelled out with a tight main sheet. Basically, running about as depowered as we could get in winds now reported to be gusting over 30 kts, both sitting on the rear crossbar trying to avoid a pitchpole. Eventually we did pitchpole, and it was a quick one, with both bows submerging to the cross bar and the masthead slamming to the water in front. The boat immediately went full turtle. Being upside down, in large swells, in the middle of the Santa Barbara Channel, is a very lonely feeling.

After standing on the stern and getting the boat out of turtrle,  we put our weight forward to weathervane into the wind, but it was not working.  After trying over and over to get the boat to turn, we gave up and just righted the boat mast to wind. The boat righted quickly then immediately capsized back to full turtle. On our 2nd attempt, we were quicker getting to the windward side of the dolphin striker and hanging on to keep the boat down, only to have the boat lift us both out of the water for yet another capsize to turtle.

Before the 3rd try, it occurred to me that we were in no immediate danger that needed urgent action. The boat was on it's side, we were standing on the inner side of the hull, and were not sinking.  I had plently of time to figure this out.  We put our weight forward and I started observing the behavior of the boat and the mechanics of what was going on. This time I noticed that the high winds were blowing the boat across the surface, and the main was acting as a sea anchor, with its battens bent almost 90 degrees due to the boat drift. So I climbed to the stern, centered the traveller, and sheeted the main to bring it out of the water.  Moving our weight forward again, the boat immediately weathervaned into the wind.  I then released the main, and we righted the boat successfully. By this time, things were a mess. The 70 ft of Aussie jib halyard was all over the place, tangled around the mast, shrouds, and rudders. The tramp bag containing most of our safety gear was gone. By now, a few passing competitors had asked if we needed assistance. We had declined, since we felt the situation was still under control. Also, a commercial dive vessel was circling our position, keeping an eye on things. We got the lines straightened out, decided to call it a day, and headed for home.

Here's where things got dicey. It was a broad reach on the way home. While riding the face of a wave, we pitchpoled again. Interestingly, in most pitchpoles, you try not to hit parts of the boat as you fly forward. In these conditions, you hold your limbs out hoping to hit something as to not get separated from the boat. Staying with the boat was a definite priority. (At one point the boat was turtled and I was working on uncleating the main, when a large swell took me about 12 feet away from the boat, then brought me back again. After that, I always had a good grip on some part of the boat at all times.) We righted the boat and tried it again, this time heading more on a run than a reach. Now, I'm heading straight downwind, with main battens bent around the shrouds, and the boat is still going like hell. Again we come down the face of a wave, stuff the bows, and go head over heels. We try it again, this time trying to center the travellers and sheeting in to take the boat downwind with as little power as we can. The first swell swings the stern to leeward, and over we go again.

In rough conditions, righting a catamaran 6 times can really drain you. As the boat is on its side, we take a break. I have come to the realization that the boat is quite stable on its side and gives us a chance to rest. Once we are ready, I try one more option. My crew grabs the main halyard, takes it out to the bows, and disengages the lug. We then right the boat and completely lower the mainsail, securing it to the tramp. (Can't reef the main with a comptip. And they call it a safety item?) We are now under jib alone, just as the Coast Guard shows up. At this point the boat is actually moving along quite well on the jib, but the guy on the CG boat is recommending that we come aboard and tow the boat in. My son had just about had it for the day. I asked him if he was willing to make a 3 hour sail back to the harbor and he said he REALLY wanted to get on that nice big CG boat.

Humbled, I boarded the CG boat, helped tie the Hobie to the side with bumpers, then called the RC to retire from the race and advise of our condition. Just then we saw a CG helicopter fly overhead. Apparently, a 2nd catamaran had capsized. But a head count at the finish suggested that the 2nd boat had righted and continued on.


It was a 3 hour tow to Channel Islands Harbor. BTW, the CG were an extremely considerate bunch. Took extraordinary care in assuring that the boat was tied properly to avoid any damage. A letter of appreciation is in the mail.

Once at the harbor, we began derigging the boat, and found the source of the aforementioned "popping" noise. The stress on the forestay had snapped the lower rivet on the cleat which secures the jib halyard. The rivet was ripped from the mast, allowing the cleat to rotate around the remaining rivet, which made it quite a chore to untie.

Later, at the trophy presentations, I had learned that many other boats had turned back after rounding Grace when conditions became too rough. A representative of Land Rover (the primary sponsor of the event) presented us with Land Rover T shirts to raise our spirits. I told him it was probably the highest priced T shirt I had ever owned.

Lessons:

1. When the going will be rough, sail with a buddy or buddies. In my case, other competitors were in the area. While I did not intend to disrupt the racing activity of others, having other boats nearby can keep a bad day from becoming a fight for survival.

2. When conditions get questionable, be aware of your limitations (whether personal or equipment) ON ALL POINTS OF SAIL. We were fine when beating. The crap did not really hit the fan until we turned around. We underestimated this, and paid dearly for it.

3. In rough weather, do not secure items with bungees. This was an embarrassing mistake. Use line. We really had that bag strapped down tight. But at some point, the only thing I had left of that bag was 1 bungee cord with a hook straightened out. Probably pulled off during a pitchpole or by a swell when turtled. Now there's $500 worth of my gear at the bottom of the channel.

4. Keep some safety gear on your person. In our case, even though that bag was gone, we still had the radio, aerial flares, whistles, and lights. Even with a properly secured tramp bag, you may need some stuff if you get separated from the boat.

5. Consider sailing on the jib alone if all other methods of depowering fail.

6. If long distance racing where seas have the potential of becoming rough, determine if you have the best boat for your situation.  The Hobie 16 is an older designed beach boat not really meant for what we put it though. As far as Hobies, I would have been far more comfortable with at least an 18, which has way more buoyancy in the bows.

7. Finally, take the time to assess your immediate situation. On that last screaming reach in those nasty conditions, all I could think was "Don't capsize. Don't capsize." When we did capsize, the desire to right the boat was an extremely urgent one. Three righting attempts in rough conditions can be very exhausting. Actually, we were quite fine on our side. It would have been better to have taken the time to assess things on that first righting attempt, which would have resulted in getting the boat over correctly on the first try.

While I feel the experience was valuable and makes us better sailors, I regret that some competitors may have sailed off course to check us out, the CG boat spent the better part of an afternoon with us, we caused the RC some stress, and we probably cut some diving time from those guys on the dive boat.

I extend a heartfelt thanks to those skippers who checked up on us as they went by. Also, my extreme appreciation goes to Brian Kent, the skipper of "Loafer", who radioed our position and made sure we were okay. Also, to the skipper of the dive boat "Peace", who stood by until the Coast Guard arrived.


unShirley

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Re: Lessons Learned
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2020, 06:33:33 PM »
That Which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, or in this case, smarter, hopefully

Bill

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Re: Lessons Learned
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2020, 10:45:37 PM »
In my case, it's debatable.

unShirley

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Re: Lessons Learned
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2021, 10:25:13 AM »
It is a couple of weeks early, but we are having such nice weather here in Ventura (although we really need more rain), that I decided to break the Weta out of hibernation and go for my first sail since early November.  I launched from Channel Islands Harbor, 5 miles southeast of my home port of Ventura Harbor, because I wanted to mark the CIH entrance and oil platform Gina on my GPS.  I left the ramp, deep in the harbor, at about 1 p.m. and made my way out to the ocean.  It was perfect Weta weather. The seas were only about 1' - 2',  and the wind was blowing strong enough that one could sit on the ama, lean back into the harness and freight along upwind without ever getting overpowered and need to uncleat the mainsheet.  Would that be about 15 knots of wind? Maybe slightly more?  The wind was a bit more north of west than it usually is so I was able to lay Gina, 3.3 miles offshore, on starboard without tacking.  I was stoked because in 25 minutes I had accomplished my mission and gotten two new valuable waypoints in my GPS.  To continue enjoying the perfect conditions I tacked on to port and headed up the coast to Ventura Harbor hoping to see Bob and Lance  on the maiden voyage of Bob's, new to him, Prindle 19.  Usually it would be a reach, but because of the slightly unusual wind direction, close hauled, I was headed into the beach at about the half way point.  But, as often happens, as I got closer into the beach, I got lifted and was actually able to lay the harbor entrance.  So far, this had been a perfect sail.  I entered the harbor, but didn't see my friends, so, because the 54 degree water was starting to give me a bit of a chill, I headed on back to CIH.  I found out later, that as I was leaving the harbor Bob and Lance were coming back in and yelled at me to get my attention, but I didn't hear them.  It is a nice, very fun reach back to CIH, but I only two sailed reached for awhile to get a bit offshore before unfurling the gennaker.  I came to find out that the bow actually dives down more without the gennaker deployed to pull the bow up. It was typical Weta blast reaching but I often buried both the main hull and the leeward ama as I plunged down a swell and into the next one ahead of it and was too slow pulling the tiller up towards me.  Sadly, after doing this for awhile, I noticed that my GPS had been swept away from it's holder on the inspection port cap in front of the daggerboard.  Damn!  My mission was unaccomplished and my GPS was gone.  This had just become a $200 daysail!  But I was having so much fun that I just unfurled the gennaker and took off for 3 more miles of exciting sailing back to CIH. This is when I came to realize that it was actually safer to 3 sail reach.  Either that or my timing heading down in the puffs had gotten better. Or both.  By the time I sailed into the harbor I was shivering but the exciting sail I just had warmed my soul.  I have no idea what my average or max speed was. I do know that I got a fantastic fix of Weta sailing.  My next mission is to search the web to replace my GPS.  And yeah, it was an expensive sail, but, it actually was worth it.  I hope not to spend $200 every time I have a perfect daysail, but I can shrug this one off. Lesson learned:  When the wind is blowing good, put the GPS below deck in the storage sack in the inspection port ahed of the daggerboard case.