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  #1  
Old 03-28-2013
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You All Be Safe Out There!

Last night went to the skipper’s meeting for the Double Handed Farallone Race which was a pretty sobering experience. Stan Honey talked at length about safety and innovations in communications equipment. The Coast Guard talked about the LSC tragedy as well as their rescue capabilities and methods. Most poignant of all was when Bryan Chong, Dave Wilhite, Mark Van Selst and Jim Antrim each talked about their incidents and answered the difficult questions on why they survived and how their shipmates died. There were no simple answers. What may have contributed to one survivor led to the death to another in a different incident. I was a little taken aback on how practically every story began with “It was a typical day” or “Conditions weren’t especially difficult”. Then, hours later these men were fighting for their lives. I am convinced that at least in the Gulf of the Farallones, there are no typical days.

I know that some people here take umbrage when others get a little “preachy” and press the need for more safety in our sport, especially when counseling our newer, less experienced brothers. We should err on the side of caution and not be so cavalier towards safety. We need to impress upon our tyros that safety is synonymous with good seamanship. As we begin to splash our boats on the East Coast and start our ocean racing season out here in the West, let’s all take the opportunity to inventory our safety gear and review our safety procedures. Do a practice MOB drill or two – Let’s make 2013 a safe and fun sailing year.
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Old 03-28-2013
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Re: You All Be Safe Out There!

What kind of experience did they lack? What kind of safety equipment was missing?
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Old 03-28-2013
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Re: You All Be Safe Out There!

Frankly, there were no simple answers. I could find no common theme or missing equipment. All boats were well founded and prepared for the Gulf. From an experience level, three Rolex Yachtsmen of the year were in the audience, Stan is one of the preeminent ocean racing navigators in the world. Jim Antrim is a well known naval architect and designer of race boats. Bryon Chong arguably was one of the least experienced on LSC and amongst the other speakers. I’d place the speakers (and attendees) on average amongst the top ten percent of all skippers on the West Coast.

As we all know, LSC was the result of passing too close to a lee shore, Heat Wave had a massive keel failure, White Lightening broached, breaking their boom and Aotea pitchpoled. All had the required safety gear on board. How it was used and it’s availability differed from boat to boat. On LSC, everyone who was clipped in survived, most who did not perished. Dan Wihite on Heat Wave came close to drowning because his short tether pinned him, underwater, to his capsized boat. While a long tether, caught around a winch drum effectively making it shorter, saved Mark’s life on White Lightening. The single common missing item were crotch straps which all survivors strongly recommended. Another thing was having strobes and flashlights with fresh batteries and on your person and not merely in your sea bag.
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Old 03-28-2013
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Re: You All Be Safe Out There!

Thanks for that, George... timely reminder indeed.

So easy to Monday Morning Quarterback... so hard to know what's truly going to (or did) actually happen. All we can do, I guess, is preplan and hope to be prepared, and if not, hope our luck basket isn't empty.
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Old 03-28-2013
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Re: You All Be Safe Out There!

I appreciate your post GeorgeB. I have learned more from the Armchair Sailor/Monday Morning Quarterback routine here than by any other method.

More safety is always good. My concern is the connection between experience, gear and mishaps. Sometimes, it seems as if a mishap is simply an unfortunate incident. Everyone was experienced, did the best they could, had all the safety equipment they should, and simply got caught by bad luck or circumstances. After all, sailing, and particularly sailboat racing, can be dangerous and risky.

Other times, you can see a clear chain of events from poor planning to bad judgment to ill-suited boat to inadequate gear to incorrect responses to resulting tragedy. These are the events that can be avoided by education on this listserv.

Sometimes, it is difficult to tell the two apart, because one group on Sailnet focus particularly on deficiencies in the boat and gear to the exclusion of, or at the expense of, the most important human element: planning, judgment, common-sense, intelligence, decision-making, and reacting wisely to circumstances.

Last edited by jameswilson29; 03-28-2013 at 02:24 PM.
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Old 03-28-2013
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Re: You All Be Safe Out There!

My lessons learned are at a minimum:
1. Don't let the heat of competition trump good seamanship and blind you to danger.
2. Eschew a lee shore all the time, every time.
3. Don't sail in the surf.
4. When it comes down to relying on your personal safety equipment, you are in deep kimshee, or the outcome is a toss up at best.
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Old 03-28-2013
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Re: You All Be Safe Out There!

James,
A few years ago two Navy pilots died when their irplane crashed into the Gulf. These two pilots were both Instructor Pilots at the Naval Air Station here, both had thousands of hours flying and were on a routine check out flight. The final report described this scenario: the plane developed a mechanical problem, the two pilots decided they could get the plane home, but while diagnosing/managing their mechanical situation flew the plane into the water.
My son, a marine pilot and my son-in-law, an ASAF pilot both talk about maintaining situational awareness and understanding the cascade of events that leads to an accident. At some point, variable in each incident, the crash become almost inevitable unless you can clear your mind and take a successful course of action that disrupts the cascade or avoids it all together.
My wife calls me a worry wort because I'm always doing and looking when we are out. I do so, because I think my sons are right.
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Old 03-28-2013
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Re: You All Be Safe Out There!

The obvious solution to LSC is to leave greater distances between you and lee shores. But, who here calculates that distance as a function of water depth? The “safe” zone is to follow the 60’ or greater contour which in the case of the gulf would put you more than several miles offshore. The USCG showed us the tracks of all the racers that day and most of them were right on the edge of the reef (and just inside “safe” water). LSC’s course was a little more inshore of the others but not by much. None of the other racers experienced a wave nearly as high as the one that did in LSC. The separation in time and distance between the various roundings were too far apart to conclude any type of “group think” or racing mentality. The skippers interviewed all thought they were making safe roundings. Interestingly, Heat Wave and White Lightning encountered substantially taller (and breaking!) waves while transiting the ship channel, an area thought to be much safer than the Potato Patch or the South Shoal.

The “racing mentality” that Stan Honey is advocating we change is to put safety in the forethought and not afterthought in good seamanship. Making the boat go fast isn’t the only tenant of seamanship. Where the “racing (machismo) mentality” did come into play for LSC was the group think of not clipping in (remember that the prevailing conditions were described as being “normal”. Clipping in should be thought in the same light as is reefing and dousing – “If you’re thinking about it, chances are you should have done it sooner”. One solution is for all to clip in the moment the first person decides to do so and there is no stigma in clipping in first.

I was struck on how the normally simple and inconsequential things heavily influenced the various outcomes. Bryon attributed full finger sailing gloves to saving his life when he climbed the rocks to safety on S. Farallone. When White Lightning broached, a boarding wave flushed all the winch handles out of the cockpit leaving Mark with no practical means of bringing Harvey back on board. By luck, a handheld radio stayed in a sheet bag on the capsized Heat Wave, which ultimately saved their lives. When it comes to safety and seamanship, there are no little things.
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Re: You All Be Safe Out There!

The specific lesson I learned from reading about the incident is to subtract the largest wave height from the mean low water depth when calculating how shallow water you can sail in. For those of us on the East Coast, that brings into question more of the inlets you can run when the waves are higher than normal and whether we go around or over certain known shoals.

Last edited by jameswilson29; 03-28-2013 at 04:39 PM.
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Old 03-28-2013
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Re: You All Be Safe Out There!

I don't know. It's alway's seemed to me that racers and their boats push the boundry's of saftey for the thrill of competition. Which is fueld by what? Ego? It's alway's a "Keel" malfunction, one of those torpedo on a fin things breaking off, or light weight gear pushed beyond it's working load, or a silly nav error in hopes of getting "there" first. I'm sorry, but when a dude breaks his neck doing a back flip on a snowmobile or a dirt bike, I don't really feel sorry for them. What did they expect, doing a friken back flip on a frikin snowmobile? " Hey, be safe out there doing backflips on your snowmobile.' Is the same as saying, " Hey, be safe out there on your thin hulled, torpedo keeled, too talled light rig pushed beyond what's reasonable with way too much sail in too much wind running down big sea's with too much rail meat in hopes that those poor guy's will keep you from flipp'n, ya be safe." " Be safe up there in your single prop poorly maintained Cesna".
As a Merchant Marine, I live by strict saftey rules and as a single handed off shore sailor I do the same, Thick seaworthy hull, strong stout rig, proper saftey gear, proper judgment fueld by the desire to get there, not get there faster than some other ship of fools. Just the word " sport" used next to the word "sailing" has alway's summed up where someone's mind set is.
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Last edited by Capt.aaron; 03-28-2013 at 07:02 PM.
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