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safetyteach 10-28-2011 12:47 PM

Safety lesson
I am a safety instructor and auditor for major industrial construction sites. This is what I do with my life. I watch and teach others so that no one gets hurt or worse. I like what I do and have seen accidents avoided and attitudes improve over all. I take my job seriously and will not hesitate to send any one home who is not conducting themself in a safe manor.
Having said that, a a few months ago I ended up with a Cal 27 from a friend who was moving to Colorado. I decided to buy it for next to nothing so I could fix it up a little and give to my teenage son to start off his life on the water with out me.
I needed to take the boat from Galveston Bay to Freeport Texas. I was expecting a ten to twelve hour trip. The wife and I were enjoying the day and I was proud watching her tack and tie lines. My wife had really been trying to get good at sailing and it was starting to show. The trip was short lived as the main sheet ripped in to tatters. I whent to fire up the ole Atomic 4 but she just wouldnt start. The wife asked me a minute later if the bilge was supposed to be full of gass. " Hi, BoatU.S........"
Two weeks later I tried the trip again solo. The weather reports were all good ( Liars!) As I entered the jeddies the engine died but thats okay, I kinda expected it. The new used main was up though a little bigger than I thought, oh well, what could that hurt?
Fifteen foot waves began to slam into the boat pushing me into a bad area. As I came down one wave and tacked to get away another wave pushed the small vessel on to her side and the mast hit another wave. I realized at that time that all my PDF's were down below and out of reach. I really wanted to put one on at the moment.
I got out into the ship channel and all was well. The sun was shining and it was a little cool out which is unusual for this part of the country. I turned and headed for the end of the jeddies and out into open water. Ther wave height began to increase as I was heading out. This was the smallest boat I had ever sailed and there was no joy going over 20 foot waves.
Thoughts of turning back had entered my head but why would I do that, why would I ever do something like that. I have been on the water since birth and I have never had a major problem.
Things kept getting worse, the sail that was a little to big had a nice parachute thing going on at the bottom. I realized I was pushed of course and needed to come about to avoid the jeddies. The boat would not turn for me, I was getting tossed about way to much to even consider running to the mast in order to lower the sail that I know sticks so badly.
I tried and tried to restart the motor but it just wasn't happening as the rocks were coming closer and closer. I saw a coast gaurd ship in the distance, I can radio them for help but wait! My radio was below decks and to far out of reach.
How a bout my new flare gun! Wait, thats all the way up in the bow under the life jackets.
I know, my air horn!Crap, thats down below.
The boat was going comletely side ways, I tried every trick I could think of but she wouldn't respond. Sure wish I had a PDF, that would be a little comfort.
The rocks were now twenty feet away and I had to accept was was about to happen. I ran below decks, grabbed my phone and back pack while getting thrown about and as I came up the steps the boat slammed in to the rcoks and then slid back dow into the water.
I raced to the bow taking a moment to undo the main and give it a few pulls down, timed the waves and the motion and jumped on to the slimey oyster shell incrusted boulder. I made a perfect landing, no falls, no bleeding and I felt a little better about my safety and smiled. I turned to look back and realized the boat was about ten feet above me and coming down quickly. I scrambled to get out of the way and just made it.
Luckily BoatUS was in the area and made it to me in less than 15 minutes. I watched the ocean pick up my boat out of the water so that I could view the entire keel. It seemed to stay in the air for a full minute then came down on it starboard hull with the most violent impact I had ever seen and the death blow to the little Cal27.
Boat US showed up and I managed to jump back on the boat and get pulled off the rocks. That night at the marina she was taking on water so I hauled her out the next day. The damage was extensive, so much so she will never be returned to the water.
The point: When all whent wrong none of my safety gear was close at hand. The boat was being tossed around to much to go below decks and find it. On my new boat, a Cheoy Lee Perry, I am installing a second radio in the cockpit as well as making sure PDF's, flares and air horns are close by as well. I spend my life teaching safety yet when it came to the sea I was arogant and foolish. I had what in my industry is called complacency, too use to what I do to concern myself with safety. The one sentence I have heard almost every time from an injured worker has been. " I don't understand, it's never happened before"
So take a look around your boat, see just how long it would take you to get to your safety gear and evaluate. If it is more than a few seconds you need to re-think it's location. Good sailing to all and stay safe!

carl762 10-28-2011 01:00 PM

One helluva story. Glad you made it, learned a lesson, and sorry for the loss of your boat.

Scary story, just scary.

Faster 10-28-2011 01:42 PM

Were your PDF's on a stick or on CD?... maybe a lifejacket would be better to have on board!;):)

(Sorry...... couldn't resist.....)

We all (hopefully) live and learn....

imiloa 10-28-2011 01:44 PM

Very interesting story. Nice of you to put it out here so we can all think about what our own actions might have been in similar circumstances. Glad to hear you're ok, sorry to hear about the boat. So often I've heard it said that tragedies are precipitated by a single event that often is overlooked or thought to be minor at the time. Do you think there was one thing like that in what you experienced that triggered the cascade toward the ultimate loss of your boat? Was there a tipping point beyond which you could do nothing to save the vessel but before which you might have been able to affect a more positive outcome?

safetyteach 10-28-2011 01:44 PM

woops, I did mean pfd's, guess I shoulds used spell check

safetyteach 10-28-2011 02:03 PM

I have been over that day many times in my head trying to figure out if I could have done something different and every time it boils down to the trips preperation. In my experience an accident is rarely one major event but has always been a serious of small seemingly unimportant events that snowball together and turn into a tradgedy.
As far as that moment I just can not think of anything I could have done different other than turning back when the sea was obviously to much for a small vessle.
My only hope is that others will read this and take an honest loook at their safety set up in their own cockpit. Normaly I would rather a story of triumph and victory about myself, lol.

steveg353 10-28-2011 04:19 PM

I know the jetties well and it can be a real washing machine out at the end of them...what a ride! For your next boat, check out a R.A.M. (remote mic) It stays at the helm and is wired to your VHF...or a handheld at the helm.
A VHF down below is useless when the defecation is hitting the oscillating, rotating, air-moving mechanism.
Thank you for sharing...I take all of these type of stories to heart...for when I have my next "holy crap" moment.
It gives me chills thinking about jumping onto a jetty rock!!!

PaulinVictoria 10-28-2011 06:20 PM

Not wishing to sound preachy, but WTF were you doing taking a boat out with an engine that you knew didn't work properly, sails that you knew didn't fit properly, sail slides that you knew would prevent the sail being dropped easily, and then to compound the issue, not even wearing the most basic of safety equipment, a PFD? That's the kind of thing that gets people killed, you were lucky to escape with only loss of boat (and new underwear presumably).
But then I guess it's like a lot of Doctors, the unhealthiest people I ever meet :)

HPLou 10-28-2011 06:35 PM

Thanks for sharing your story. Glad to hear that you are alright and sorry about the boat. In addition to having all the safety gear readily available, especially when single handed, one needs to also know the limitations of their boat and themselves in that kind of weather. Lessons well learned.

flyingwelshman 10-28-2011 06:42 PM

What kind of counter tops did you have on your boat? :rolleyes:

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