I will try to answer some of the questions here.
He had a bullet proof wind vane on the boat that attached to his rudder. He also had an electric one as well. He had a SSB with weather fax on the boat but lost his electronics 6 hours into the sail. Like I said, we told him on VHF to put into Ft Lauderdale to get it fix or back to us in Miami.
As far as all of us are concerned he did have considerable sea time. More than most sailors. He sailed from Calif to Mexico, to the South Pacific and back in a Catalina 38.
Fishfinder - I am curious, what was George working on for so long (5 years?)? Boat must have been a mess if he spent so much time on it and never got around to fixing the tanks/engine/bulkheads/etc.
As I wrote the boat was a mess when he bought for practically nothing. It was towed into the marina. He spent the first 6 months working on getting the engine working. The entire deck was redone, ripped out the old teak and fiberglassed the decked. Cap rail, new rigging including chainplates. Redid the mast, mizzen, jib and staysail. Built storage boxes on deck to keep all the stuff he had. During the haul-out had the bottom stripped and redone. Sides were re-gelcoated. I believe he rebuilt the rudder as well.
Entire electrical system both AC and DC was rewired and new. Installed all new electronics. New ports. Built the dinghy davits and windvave. The list goes on and on. He did all the work himself and alone except for an occasion hand when needed. It was practically a new boat. But not completed. Like we see there were still some items that needed attention. Critical items for which those of us said get it done before leaving.
For those of you who have never stepped on a Vagabond, it is a solid boat. Big and heavy. Looks like a pirate boat too!
The difference between this 42 boat and a production boat of the same size is not in the same world. It feels like it would take a force 6 wind just to get it moving. The fiberglass lay up is over 4 inches I believe. I say this for a reason.
I can only guess that this boat gave George over confidence/false sense in sailing all over the world compared to his Catalina 38. Most of us start out with a light weight production boats and move up to a traditional bluewater boat. Anyone with this kind of traditional heavy displacement boat probably bought this boat thinking it would take care of crew and boat in any weather conditions. "It's a safe boat, all the experts say so!" Being a ketch, with a windvane, one can sail in almost any wind conditions other than dead calm. Most of the items that needed attention George's said could be handled while sailing or in some bay or harbor. He practically had an entire machine shop on this boat and parts to fix anything. He also had the skill to do so.
The second factor was he had over confidence in his sailing ability I believe. Sailors are like pilots. The first few 100 hours we are learning and cautious. The next 300 hours we are safe while perfecting our craft. It is the 500-1500 hours where we become complacent, over confident and accidents happen. I call this bullet proof syndrome; "Nothing can hurt us and I can get out of any situation"! When one survives this phase we become safe again as experience once again shows us we are fallible. I would put George in the 500-1500 hour group in his thought process of seamanship.
The third fault here in what I call the "T" factor. Simply put "testosterone factor". It is that male BS machismo and/or ego. George was single and from South American ancestry. I see it in pilots, sailors and even here on this forum. I am not male bashing per se but seeing it from a female point of view. I have lost to many friends needlessly in my profession (20 year military pilot and commercial pilot). I am tired of going to funerals. I have seen too many sailboat crashes when I raced. I have seen to many male sailors whine because their wife's/girlfriends won't sail with them due to the many reasons stated here on Sailnet and other forums. After reading tons of sailing blogs, it is the admiral who takes the caution approach to things most
of the times and says lets wait until things are proper or the wx gets better. There is a difference in thought process when one is solo vs crew onboard especially when it comes to safety. Furthermore two heads are better than one when problems arise. I say this because those of you planning such a voyage either single or with someone else there is a lesson here.
Mother nature and Murphy's Law play by their own rules. We as humans try to conquer or minimize those with knowledge, experience, common sense and a little bit of luck every now and than. If one is going out into the world make sure you take as much of above items as you can. May each of you have fair winds, love in your hearts, enjoy each sunrise and sunset for each day is unique.