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CharlieCobra 08-22-2006 06:46 PM

Sometimes, when everything goes wrong...
this is a letter from Latitude 38 that I thought to share.

sailingdog 08-22-2006 07:02 PM

The story shows a good reason why you should be able to clip on before coming up into the cockpit from below. Jacklines are necessary, but padeyes or a short jackline in the forward section of the cockpit are really needed for truly heavy weather, to prevent exactly what happened.

The COB drills I hold assume that the person in the water is not going to be capable of assisting in their own rescue, which is often the case in the colder New England waters I sail in.

SeaWithin 08-22-2006 07:26 PM

That was a very moving story. I've just begun sailing and I've been thinking lately we should practice our rescue procedures. This just makes me that much more anxious to practice.

Sonofasonofasailor 08-22-2006 09:52 PM

Wow, I'm speechless.
I can't imagine the anguish that poor man will endure for the rest of his life.
May you find peace Ken.

hellosailor 08-22-2006 10:55 PM

I'm with sailingdog on this one. Elsewhere someone asked what's the difference between coastal and offshore cruising...well, for either one, there are many folks who would say if the wx is bad enough to need foulies, you should be clipping in BEFORE you go on deck. That's taught in just about every safety training.

But I'm seeing something even more basic and tragic here, no mention of PFDs. If the foul wx jacket was keeping his son afloat--that means no PFD. A PFD won't stop hypothermia, but it damn well increases the chance of being spotted, of not inhaling spray, and of surviving those hours until rescue.

And there's no mention of any ready rescue equipment, i.e. a horseshoe or Lifesling to be thrown *immediately* with the EPIRB, not later, after a rescue attempt has failed.

When people ask me why I'm wearing a PFD even in good wx, my answer is simple: "I'd feel like such a fool if I feel overboard and drowned, because I wasn't wearing my PFD after I'd already spent good money on it!"

Its easy to forget, the ocean doesn't give many second chances. Thirty miles out in bad wx, you've got to get it right the first time.

sailingdog 08-22-2006 11:02 PM

Hellosailor also makes few good points.

True, it doesn't mention whether the foul weather gear was the type with an integrated PFD or not.. if not, a PFD should have been worn.

A type IV PFD or LifeSling should have been thrown, or a MOB pole at least.

I wear my PFD, even in good weather, if I am sailing shorthanded, and require everyone on board to either stay below or wear a PFD if the wind picks up, even if it is stilll "nice" out.

Sonofasonofasailor 08-23-2006 12:26 AM

Have either of you ever done a real life rescue?

sailingdog 08-23-2006 09:17 AM

Yes, I've had to do a MOB rescue of someone who has a physical disability and can't swim well because of it. That's one reason why I have an emphasis on keeping people on the boat. Prevention, especially at night, is a far better solution than all the techniques for recovery.

CharlieCobra 08-23-2006 11:35 AM

sailingdog, care to elaborate? Ya never know if something you write in this thread might save someone else's life.

sailingdog 08-23-2006 12:14 PM

About twelve years ago, I was out sailing on a J/24 on Buzzards Bay. I was crewing for a friend who had broken her leg. Kim's leg was in a fiberglass cast and she had a big plastic bag over it, and she was on the helm, and I was on the bow, working the spinnaker pole.

The wind shifted and broached the boat. She ended up in the water, and I didn't... so I dropped the spinnakker and then jumped back in the cockpit and brought the boat around, under just the mainsail, in a figure eight and along side her. I didn't throw the cockpit cushions (Type IV PFDs) since they had gone over the side with her and she had them and her vest on... so sinking wasn't going to be a problem.

I had to use the spinnaker halyard to haul her soggy butt back in to the boat. She ended up having to get a new cast put on, and I ended up with a broken right pinky...still have no idea how I broke it. The plastic bag around the cast was a big problem, since it had filled up with quite a bit of water.

I wish we had had a Lifesling or some other type of hoisting harness, instead of using a bowline in the spin halyard. You get a lot better support for the person in the water with a harness or lifesling than you do with just a spin halyard, and you have a much better attachment point.

Granted, were weren't in much danger, being the middle of summer in fairly warm waters at the time... but the incident taught me a lot about wanting to keep people on the boat, rather than have to chase them down after they fall off.

A few of things that were important.

First, both of use were wearing PFDs, Type III waterskiing vests, given it was fairly gusty and we were on a relatively small boat.

Second, the Type IV PFDs were in the cockpit and easily deployed... too easily in this particular case.

Third, we were lucky that neither of was seriously injured in the broach. Aside from the pinky and a few assorted bruises, we were okay.

Fourth, either of us was skilled enough to sail the boat single handed, and would have been able to get back to the other. Granted, she might have had a bit more trouble getting the spinnaker down than I did, given her leg, and probably a bit more trouble getting me back on board, as I outweighed her by thirty or forty pounds...

The last point is very important IMHO. It doesn't matter how many crew you have aboard if they're not able to handle the boat well enough by themselves to get back to you, if you fall overboard.

On my current boat, which is a lot bigger and more stable than a J/24, I don't require the use of vests unless the wind or chop has picked up, or visibility has dropped.

Most of the PFDs on my boat are SOLAS approved and have whistles, strobes and reflectors on them. (I do have some Type III vests for when I have people visiting for party on the harbor, and for use in the dinghy.) I also have one Type IV throwing cushion, a 70' heaving line stored in the cockpit, and a LifeSling2 mounted on the aft pushpit the boat. The Lifesling2 is already tied to the stern pushpit stanchions, so all that needs to be done is throw it to the person in the water.

I have jacklines on my boat and require the use of tethers, harnesses and jacklines, when out at night, in bad conditions or sailing single-handed. BTW, my definition of single-handed is the one I use above...anytime where I do not have a crew capable of doing a proper COB rescue, should I fall in.

Fortunately, I haven't had to use any of the above resuce gear, and I hope it stays that way. I hope this helps. I am in the process of making a nice COB pole, using a buoy I picked up on the beach at Lovell's Island this spring.

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