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Old 01-31-2000
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John Kretschmer is on a distinguished road
Follow up to "Why Carl"

Dear John,

It was sobering and sad to read your article about your friend Carl. It must have been difficult to write. Two questions remain, though. What do you think Carl should have done once the storm was upon him? And, why do you think Carl's boat went down instead of weathering the storm?

Peter Malloy


Dear Peter:

You are right, it was difficult to write about Carl's fateful last voyage. Through many years of voyaging, he is the first friend I have ever lost "at sea." With respect to your two questions, you must understand that I can only speculate, and speculation is not always worth very much. But for what it is worth:

1. What do I think Carl should have done when the storm was upon him? My strong feeling is that when the conditions become overwhelming there is only one storm tactic that works: Sail between 50 - 60 degrees off the wind with smallest amount of sail possible that still allows decent steerage and keep making way. In the conditions Carl encountered, it would have been impossible to run off, especially single-handed. The USCG reported 40' seas. Running in those conditions requires constant vigilance at the helm, and the possibility of broaching, and then rolling or capsizing, is quite real. I have been capsized once, knocked down twice and dangerously pooped twice. Every time it was because I slowed the boat down. Even in extreme conditions I believe strongly that you must keep way on. You could be knocked down several times from the bow quarter and survive. A boat underway tends to ride over, or at least through the waves - - a boat stopped just gets hammered. Of course, in Carl's case, being alone changed the equation, and at some point exhaustion carries the day. Also, Carl must have been concerned about sea room, or lack thereof, limiting his choices.

2. Why do I think Carl's boat sank instead of weathering the storm? This question bothers me the most. I knew Carl's boat well, and felt it to be about as seaworthy a vessel as I can imagine. I would have confidently shoved off for anywhere aboard La Vie. So why did she founder? Of course, I don't know, but I can't help but wonder. While rescuing the other sailor, did the two boats collide? I can't imagine trying to make a rescue in those conditions and it is possible that the rolling yachts became entangled and damaged each other. Personally, I think it was crazy for Carl to attempt this rescue, but I knew Carl well, and he wouldn't have thought twice about it. I think the more likely scenario is that La Vie lost her mast and it rammed a hole in the hull. It would have been impossible to cut the rig free in those wild conditions, especially for a lone sailor, and a mast makes a hell of a battering ram.

I hope this helps. Like I said before, I can only speculate, but one thing I know for sure is that I really miss Carl.

Sincerely,

John

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