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Old 23-11-2010, 03:43   #196
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Slow versus fast boats

Originally Posted by speciald@ocens. View Post
This was my 7th passage and it was not the worst weather-wise I've had.
When I went to the Carib 1500 website and "eyeballed" the day by day position of your vessel versus Rule 62, I cannot keep wondering if the speed at which you moved (7-8 knots up to 9 knots except for the last two days of the trip - motoring?) versus the speed at which Rule 62 moved (5-6 knots up to 7 knots) as well as the difference in size (58 feet versus 45 feet) may have put your two boats in different situations. The low pressure system that was moving between Cape Cod, NJ and Bermuda was due to send significant waves south keeping the slowest boats (Class 7) in rougher weather at least until Friday/Saturday.

What are your thoughts? Finally congratulations on your Class III win in the Carib 1500.

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Old 23-11-2010, 08:57   #197
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Certainly this event has been a tragedy for Laura and everyone who knew her and who was involved in the rally. Having read through the thread there has certainly been a lot of serious speculation and little fact.

A number of people have second guessed the crew's decision to take to the life raft. Certainly the decision has probably resulted in one death, but we cannot know that staying with the boat would not have resulted in four deaths. It's not like this boat was flooded and awash and aground in relatively calm water. It was aground on a reef in huge seas. Conditions aboard must have been horrendous. A guy I know went aground about 35 years ago near Walkers on a reef and abandoned the vessel in his dink, making it to Walkers as a storm hit that evening. The vessel was completely destroyed as it was broken apart on the reef. Had they stayed aboard, no one would have survived. The idea of stepping up into a life raft is a great one but one might have a different attitude if 20 foot waves were breaking over your grounded boat.

One poster has stated that there was nothing to learn here. I disagree. It has certainly reenforced something that I knew and for those that didn't know should now be abundantly clear. The Atlantic facing shallow inlets of the Bahama's are not the place to run to for shelter in a storm, especially with winds from the east and north east in combination with big waves. They are bad enough in moderate conditions, but in bad conditions run for one of the deep water cuts such as Northeast Providence Channel or the south end of Cat Island, or Crooked Island Passage and then pull up into the lee if the island for protection. I think this reenforces the idea that one should plan their bailout points for everything turning to crap. It will be interesting to hear why this captain chose to bailout to the Abacos. In hindsight, I would say unless the boat was sinking and would not have made it to Northeast Providence Channel, it would appear he made the wrong decision. Fortunately I get to learn from his mistake instead of getting to make this one own.

In my opinion it is somewhat unfortunate that the NTSB does not treat boating accidents like aircraft accidents in that these types of accidents get investigated and the cause is determined as best it can including the decision making processes that lead up to the accident. In almost all cases it is not one problem or decision that leads to a bad outcome but a whole series of them compounding until it overwhelms the crew's ability to handle the situation. If we don't learn from other people's mistakes we have to learn from our own, if we live.

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Old 23-11-2010, 11:46   #198
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Interesting thread.

Always a conflict between learning from a topical disaster and giving folks a kicking with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. and an armchair

But some useful info, even if nothing new. My take:

- Land is not always your freind.

- the sea in currents and shelves and restricted areas can be out of all proportion to the weather.

- Learn how to heave to on your own boat (makes an extraordinary difference to life onboard). Nearest one can get to a "time out".

- tiredness can kill ya. Everyone has limits, even the most experianced / fit. accelerated by injury or unexpected events.

- as crew you are very much in the hands of the Skipper and his / her decisions.

- A liferaft or a lifejacket is not a magic answer. nor is an EPIRB. or a tracker. nor a Satphone to freinds and family.......or to "help".

- and the most important lesson? IMO that sometimes, even though you do your utmost, it is not enough.

In regard to the comments on the Skipper saving his wife over the crew, although I doubt there was a black and white choice involved in this case (events would have a life of there own) - if there was, then I would not be surprised if wife was chosen over crew. It's what I would do. and would expect (most!) others to do. Perhaps something else for Crew to bear in mind. on my boat and on that of others, especially when signing up with unfamiliar Skippers.
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Old 23-11-2010, 11:57   #199
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I am curious from some of those who knew Laura; I understand her arm was injured in a motorcycle wreck. Would she have had more difficulty swimming? I am curious if that would have made survival more difficult for her.
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Old 23-11-2010, 12:06   #200
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I think it is totally unreasonable to speculate that the captain or any other crew member even had an opportunity to rescue Laura let alone suggest that they made a choice to rescue one person over another once the raft overturned. One might indeed choose to help a loved one over a non relative, then again one might choose to help the weakest, thinking that the stronger might be better able to fend for themself. I don't know this crew, but it seems from reading the thread, those that did thought Laura a stronger and more competent individual in such a hazardous situation than the wife. Since we weren't there we'll have to wait until the crew tells their story. I sincerely hope that they do so we can all learn from it.
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Old 23-11-2010, 13:01   #201
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Different boats are all ways in different weather. In past years the slower boats got smacked hard while the faster boats ran out of the wind. I was spooked by the Gulf Stream prdiction and ran down the coast to Frying Pan Shoals before crossing. In retrospect, the crossing at Hatteras would have been fine, but I was worried by the forcast and by going into such rough water so early in the passage before our crew got used to the motion.My boat is heavy - 35 tons, and for us the passage was smooth with 15+ foot swells (not breaking). Our SOG was mostly above 8.5 and topped at 11.2. I use the MaxSea TZ weather routing and would strongly reccomend it for those doing off-shore passages.
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Old 23-11-2010, 13:24   #202
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What we all need to take away from this is the improvment of our own level of critical thinking. Thinking based on flexible ideas and principles. Thinking NOT based on step one, step two, step three.
Reflecting on both the information given, and the attitudes taken in this thread, we should try to improve our own competence using critical thinking not solely based on logic, but deeper and stronger intellectual measures like significance, clarity, accuracy, depth and breadth, relevance, precision, and fairness.
If/when I get caught in a storm off the coast of Maine, I won't care where the hell Providence Channel is and I want a whole lot more than "step up and tie off with 100ft." playing in my head.
Thanks for the outlet-
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Old 23-11-2010, 13:41   #203
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Laura Zekull is still lost at sea. The offical search is off, but, a private search of family and friends continues. Laura can out swin, out sail, out do anyone, anytime, anywhere. Whe is not one to give up on, however, the situation is not a good one. Rulle 62 lost her mast, headed west to the Bahamas, conditions were just too bad for the crew. They all made it in the life raft with life jackets on. The rest is all that youu know.
Pray for us all.
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Old 24-11-2010, 17:12   #204
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Not sure how much everyone here has been following this in other venues. Very sad news and my heart goes out to the family and friends.

From the Facebook page

Zorrest Pennell Millman
I just got off the phone with Mike. (Mike is Angie's husband. Angie is Laura's sister & only sibling.) With great sadness, a heavy heart, & tear-filled eyes, I want to share with you that Laura is gone, but, only her physical body is gone. Her bright spirit will live on in the lives of those she touched so specially!

Zorrest Pennell Millman Angie, her parents, & Laura's friends found no sign of Laura in their search for her in the Bahamas. They've been there searching since Sun. Even though it was appearing that this would be the outcome, the finality of the news is! My family & I are lifting up my dear, sweet friend, Angie, her family, & Laura's friends in prayer! They're all scheduled to arrive back in Atlanta at 5:40 pm. A memorial service will be held, but, there are no details yet. Prayers for all of you who are touched by this loss!

Zorrest Pennell Millman
Angie just called me from the Bahamas. She is getting ready to board her plane to come back home to Atlanta. She asked me to post this message from her - Laura's sister, Angie, their parents, & Laura's best friends, along with Volunteer/Warden Brent Bass did an extensive, exhaustive, & massive search for Laura by both boat and on land by foot. We, the family & friends of Laura will be forever grateful to Brent Bass! He helped our family do everything humanly possible to help us locate Laura. He is a wonderful man! As a volunteer, he gave freely of his time & we love him dearly! Abaco Police Authorities have also been beyond caring and compassionate! We thank them dearly from the bottom of our hearts as well! The family sadly reports that we're returning home without Laura!
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Old 25-11-2010, 07:11   #205
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Our condolences go to Ms. Zekoll's family and friends.
We were on passage to the BVI at the same time as the Caribbean 1500 fleet, and, though there were high winds and seas, we experienced a well-controlled environment. Some thoughts: We used redundant sources of weather forecasting. Chris Parker of the Caribbean Weather Center was our primary source every morning, and we also obtained up to date text forecasts from NOAA over our Sirius satellite weather receiver thrice daily. We talked with Herb Hilgenberg of Southbound II every afternoon. We downloaded GRIB files over the SSB daily.
We left Southport (40 nm closer to the Gulf Stream than Hampton) 10 hours before the Caribbean 1500 fleet, so we crossed the Stream during daylight hours on Monday, a full day before the 1500 did. The motion of the boat was very uncomfortable with 20 kt winds from the NW at right angles to the Stream. Three of the four crew were seasick. Conditions may have been even worse the next day when the fleet from the 1500 reached the Stream.
We prepared for seasickness by obtaining adequate rest before leaving. No partying. No alcohol. We used transderm Scopolomine patches, supplemented by Zofran (Ondansetron), a wonderful anti-nausea medication widely used for “morning sickness” and post-operative nausea and for the nausea associated with chemotherapy. Ask your doctor to prescribe these medications for you before your next Gulf Stream crossing.
We had lots of prepared meals to reheat and eat. We slept when off watch. Once across the Stream, all crew members were fit and able. We sailed the rhumb line in steady NW winds of 25 kt, gusting to 30 under Genoa alone most of the way, staying just ahead of the bad weather behind us. Seas were 15 – 18 feet but with a 14 second interval they were very comfortable. They towered above us as they passed beneath the boat, but the autopilot handled them easily.
We had a well-found, well-prepared boat, designed for offshore passage making. The cockpit and helm are well protected by a full enclosure. We stayed warm, dry, and rested. We didn't set any speed records but we had a very controlled 8 day passage to the BVI.
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Old 25-11-2010, 08:43   #206
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Excellent first-hand account of your passage to the BVI, doublewide . . . thanks for posting it. It helps a great deal in painting a picture of conditions at the time of the Caribbean 1500 Rally.

"Your vision becomes clear only when you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks within, awakens."
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Old 25-11-2010, 11:11   #207
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A great account of pre planning. We can't always choose the weather after we leave but we can stack the deck as best we can. Planning out food and consideration for the crew is clearly a requirement. It might be said you were lucky but you were clearly prepared as best possible based on multiple sources of information. There really is nothing better. We can all make decisions before we leave on a long trip of any type and the things you can control or plan for are just less to have to answer for when things don't go as expected.

I don't want to claim that others were unprepared but only to say that the depth of your preparations communicated in your post indicate an exceptionally well thought out plan with great detail. It was clearly far more than just a couple good ideas. Plans with backups and more backups just can't be underestimated. Thoughts toward maximizing the ability of the crew to perform even after the departure date is just the insurance policy required. The ability to look beyond one or two days is what great expedition plans are all about.

Preplanning is not the same as decisions made along the route when changes will and do force changes in plans. Increased preplanning requires a great deal of effort to insure future performance. Preplanning can add time and enhance options at the very time that both at running dangerously low. Ironically we all want to delay decisions until required
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Old 26-11-2010, 07:28   #208
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Lessons learned.........

During a night of sheer terror, one item could have possibly saved Laura. A strobe tied to her life jacket. She had no strobe so she could not be seen. Although we cannot bring back this beatiful person, we can learn from her passing. Never, ever enter a Bahamian cut at night during a rage. Always wear a strobe, whistles don't do much in 10+ crashing surf in the impact zone. If you are in a liferaft, and are in the impact zone of the surf, tie yourself on to the life raft so you can't be separated from the liferaft and let the 8 foot high white water bring you to safety. These are some items that are not taught in STCW '95 training that should be included. The art of the liferaft.
Anything else?....
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Old 26-11-2010, 07:52   #209
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agree on the strobe light and entering a bahamian pass at night !! when in doubt stay out .. sometimes is tough to do.
some of the best times of my life were spent on a boat. it just took a long time to realize it

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Old 26-11-2010, 08:20   #210
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Thanks Doublewide for sharing your experience of the conditions out there and the preparation that you took.

I have been thinking a lot about Laura and s/v Rule 62's crew as evident from my other post.

So sad...

I will say from my very limited experience coming into channels from the Ocean, that even on those days where conditions are favorable and the air light...10 - 15, the amount of water being pushed through those bottlenecks, can still make for an exciting ride...I cannot even imagine what a Rage would be like.

So I was thinking about it this morning...if they lost some portion of their mast as was reported, and their engine died, and they were stuck out there in what appears to be extremely tough conditions; How far out would they have to be off the coast to be able to throw our a drogue or sea anchor and have it be effective in not permitting them to drift the considerable amount that would push them right into the coast?

I just keep imagining the terror of my boat being immobilized and having a drogue be ineffective, and having to experience being pushed in by the weather w/o a thing possible that I could do...

xxuxx, you refer to the 'art of the liferaft' not being taught...and I believe this to be very important and am putting it on my list of things to learn.

I am deeply saddened by Laura's loss. As I contemplate cruising, and struggling with some of my deep seated fears, Laura's loss just highlights that I have justified fears.

I have learned a lot - I didn't know what a 'Rage' was until now. It is of little consolation in comparison to Laura's life, but I am taking s/v Rule 62's experience of this situation to heart, and it is motivating me to learn all I can and then let go of this fear with grace, because Lord knows, as I have said before, Nature can be one fierce force...

Laura, I wish you peace...

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