My latest BFS...
My latest BFS almost ended my life and ended up in the hospital, here's how it happened.
1 Year ago I went sailing single handed, as I often do on a Catalina Capri 24' from the local club, out in English Bay, Vancouver, BC.
A friend was going to go with me, but he canceled last minute due to his wife getting ill. What's a sailor to do?
I hadn't sailed at that point for well over a year, and just recently became a father of a little baby girl, the shock that parenting had delivered to my life-style was so extreme, I had to get out of the house and I wanted to get out on the water, I wasn't about to not go just because my friend canceled.
It was the middle of October, cold, and blowing moderately, 10-20 knots from the NW, I decided to go for it, fully confident in my single handling abilities...
I was about to get a lesson of a life-time...
After ordering some yummy fish burgers to eat on the boat I motored into the bay and raised sail. Instantly they sails filled with great wind and we were tacking North back-and forth, with rail in the water. I was having a blast.
about 1.5 hours in the wind picked up and I was getting hungry, too lazy to reef at that moment, I decided to heave to and have my fish burgers. It's always so deceptive when you heave to as things get so calm... The boat righted herself and we were bobbing up and down on big Ocean Swells, along with occasional steep 4' waves. I delighted in my food and watched the sun slowly fall towards the west as I reflected on my amazing sailing abilities.
Suddenly... I began to get queasy - something that doesn't happen often to me, especially not in the bay. I figured it was because I hadn't sailed for so long. I decided to call it a day, not wanting to return my lunch to the Sea via up-chucking.
The winds were now blowing a steady 15-25N from the NW, and I turned down wind.
I began gybing to work my way around the many cargo tankers parked in the bay.
The trouble with the Capri is that the winches are very far forward away from the tiller, gybing and tacking the genoa is always a juggling act. I had worked out a system where I gyve the main first, then tie the tiller and jump forward quickly to un-fasten the sheet on one winch and fasten it up on the next.
Being a small boat, the boom is at head level...
(you can see where this is going)
I was getting more and more queasy. We were on a collision course with a peer on Jerico beach about half a mile out and it was time to gybe again and get on a port broad reach around the last cargo tanker.
I gybed the main, things looked good, I quickly prepped the other jib sheet around the winch so I could simply release the port one and immediately tighten the starboard jib sheet. all ready... time to jump forward for a split second and undo the port sheet... lets tie the tiller.
Naw, lets not tie the tiller, I can just jump forward for half a second... (feeling queasy trying to avoid looking down too much)
There was only a split second for me to realize what was happening before I heard the sound of the boom hitting me square on the face at the typical whiplash "accidental gybe" speed, and in that split second a relaxing sail turned into a fight for my life.
My skull went flying back and twisting to the left along with the rest of my body being thrown a good 2 feet of my legs.
A few seconds later I came to. An incredibly sharp and mind-numbing pain through my entire head. Blood dripping everywhere.
I am hanging over the port beam, half my body draping over the boat, arms included. I feel my consciousness slip away from me as I watch my hat in the water get further and further away from me, blood dripping down into the water.
Those few seconds seemed to last forever, in a type of surreal slow motion. My head was hit so hard I had no idea what was going on, all I felt was the incredible pain which had taken over my entire being, everything was a haze and my vision seemed to be really fuzzy. Oh the pain!
I hung there motion-less, unable to move or think... when suddenly, with what felt like all the strength I had left in me I conjured a thought...
"Focus! You have to focus now or you'll die!"
Adrenaline came into my body and I managed to grab hold of a winch with my right hand and somehow clumsily slip back into the ****-pit.
I was now in a state of shock, with adrenaline coursing through my blood. Fighting to remain my consciousness, which seemed to be slipping from me every second as the fuzzy tunnel around my vision got narrowed and narrowed.
I remember sitting there, all I could do was stare blankly at a spot in front of me, unable to make sense of anything, unable to grab a hold of anything tangible in my brain, not a thought, not a perspective, definitely not the ability to look around and trying to make sense of what was happening.
I think the pain saved me. Minutes later a big secondary wave of sharp pain shot through my nose and into the back of my skull. It was more painful than before, yet somehow, sobering.
I let out a loud grunt of pain that sounded something like "aRGhhth!!!"
And another thought, which somehow aligned the entire fubar brain-state I was in into something manageable...
I said the words over and over again, but through my messed up bloody face what came out of my mouth sounded more like "pokoollsth
I looked down and the cockpit floor was covered in blood.
My hands went up to my face to check for damage... PAIN! AARGGH! Hands covered in blood! A fresh stream of blood came trickling out of my nose. I came to the conclusion that all the blood must have been from my nose. I noticed some tissue laying around from the food earlier and put it up to my nose and looked up to try to stop the bleeding.
Since I looked up, for the first time in maybe 15 minutes I got to look at the boat, sails were flying everywhere, sheets were whip-lashing back and forth, there was an awful lot of noise. Normally this would make sense, but I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
Then I looked to land... and saw that we were on a dead-on collision course with the dock on Jerico beach (since the boat jibed back to the original course) Danger! have to do something...
It's hard to describe a post-concussion brain state. I could now clearly(more or less) see everything that was going on in-front of me. But I was unable to comprehend any of it.
I knew I had to do something, but I didn't know how to do it.
The genoa had somehow wrapped itself around the forestay 3 times and all the sheets were stuck on stanchions and tangled up.
I stared and stared and stared at the fore-stay trying to make sense of it. No joy, my mind was just blank.
The simple task of figuring out what to do was like trying to solve a rubiks cube. I looked at the tiller and something in me knew I had to push it, but in what direction I had no idea.
Now dangerously close to the dock, the boat hurtling at it at 7 knots.
It took me forever to figure out which direction to move the tiller in, I started visualizing the tiller and the rudder, and finally got the boat pointed
away from danger.
After I gybed it took another good 30 minutes of me sitting there and staring into the abyss of consciousness until I was able to slowing crawl on hands and feet to the forestay to untangle the genoa.
The process was extremely painful as my skull throbbed, but the thought "focus, focus, focus" kept on repeating in my head.
I made it back to the dock, someone was there to help me tie the boat up (no way in hell I could tie a knot at that point)
In the end... it was a very broken nose and a very minor but powerful enough head injury.
It's incredible how in just 1 second of shear stupidity and lack of carefulness can not only end your day, but potentially your life. I was very lucky to not have fallen over-board when the boom hit me. Had I went over, there's no doubt(having described clearly what happened to my state of mind) that I'd be dead within minutes in the ice-cold October water here in BC.
Just one foot more and my little girl wouldn't have a father.
I never single-hand anymore, not until I my girl is 18+ yearsold and has gotten tired of her Dad.