Scariest moment while sailing? - Page 2 - SailNet Community
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post #11 of 44 Old 02-20-2012
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Second season, first time sailing in the Boundary Pass/SanJuans area, had just spent a night at Sucia Islands Mud Bay, and left in very light conditions but in no hurry. Set all sail and set a course for Saturna Island to clear customs at Bedwell. (No GPS etc) After and hour or so of 'drifting around' I noticed Sucia far in the distance.. thought "Hey, we've got this light air thing figured out!"... only to realize that we were riding on an invisible tidal river moving ever faster.

About the same time noticed that a nearby island (Skipjack) had a bow wave.. and we were heading for it. We fired up the engine and made max speed, but even then ended up heading 90 degrees to our desired course at flank speed, and our CMG cleared the island by a hundred yards or so, hearts in our throats the whole time. It was a memorable introduction to the power of tidal flow and we were far too complacent to begin with.....


1984 Fast/Nicholson 345 "FastForward"

".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
Capt G E Ericson (from "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat)

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post #12 of 44 Old 02-20-2012
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On the Chesapeake, summer thunderstorms are the thing I fear most. Unless you are racing and leave the sails up too long or are just really inattentive, the strong winds are usually easy to manage by shortening or dropping the sails and they are short duration events, so they are not going to be around long enough to create dangerous waves. What is really scary though is cloud to ground (water) lighthing striking nearby and there is nothing you can do about it but hope and pray.

The scariest moment we've had was not long after we started sailing. We got caught enroute to meet some friends at an anchorage. We were headed west, so we saw the storm coming and got the sails down and began motoring. We needed to round two marks off an extended shoal to get into the anchorage and there was another sailboat ahead entering the same bay. As the storm hit, visibility dropped to 4 or 5 boat lengths and I couldn't see the boat ahead, any land or either mark. At the time, the only GPS on board was a USB model plugged into a laptop running SeaClear down below. With the rain coming down in buckets, gusts to 40 knots, no visual reference and lighting cracking very close all around I was really contemplating the wisdom of a boat with a giant lightning rod.

With no way of knowing where I was we resorted to my wife watching the the litttle boat icon on SeaClear and calling out right/left corrections to get us to the first mark which we passed without seeing at all. Approaching the second mark, the visability improved and I was able to see the mark from a 15 or so boat lengths. Shortly after that it was all over, and I could see the boat that had been ahead of me had cut the second mark. He must have seen the depth was wrong and reversed himself, because he now behind me and was approaching the first mark from the shoal side.

I've since been caught out in TS a few times and I always have that moment of "Why am I holding this steel wheel with a 50+ lightning rod feet away from me?" moment.

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post #13 of 44 Old 02-20-2012
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My adrenaline rush

My Holy She-it experience was when the wife and I decided to sail off our mooring one day. So figured a good direction with the wind and the location of my neighbors and backed the main to turn the boat. Had the boom close to full forward and the boat was turning nicely so I let go and off we went with my my wife was steering. I putzt around cleaning some dried bird crap on the deck and she calmly says I think we are good to hit that boat. I look up and say just turn up more your not even close to being close hauled, to which she responds she his all the way turned. I come back and realized the boom hasn't made it across centerline and realize the the top of the sail for some reason is wrap on the rigging. The sails like a sideways spinnaker, I frantically try to shake it out and then I realize there is too much load in it. Now I try to release the sheet, but it is knotted up and won't release. I have about 5 seconds to to think of something. Too little time to get the motor going. Well it is going to happen.

Luckily it is max beam to max beam and a glancing blow. Just a little rub rail impact (under 2 kts). I have been on race boats that have hit harder. Telephoned the owner and explained the situation and that we would take care of any damage. He was very understanding. We talked again on the launch ride the next w/e and he said no issues with his boat, and if we didn't tell he wouldn't have noticed.

Second adrenaline rush was trying to pick up a mooring in 70 kt winds. As were were motoring up to our mooring in 40 kt winds trying to beat a storm, when a 70 kt gust blasts us and starts pushing us right into my neighbor. I have no more engine HP to go, so I frantically start to get every cushion and fender out to get ready for the impact. Just then, there is a lull and I power forward and my bowman gets one pennant on before the second gust hits.

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Last edited by DrB; 02-20-2012 at 09:00 PM.
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post #14 of 44 Old 02-20-2012
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Originally Posted by DrB View Post
Second adrenaline rush was trying to pick up a mooring in 70 kt winds.
Nuff said. Holy crap.
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post #15 of 44 Old 02-20-2012
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4 come to mind. If I'm allowed 4.

1. Just rounded the corner of Sarah Point and like the main gates of a palace, we're in Desolation Sound! Yay our destination of a months long cruise! I'm showing my GF at the time how to navigate and she think's were waaaay over here on the chart. Which we aren't. I tell her that our depth doesn't corrolate with being mid channel when suddenly the sounder Beeps indicating a change of depth range. Then beep, beep. Beep beep bepebbebepebepbeep We are going from 400ft to 2 digit depth faster than it can beep. I look over the side, and the water is a different color. We're doing 7kts under motor and she asks "What do i do?" "Turn the *&!!#ing wheel!" was my response. Dived on the throttle and put it in full reverse while doing a "Crazy Ivan" turn. When we stopped the depth sounder read 12ft. We were right next to "steamboat rock" seconds from hitting it at 7kts in a wooden boat with a poorly hung fin keel. Would have been swimming.

Lesson learned? Chart books, while very handy, can change scale MASSIVELY from page to page. We went from a page where we were moving a 8inches an hour, to moving 2inches an hour. As I glanced around and "eyeball plotted" or location, I hadn't taken into account the scale change.

2: Cruising the inside passage on my friend's 1.7million dollar mega-yacht. (yeah, a good friend to have) We were appropriately respecful of "Dent Rapids" an area of tidal flow that can get 100ft whirlpools and 10+kts of current. Made it through Dent okay, and went north instead of south of little dent island (we usually went the other way) to keep our obnoxious wake from swamping everyone else. Since we were in the clear, we powered up to 17kts. I looked over at the depth sounder and saw FOUR feet. His boat drew FOUR feet. Sounder is mounted 2ft below the water. That would have been a fat check to write....

Lesson learned? As you're preparing for something big, like a rapids or narrows transit, or any other anxiety producing piece of pilotage, rememer to look, in advance, at what's after the area of interest and not totally fixate just on the narrow spot. We spend so much time studying the chart of the rapids themselves and didn't look at the water just after it.

3: Sunny summer day in the San Juan Islands. Got to be back for work tomorrow. NOAA says gale warning in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Damn weathermen are always wrong (experience from my land life) and look it's totally calm out here. Tried to sail, sails were limp. Stupid weathermen. Enter the phrase "the calm before the storm." It's real. Very quickly I'm in it. Didn't have a wind meter but I was registering 25deg of heel on one bare pole and a flat bottomed (stiff) boat. Waves very high, and very short. My wooden boat is slamming down in the troughs so hard that from my cockpit vantage point I can see the whole thing flexing like an accordion through the companion way hatch. Dinghy flipped over and became a sea anchor, so I couldn't make way. Somehow righted the dinghy with the boat hook. Gale was SE and there are cliffs to the east. Looked at the chart and hugged the land in the lee of the cliffs within 100ft of shore (wasn't a lee shore). From that shelter I could hug the coast to a sheltered bay. Someone from land assumed we were foundering and called the coasties, who showed up in a helo that did several low circles above me until I thanked them by radio but told them we were fine. We wern't fine, we were actively sinking, but I didn't know that. We had exposed a design flaw in the boat and cracked a plank in that storm and it turns out the bilge pumps were what was keeping us afloat....

Lessons learned? Don't sail on a schedule. Believe the NOAA weather forecasts. Have a way (light or alarm) to notify you in the cockpit when your bilge pumps are on (I couldn't hear them, or the water they were expelling over the din of the storm). Most important lesson: Fiberglass is good.....

4. Just past the breakwater at my home marina. I am 6months into the boating life and greener than I thought I was. Took 2 friends out (who know nothing about boats.) One of my fenders had come untied and come adrift. I steered the boat up to it, told my friend to hold the wheel and went forward and tried to retrieve it with the boat hook. I leaned over the side, standing tall over the lifelines, with both hands on the boat hook. At that moment we hit a wake, the boat lurched and I lurched forward and crashed into the lifelines. It was a miracle that I stayed aboard as I was standing at the lifelines, but they were above knee height and somehow they kept me from tumbling over. I realized that I hadn't even shown my friend where the throttle lever was, let alone anything else. I would have swum to to the breakwater okay but the thought of my petrified friend at the wheel of my boat, in close quarters of a marina, at full throttle scares the crap out of me. That couldn't have ended well.

Lessons learned? When moving about the boat be aware of your weight and center of gravity. Stay low, and you ever hear about that "one hand for the boat" rule? It's a really good rule.

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post #16 of 44 Old 02-21-2012
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Recently was sailing on a run wing and wing with a preventer rigged on the boom and the 130 genoa poled out to starboard. Winds were 18 to about 22 kts. We were moving along very nicely at 6.5-7 kts when the end of the spinnaker pole attached to the mast broke. (circa 1985 fatigue I guess ). The resulting lift put the pole into orbit, flinging it about the deck and then thankfully over the side. An exiting 5 minutes to recover - fortunately no other damage.
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post #17 of 44 Old 02-21-2012
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Wow, lots of character building stuff.

1. We have had a ~8500 ton ship play chicken with us - 4 tacks and it altered its course each time to give us a scare. I turned to shallow water and it ended up running over a wave rider bouy. It went past about 15m from us.

I didnt even think of calling it up on VHF, just was busy getting out of its way.

2. put a BFS sticker on the car and waited for the backlash.... still waiting

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post #18 of 44 Old 02-21-2012
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Late March 2011. I had departed Lake Worth at 0400 headed to the Abacos, Great Sale Cay. Leaving in the dark was a blessing, I could not really see how big the waves were but they sure felt/sounded bigger than the 2 to 3 ft predicted. Winds did not clock as predicted and I ended up making it on to the bank a bit further north than I planned, N 26.87 +-, around 1800. Motor sailed for a few more hrs and dropped the hook with thoughts of some food, a stiff drink and some rest. I am single-handed and had been at the helm for 16 hrs. No such luck, the boat movement is wild, she is moaning and creaking, the MC is wood, like I have never heard in the past. I jam myself in my berth, have some water and crackers and pretend to rest. After a hr or so I can not stand it any more. I fire up the A-4 and go forward to raise the anchor. I am the windlass and the bow is jumping up and down like a bronco. I clip in and start hauling. Down gain a few feet and snub the chain on the Sampson post. OUCH. Keep your damn fingers clear. Repeat. That's when it hit me. I am really really out here and if I screw up there is only me. So do not screw up!!! Got the anchor up and the head-sail set and the MC was much happier and so was I. Worked my way across the bank under the stars and felt so alive, proud, fortunate etc and the sunrise was spectacular but that part of the story belongs on another thread. Dan S/V Marian Claire
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post #19 of 44 Old 02-21-2012
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Not quite the scariest, but funny.
The very wet summer of 1998, West Scotland.
It rained and rained.
I was below asleep in the quarterberth with my head resting on a life-jacket when there was the most enormous bang and a loud hissing sound. I jumped up, yelling "alarm"! "alarm"! thinking the ship was sinking.
The hissing subsided and I looked frantically in the bilge.
The water was not rising.
By now, the big American crew were awake and looking everywhere for the leak.

The ship wasn't sinking.
The life-jacket firing pistol had got wet and had gone off right in my ear.
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post #20 of 44 Old 02-21-2012
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I had been pushing through 25-30 knot winds all day, trying to reach an anchorage. When I got there, I found a much smaller spot than what the chart showed, and no other spot within reach before dark. After a number of attempts to set the anchor, I finally got it to hold, and then promptly ran over my dinghy line (which I had forgotten to shorten first). This wrapped the line around the prop, pulling up tight against the boat and stopping the motor. So I find myself sitting there on one anchor in high winds, a little more than a boats length from the Barge switching yard, with no motor. Or to put it more succinctly, if the anchor didn't hold, I was screwed. After reach TowBoatUS to find they had nothing in the area to assist me, they got a hold of a LA wildlife office 3 hours away by boat. When the guy finally shows up in an open 18' runabout, with a 100 hp outboard, he wants to tow me out on a line. I tried, in vain to convince him to tie off beside my boat for maneuverability, but he wouldn't do it (the wind had not lessened at all). After another 3 hours to go a bit over a 1/4 mile, and a few near misses with barges, we got to a park dock, where I tied up for the night.

Lot of lessons learned that night, that I still take note of.

Ontario 32 - Aria

Free, is the heart, that lives not, in fear.
Full, is the spirit, that thinks not, of falling.
True, is the soul, that hesitates not, to give.
Alive, is the one, that believes, in love.

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