Join Date: Mar 2006
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Sea Monsters—Myth or Reality
I was reading an interesting log about a sailboat that had some troubles recently. It was having trouble with it steering and his autopilot eventually failed due to "excessive weather helm".
I'm posting a photo and the text from the story here, and the original can be read at this website
, along with photos of the marks left by his nautical visitor. It makes me think of the drawings of krakens wrapping up ships that were often drawn on old nautical charts... hmm...
What do you think?
You will remember from our last installment that Shigeo Kitano, a Japanese single-hander on "Akitsushima II", had limped into Nuku Hiva after 65 days at sea, with a huge growth of barnacles on his waterline. We ran into Shigeo in Papeete, tied up at the wharf (left) a few weeks after we arrived in Tahiti. And he had some remarkable news.
We reported last time that Shigeo's trip from the Galapagos to the Marquesas had been terrible -- after about 1000 miles his autopilot had failed, something had gone wrong with his steering, his engine water intake had clogged temporarily, blowing his impeller, the intake for one of his heads had clogged, and, most important of all, something had slowed his speed down to 2 knots, even with full sails, a lot of wind, and the engine running. He basically drifted with the current for the last 2700 miles, taking about 8 weeks to cover a distance that his 42-foot Beneteau could easily have sailed in a fraction of that time.
Shigeo said that his boat became so difficult to steer that, at one point, he had to issue a Mayday call to avoid a collision with a Japanese tuna boat. (The tuna boat had ignored his previous Security calls.) Shigeo was physically unable to turn his wheel to maneuver his boat. Then when he finally got to Nuku Hiva, his windlass failed and he had to pull his chain out by hand.
We met him the day after he came to Nuku Hiva. We fed him some dinner, gave him some fresh water, lent him a trimmer so he could get rid of his beard, and then helped sort out his windlass problem. We also observed a hydraulic fluid leak affecting both his Ray Marine autopilot and steering system.
We figured the hydraulic leak might explain the autopilot and steering problems, although the facts didn't quite fit. The autopilot had shut itself off with a message that indicated "too much weather helm" -- meaning the rudder was too hard to turn. And at times Shigeo had been unable to turn the wheel by hand. You would think a loss of hydraulic fluid would make the steering wheel mushy and easy to turn, not hard to turn.
We also thought that "Akitsushima" must have fouled some kind of fishing net or other junk, as no amount of barnacles could slow a modern 42-foot boat to 2 knots. But we left Nuku Hiva before we had time to dive down to look for ourselves.
So now we pick up with the story.
After we left Nuku Hiva, a French doctor, who lives on his boat there, dove under "Akitsushima". He didn't find anything hung up on the keel, but he found hundreds of strange circular marks on the keel, rudder and hull, where the soft bottom paint had been rubbed away. Most of the marks had an outer circle surrounding an inner circle.
The doctor went back to his boat, thought about it, and came back with his camera. He thought the marks looked like suction cup marks. But not just any suction cups. Double cups within cups. Like the ones on a squid. A really, really big squid.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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