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#241425 - 12/15/11 08:17 PM Seperation Irritation at Steeplechase
PeteCullum Offline
journeyman

Registered: 09/19/10
Posts: 55
I got seperated from the boat at Steeplechase, and was going to title this post "Seperation Anxiety". But the truth is that I didn't actually experience any anxiety, but I certainly was bloody irritated.

I don't want to minimize the potential danger that someone seperated from a cat could find themselves in, but my situation was not very threatening.

We were a few miles south of Angelfish, having just set the kite when we went over. We were between 1.5 and 2 miles offshore. Importantly, the NE wind was blowing onshore. We righted the boat, which went right over again before we could get on it. We righted it a second time and it started sailing too fast for us to get on the boat, even though all sheets and traveler were fully eased. This was a borrowed N20 that we got rigged at the last minute, and unlike on my own F18 did not already have a safety-line running under the tramp to the rear beam to hold on to when going aft to steer the rudders into the wind. I went back anyway and held onto the beam but the tillers/linkage were backwards and could not be reached while holding on. I tried to turn the blade of a rudder and the rudder kicked-up. The last thing I grabbed was the tiller extension, which slipped right off leaving me behind the boat. My crew tried to turn the boat, but it flipped 50 feet to leeward of my.

It was immediately obvious that the boat was drifting faster than I could swim to it, so with the ugly-stick in one hand I started swimming to the beach in the same direction as the boat was drifting. An hour and twenty minutes later, with about 10-15 minutes more swimming to do to get to the beach, I saw Sea Tow pull up to the boat. I honestly had mixed feelings about seeing the assistance arrive. I've sailed tens of thousands of miles, many of them offshore single-handed and have never needed or requessted outside assistance of any kind, including when suffering catastrophic rudder failure 400 miles north of Oahu. I was proud of the track-record, and had already swum 80% of the way to the beach.

However, my crew had done the right and responsible thing in calling the CG, who had dispatched the Sea Tow boat, who promptly picked my up and took me to the boat. We righted it and sailed 35 miles down to Anne's Beach with the kite up the whole way, but sailing consrvatively much closer to the shore.

A few things I have learned;

1). Borrowing boats for long races is only adviseable if you have the time to "make it your own." We rushed to make it sailable, but did not make it fail-safe.
2). My boat and primary equipment were in a container coming back from the Caribbean and I did not have my waterproof VHF, EPIRB and other gear on me. The VHF we had was in the boat hull where it is of no use to anyone in the water.
3). A safety-line under the tramp is important, and would have given me something to properly hold on to while sorting out the steering gear.
4). I just spent $55 on a 28" wide sea anchor which I believe will prevent or reduce the drift rate to a speed that is swimable as It should also hold the bow to wind eliminating windage on the tramp.
5). Being fit enough to swim the distance you choose to sail offshore is probably a good guide to how fit you should be, or how far offshore you should go. I am a scawny 52 year-old, but I never felt tired in the water and easily had the strength right the boat and climb aboard once returned to it. The key is to have good floatation and find a low-energy pace to swim, which for me was on my back doing a low arm back-stroke. Speed was just under one knot. (boat drifted at 1.8 kts.)
6). I was wearing a dry-suit, which was comfortable and warm in the water, but without it I think I could have started to feel the cold.

Regardless of whether this was an anxiety-inducing event to me or not, it could have been more serious, and potentially wrenching to others who were in and around the event. We all owe our fellow competitors and the OA, RC etc. the curteousy of being as prepared for the conditions as possible. I had said the night before the race that if the winds shifted to offshore, we would not start the race, but really that signals that I knew we were not fully prepared for all potential scenarios. Rest assured that I will not be doing so again.

A big thank you respectively to the CG, Sea Tow, Daryl my crew, and to Jake and Frank who stuck around Anne's beach until we safely arrived.

Cheers,

Pete

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#241430 - 12/15/11 08:30 PM Re: Seperation Irritation at Steeplechase [Re: PeteCullum]
pgp Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/29/09
Posts: 5525
laugh You aren't the first, won't be the last!
_________________________
Pete Pollard
Blade 702

'When you have a lot of things to do, it's best to get your nap out of the way first.


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#241444 - 12/15/11 11:18 PM Re: Seperation Irritation at Steeplechase [Re: PeteCullum]
PeteCullum Offline
journeyman

Registered: 09/19/10
Posts: 55
I'd be very interested to hear if anyone has seperation prevention ideas, or experience with drogues/sea anchors on beachcats. It goes over much less often that it used to, but it still happens.

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#241447 - 12/16/11 01:38 AM Re: Seperation Irritation at Steeplechase [Re: PeteCullum]
Formerly Undecided Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/08/08
Posts: 3482
Loc: Not Florida :(
Pete,

One thing that we are mandating on all our teams going forwards for distance races is an inflatable diving tube. Its basically a bright neon orange 6 foot tall tube that you inflate when you drop in the drink. It sticks up in the air so you can easily be seen.

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#241448 - 12/16/11 03:06 AM Re: Seperation Irritation at Steeplechase [Re: PeteCullum]
JJ_ Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 04/07/08
Posts: 232
Quote:
3). A safety-line under the tramp is important, and would have given me something to properly hold on to while sorting out the steering gear.
4). I just spent $55 on a 28" wide sea anchor which I believe will prevent or reduce the drift rate to a speed that is swimable as It should also hold the bow to wind eliminating windage on the tramp.
+1.

Quote:
Being fit enough to swim the distance you choose to sail offshore is probably a good guide to how fit you should be, or how far offshore you should go.
Perfect.

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#241454 - 12/16/11 12:29 PM Re: Seperation Irritation at Steeplechase [Re: PeteCullum]
Andinista Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 08/04/03
Posts: 349
Loc: Santiago, Chile
I was thinking to replace my righting bag for a righting pole, but now I think the bag would make a good anchor, wouldn't it? ( I usually right the boat solo, so it's likely I would use the bag)


Edited by Andinista (12/16/11 12:29 PM)

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#241455 - 12/16/11 12:45 PM Re: Seperation Irritation at Steeplechase [Re: PeteCullum]
Jake Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/18/01
Posts: 11463
Loc: South Carolina
Originally Posted By: PeteCullum
I'd be very interested to hear if anyone has seperation prevention ideas, or experience with drogues/sea anchors on beachcats. It goes over much less often that it used to, but it still happens.


I haven't had a chance to test it yet, but I have a pouch sewn underneath our trampoline that contains a drogue with a leash and two carabiners (of different colors). The first carabiner gets clipped to the dolphin striker, the next carabiner (through which the line runs freely through) gets clipped to the forestay bridle to keep the pull near the bow. The drogue is then tossed into the water. It should function to slow the boat down dramatically while on it's side, orient the bows into the wind, AND keep the boat from turning away from the wind once it's righted. Once the boat is righted and needs to get underway, it should be possible to pull the drogue up to the forestay bridle getting enough of it out of the water to permit sailing (potentially to go back and get your crew/skipper).
_________________________
Jake Kohl

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#241457 - 12/16/11 01:03 PM Re: Seperation Irritation at Steeplechase [Re: PeteCullum]
pgp Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/29/09
Posts: 5525
None of you are considering tethering yourselves to the boat?
_________________________
Pete Pollard
Blade 702

'When you have a lot of things to do, it's best to get your nap out of the way first.


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#241458 - 12/16/11 01:35 PM Re: Seperation Irritation at Steeplechase [Re: pgp]
Team_Cat_Fever Online   content
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/16/02
Posts: 3132
Loc: Roanoke Island ,N.C.
Originally Posted By: pgp
None of you are considering tethering yourselves to the boat?


All of this has been gone over dozens of times here. Boat flips, tether tangles, you drown. Not to mention the tether inhibits your mobility enough to increase the probablility of flipping .
_________________________
"I said, now, I said ,pay attention boy!"

The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea
Isak Dinesen
If a man is to be obsessed by something.... I suppose a boat is as good as anything... perhaps a bit better than most.
E. B. White

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#241464 - 12/16/11 03:21 PM Re: Seperation Irritation at Steeplechase [Re: Team_Cat_Fever]
waterbug_wpb Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/17/01
Posts: 4612
Loc: Naples, FL
I concur, Pete. The few times I've been separated were near coastal (or inland) waterways, and I was comfortable making the swim to shore if I had to. Might take a while (like Pete's backstroke), but a good PFD and gear go a long way in that respect.

So, the consensus seems to be a drogue of some sort, some way to grab the boat as it goes by, and items for good communication/visibility on your person

My hydration pack has a storage area where I keep GPS, VHF, cell (all in bags) and a jet-ski emergency pack which holds 3 flares, dye marker, mirror, and I think I may add the diver sausage for races like Steeple, GT, EC, T500, etc.

Oh, and my PB&J sandwich. Only thing I've found that still tastes good after being smashed into oblivion and sprayed with salt water.

Good training for both crew would be MOB either dropping sail and turning around or (if flipped) setting the boat up for minimal drift?
_________________________
Jay


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