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ID: 82 Title: What has been your most horrific seagoing experience so far? Replis: 3 Read: 1833 Author: 4
Name: Tom Yang  Posts: 110    Vancouver Time: 2003-4-8_2:56:19 Quote    Reply
I saw this topic by Ken Benson at today and I thought it's very interesting. I re-posted here and hope every 7k user has a story to tell!!! Let me start it with mine first:

1993 Christmas, I single handed a 25' MacGregor from Santa Cruz to San Diego. After encountered a spectacular winter storm, I was too worried that the swing keel was going to fall off. I ran towards shore and back into Pt. Concepcion. At 3am, I hit the Exxon oil drilling platform "Harmonica" off Santa Barbara. I aimed at this huge bright castle at sea many, many miles ahead but I was too tired to wake up before I hit a pillar head on. BANGGG!! I dashed out and saw this vertical face of pillar wall pointing to the sky.... the brown-green barnacles on it looked like teeth to hell...scared the sh*t out of me. Many workers were calling me from above "Are you ok?". "Keep away from the pillar!" A 80' crewboat came near and rescued me up to their boat. Also, my poor toy was towed away from the platform base in no time.
The captain told me, for hours, they'd been watching this small sailboat drifting towards them... closer and closer. Calling over the VHF panicky, they watched her going right under!
After a cup of coffee, they put me to Exxon headquarter in Houston. The guy asked me, in the phone, why I hit their platform! I remembered I uttered: "I guess the sea is not big enough for both of us". They made me sign a bunch of papers... something like I cannot sue Exxon ... etc, etc, etc. Coast Guard wanted to fly me to Santa Barbara. I declined it since my boat looked like still floating. I was lowered to my boat at dawn. It turned out that my boat was so slow at the time when she hit the pillar that the impact only concaved the pulpit inwards about 6 inches! But the up and down motion at the pillar ripped the rigging good.
So, what've we learned from this episode? -- "the Autohelm Tillerpilot works great!"

Name: Slonezy  Posts: 2  **  Vancouver Time: 2004-9-16_22:6:34 Quote    Reply
Two years ago in January I had to make the crossing from Fort Myers Florida to Isla Mujures Mex. Because of the rush to get across I couldnt find any crew so had to single hand. I used an Oven timer to wake me up every 15 minits so that I could look at the Horizon to see if there were any lights out there. After three and a half days I was very tired and almost halucinating. About 125 miles out of Isla about 2:30 in the morning I came up and checked for lights and there were none there so back down to bed I went . Turned the Oven timer 1/4 turn , laid down , out like a light. Next thing I heard was a real loud twang, I jumped up because I thought it was the timer that went off I looked at the timer, it said 5 minits had gone by so I ran up the companionway stairs and as I got to the top, a very large shrimp boat turned on all his lights about 200 ft. directly behind me. Then He aimed a big spotlight on my boat and shined it all over my rigging. I went down and grabbed my 500000 thousand candle power spotlight and looked all over my rigging. About that time the shrimp boat turned all his lights back off except for the ones underwater. The only damage I could find was one missing port spreader boot. Needless to say I didn't sleep any more that night.
Name: Kelvin Meeks  Posts: 9    Vancouver Time: 2004-9-17_15:45:11 Quote    Reply

A little taste of a gale

For a beginning sailor - your first long distance single-handed voyage - on a dark and windy night can be real growth event in the development of your confidence, skills, and knowledge. Here's my tale...

I left Cabo San Lucas in February of this year - planning on an enjoyable sail up into the Sea of Cortez - glad to be out of the open ocean on the Baja Pacific side - thinking that it would be in safer and more protected waters as I headed toward La Paz.

The first afternoon out of Cabo San Lucas - toward evening - I was feeling a little tired - so decided to head into Cabo San Jose - an open road-stead anchorage that the Pardy's have written about (as being marginal - and not always safe from Northers).

I dropped the anchor - and decided to rest for a bit and cook some food.

Within an hour - an uncomfortable swell started rolling in from the North / Northeast.

I think it was Tristan Jones who so eloquently wrote once - "When in danger or in doubt, raise the sails and bugger on out". My gut was telling me that the swell - that was quickly turning into a nasty 5 ft short period chop - was the precursor to a Santa Ana Wind blowing down into the Sea of Cortez. I quickly raised anchor and got underway - into the inky darkness of a cloudy and moonless night.

By midnight - I was bashing into some serious 8-12 ft. waves. Today I still wonder why I didn't just turn on a beam reach and run like a scalded cat for Mazatlan...but part of me was stubborn to not turn and run (dumb male ego).

At a meager 1 knot for the next 18 hours - I kept bashing through the night...and into the following day

Around 1am - the wind was moaning in the rigging - and I knew I needed to reduce sail. As much I as I wanted to stay in the warmth of the cabin - or at least the safety of the cockpit - I knew that the safety of Renaissance depended on me getting the jib down. Take care of your vessel - and she'll take care of you.

I estimate that the wind was somewhere between 25-35 knots - but it was hard to judge. I just knew it was some of the roughest conditions I had experienced.

As I put on my tether and harness - and slowly inched my way out onto the coach roof - and along the deck - staying low to minimize the risk of being pitched overboard - at times crawling on my belly - just so that I could stay on the boat - I finally reach the foredeck and started the mad scramble to claw the jib down and secure it. Balancing on one knee - with the other wedged under the tube of my inflatable dinghy - I worked to slowly bring the jib down to the deck. Every few moments, my stomach did one of those flip flops as the deck rose from the trough of a wave - soared up over a wave - and crashed down the backside - often lifting me off the deck. It was at that point that I looked down and realized that my tether had become unsnapped somewhere back near the mast - while I was crawling on my stomach.

With an icy knot of fear now firmly locked in my stomach - I quickly finished the task of securing the jib and crawled - ever so slowly - ever so carefully - back to the shackle that lay on the pitching deck.

For the next 12 hours - I continued beating into rough conditions - trying to make my way to Los Frailles - where I hoped to find refuge from the gale behind a shelf of rock.

Finally - around 2pm that next day - I gratefully dropped anchor - laying out 240 feet of chain on a 35 lb. CQR - behind the protective shelter of "the three climbing friars" at Los Frailles.

My bunk in the v-berth never felt so comfortable.

I stayed at Los Frailles for 3 days - mending a torn main sail track connector - and regaining my wits.

Lessons Learned:

  • Trust my gut
  • You can learn alot by closely reading the experience of others - thankfully I remembered the wisdom of the Pardey's stories about their experiences sailing in the Sea of Cortez
  • Given a choice of being anchored on a lee shore - or bashing into steep waves and rough conditions - I prefer the relative safety of being underway
  • The advice to reduce sail when you first think to ask if you should - has been worth all the money I paid for sailing lessons - and books bought
  • The Sea of Cortez can be a lively place to sail!
  • Having lots of needles and sail repair thread onboard is a GOOD THING!
  • A 35 lb CQR anchor - and all chain - gave me many worry-free nights of sleep
  • Name: Tconerly  Posts: 1    Vancouver Time: 2004-10-18_20:40:25 Quote    Reply
    We left Santa Cruz in a December gale on a peterson 44. After getting out of the Monterey bay we turned north and had a good run in the southerly up the coast. As we closed on the San Francisco beaches, the swell started to train up. I turned down each wave but was being driven on shore. Finally we decided to clear out. First we turned on the engine, then I turned up into the wind and swell and an easily 20' long period swell broke over us, laid that 44,000# peterson over on her beam ends and skidded us along sideways. We motored for well over an hour into huge breaking waves, back the way we had come, getting far outside. Finally we were able to turn downwind to the SF lightbucket, which is 8 or more miles offshore. We came in the main ship channel, pitch black, again on huge waves which were breaking on both sides of the channel. All we could see was the whitewater on each side. We were so high when we got inside. I have been dismasted off Big Sur at night, been capsized off Ano Nuevo, but that trip, way back in '79 sticks with me. Lesson learned-stay way the hell away from the SF bars in wintertime. boats are lost there every year, in pretty much the same conditions we were in. We bailed out in time, had a good crew and an engine that worked, otherwise we would have been lost.