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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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  #11  
Old 02-01-2011
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Thanks for sharing

Thanks for sharing that one with us Faster. Meggi and I read it together and we both "were there with you" chewing our fingernails down to the elbows being swept closer to doom and unable to do anything about it. This is exactly the type of experiences I hoped this thread would attract. Ones where we can learn from each others mistakes or innocent entries into what develop into strange situations.
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  #12  
Old 02-01-2011
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This the closest near-death experience I've had sailing.

In 1992 we (my father and I) needed to bring our boat (a 1979 Cheoy Lee Offshore 41) back "up west" after she had spent a year and a half in Nova Scotia. For various reasons the trip got delayed until it became a "now or never" schedule. Obviously not necessarily a good way to do these things.

On the second day out from Cape Breton, bound for Nantucket, the wind turned against us as forecast. For the next 5 days we had winds straight out of Nantucket that probably averaged 30 knots. Some times it dropped into the low 20s, other times it was in the high 30s. This was the last week of September, so it wasn't exactly warm.

On the fourth day out, the engine died. Despite hours with our heads in the bilge and the whole boat reeking of diesel, we could not get it started (we later found out the fuel pump was shot). This made for a difficult situation, as with a crew of two, the autopilot was absolutely critical and the engine was our only way of charging the batteries. We shut off all electronics and ran completely dark -- no nav instruments, no lights (not even nav lights), in hopes of saving enough juice to make Nantucket with the autopilot still functioning. We turned on the Loran to take a fix a couple of times a day, and that was it. This was pre-GPS, and at the time we did not have radar.

About 36 hours after the engine died, I was on watch at about 2 a.m. At the time we were probably about 150 miles offshore, somewhere near the Georges Banks. The wind was howling at about 35 knots straight out of Nantucket. Suddenly, over the course of only a couple of minutes, the wind dropped from 35 knots to a dead calm. It was like being in the eye of the storm (of course, at 35 knots it was not nearly strong enough to form an eye). There was absolutely zero wind -- to the point where we actually lost steerage and were completely adrift in the middle of a still chaotic Atlantic.

Into this surreal scene appeared a large fishing trawler, arms spread wide and floodlights blazing, bearing directly for us. I woke my father up and we scrambled into action. The nav lights were flipped on. The vhf was powered up and we started waving a flashlight against our sails. We hailed repeatedly on the vhf to no avail. We frantically sounded a horn. Completely without steerage at this point, we were at the mercy of the trawler. I could not believe I was about to get run over in the middle of the Atlantic for lack of breeze, when we had been struggling through a gale for three days.

He swerved at what seemed like the last moment. In reality, it was probably 100 yards away, but it seemed like inches. Never answered the vhf and headed off into the night. For all we know, he never even saw us.

Fifteen minutes later, the wind came back. Amazingly, at about 30 knots straight out of Nantucket. It stayed that way for several more days. The entire passage (about 550 miles) ended up taking 7 days. The last night we both ended up staying up all night trying to fight our way though the shoals and around Great Point. The autopilot was done by now, so we hand steered the last twelve hours or so. Our exhaustion was so complete, that we did fifteen minute shifts for the last several hours, and I can assure you that each of us slept a full fourteen minutes during our "off" watch periods.
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Not an experience to be looked for again... for sure

Not a nice thing to happen to two sailors who have to do their own laundry by hand! Not much you could have done to change it either. I might have hand steered during the day and used the auto on and off at night but that is only me and in hind sight. Can you, looking back think of anything you would do differently should that happen again? I am sure you have thought about it more than once. Usually about 3AM after eating a very spicy meal.
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Old 02-02-2011
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This thread is still showing up sailors who are surprised that GPS won,t get them safely from A to B. How much evidence is needed before the brain cells kick in. The GPS user sheet on mine says Not to be relied upon for navigation.
My nearest miss , so far, was misjudgeing the tide and current at anchor between the Skerries Islands, Irish Sea.
Was just lazing and enjoying the view when I heard and felt a bump. Looked over the side and saw rocks just under the hull. I had been pushed much nearer the shore than I had intended and the 9` I had expected at low tide now was now abour 3`, my Centaurs draught. Hauled myself off with the anchor windlass and felt very lucky to get away with it. Went back later for a good look and reckon I could have been wrecked as the rocks were fairly jagged when they uncovered at low tide.
Chalked that one down and am much more alert at anchor now.
Safe sailing
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Last edited by centaursailor; 02-02-2011 at 02:35 AM.
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Anchor watches which brand should you buy

Glad you saw that one in time and got off. We always keep an anchor watch day and night the first day or so in a new place. It is boring and gets a lot of mutters and grumbles but has saved our poor back-sides so many times I can't remember them all. No reflection on the last reply but I think anchor watch is THE most neglected part of most peoples seamanship routines. Yet dragging anchor is one of our biggest nightmares.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HVVega View Post
Glad you saw that one in time and got off. We always keep an anchor watch day and night the first day or so in a new place. It is boring and gets a lot of mutters and grumbles but has saved our poor back-sides so many times I can't remember them all. No reflection on the last reply but I think anchor watch is THE most neglected part of most peoples seamanship routines. Yet dragging anchor is one of our biggest nightmares.
Reflect all you like, you are dead on the money.
Safer sailing
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