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Old 27-10-2010, 20:17   #16
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Unfortunate incident but it happens way to often especially when cruisers rely on single systems like GPS and outdated charts. The South Pacific is full of uncharted reefs (not in this case) and reefs and islands that are not really where the chart and GPS think they are. And that goes for almost any piece of ocean rarely traveled by commercial shipping.
- - Of course relying on a news/magazine type article to try to get the "real" story is iffy at best and misleading to erroneous at worst. So second guessing is a game full of too many variables. But from what was written in the link, I would have to agree that nobody was on watch - in the dark night? They were plodding along on hasty waypoints if they even had waypoints plotted.
- - A "55 ft luxury catamaran" and no radar or no radar operating? Of course, if nobody is on watch, then the radar would not have been of any use anyway. But the radar would have shown surf and/or the considerable land from the Google Earth photo of the atoll. Google Earth has two ID from Germans who have stopped there.
- - It sounds like, as others have said, complacency at its worst, trust in single systems, and nobody paying attention to the boat. For that they paid a heavy price. They are not the first and certainly will not be the last cruisers to do a similar thing.
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Old 03-01-2011, 11:50   #17
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I am 3/4ths of the way through their book "Black Wave" (it's remaindered in paperback), and rarely have I cycled from anger to sympathy so quickly. I haven't sailed these waters (although we intend to), but even I know that they are incompletely charted, sometimes inaccurately charted, and that a watch and loads of offing should be maintained at all times. Not just for the reasons of reef avoidance, but because I imagine that storms regularly blow shallowly rooted palm trees into the ocean and hitting one could ruin your whole day.

The book is also sloppily edited and the wife does most of the telling in ways that annoy the sailors in the audience, such as calling stays and shrouds "lines" and repeatedly describing the height of the mast as "eight stories", (should be of course "storeys") instead of in feet or metres.

I haven't finished it, but I don't expect to find the words "I should have kept a watch instead of dicking around with the gooseneck" or "I should have hove to/set a sea anchor/noted drift". There's a lot here that's reasonable about family tensions, but the skipper is described as a recovering alcoholic who dewagons on the first part of the trip, and who seems to have difficulty with focusing his concentration.

Perhaps he didn't think about how fast a cat could close with an atoll?

Didn't mean for this to be a book review, but this tragic tale got on my nerves. The story of the 1994 Queen's Birthday weather bomb, by contrast, provided a lot of good survival tips and frankly, a lot less "shallow waters".
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Old 04-01-2011, 06:17   #18
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There is always a silver lining in most everything - and maybe this article/publication will convince the "unprepared" both mentally and physically from getting into cruising in the first place. Make it a lot safer out there for the rest of us.
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Old 04-01-2011, 10:40   #19
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Ah, a variant on the old saying, "if you can't be a good example, you'll have to be a horrible warning".

There does seem to be a divide between the cruisers/voyagers who rarely have problems (and if they do, they are largely resolved by the skipper and crew without a lot of shouting) and those for whom sailing is lurching from one crisis to another, spewing money and unhappiness like ladled chum into hungry waters.

But a silver lining? Nobody comes to sailing with a lifetime of shoreside competence and rationality only to lose it upon weighing anchor. People lacking in the qualities ocean sailing demands merely transfer that lack from dry land to salt water. I'm not saying that is necessarily the case here; the skipper "grew up on boats" and seems to work the sails and helm properly. But there are many instances where he seems defeated by the boat's engines and balky gensets, electronics, etc. and has to pay others...heavily...to fix them...poorly.

This wouldn't be the first instance of a "1970s sailor" able to work with consumate skill a Windex, the winches. the Whale Gusher and the compass on a 30 foot coastal sailboat being defeated by the intimate and extensive technical knowledge required to understand, never mind maintain, a much larger, far more tricked-out modern cruiser. I myself am still making that transition, and am concluding that the Luddites were onto something, despite being conversant with many technologies.

So it's possible the boat-show-bought radar wasn't on because it didn't occur to anyone aboard to turn it on...or how, once on, the guard function wasn't activated, or the XTE function on the GPS worked, or even how to run a simple plot that would have revealed a fatal drift into danger.

Maybe they'll be an answer in the last part of the book, but so far, it's comparing their wreck to one of a brigantine 150 years previously in practically the same spot, a comparison I find specious at best. If that known reef is so goddamned sneaky and barely visible, why run so close and at such a speed, at night? Is this the family version of Rule 62?
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Old 05-01-2011, 15:46   #20
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Here's a link to a video clip of their story

I Shouldn't Be Alive: Shipwrecked Family : Video : Animal Planet
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Old 05-01-2011, 17:22   #21
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Yes, a good reenactment of a bad situation. Still doesn't really explain why no radar, no deck watch, no generous offing.

I finished the book last night. The last section is somewhat better than the first, but it's still more drama than sense.
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Old 06-01-2011, 05:14   #22
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...and those for whom sailing is lurching from one crisis to another, spewing money and unhappiness like ladled chum into hungry waters.
Brilliant! Love the imagery.
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Old 06-01-2011, 07:48   #23
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Brilliant! Love the imagery.
Thanks. If you are down in Nevis, you are well placed to see exactly the boats and crews I mean. Why, it must be the basis for a large part of the local economy!
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Old 06-01-2011, 08:36   #24
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. . . and those for whom sailing is lurching from one crisis to another, spewing money and unhappiness like ladled chum into hungry waters. . . .
I'd like to second Hud2 compliment for a gem of truthful literary imagery.
- - But like all such published accounts - the book probably contains a lot of embellishment and has a lot of stuff left out as it would be counteractive to the "drama." As with most dramatic publications and films there is probably "the rest of the story."
- - Still the observation of the emergence of barely competent and a new group of those old-timers who are unable to deal with modern technology - is very good. A sturdy boat, taff log, a compass and star to steer by - was all that was available in the "old days." And a lot of seamen never returned and a lot of ballads were written about them.
- - Now with modern technology, the safety and accuracy of venturing offshore has increased dramatically. But so has the number of new and old who cannot understand or use the technology which often has a rather steep learning curve. I suspect there might be a feeling that simply having the latest and greatest whiz-bang stuff on board will magically protect you and your vessel even if you haven't a clue how to use it.
- - But in all fairness there is also an ugly specter lurking for those who have and know how to use the stuff - complacency! Add in boredom of a long passage of day after week of nothing but ocean and it is possible that lethargy has reared its ugly head and taken a deadly bite out of your butt.
- - All of these and more are the demons sailors and cruisers have to battle to stay alive and safe. Nobody said it would be easy.
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Old 06-01-2011, 10:34   #25
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I'd like to second Hud2 compliment for a gem of truthful literary imagery.
- - But like all such published accounts - the book probably contains a lot of embellishment and has a lot of stuff left out as it would be counteractive to the "drama." As with most dramatic publications and films there is probably "the rest of the story."
- - Still the observation of the emergence of barely competent and a new group of those old-timers who are unable to deal with modern technology - is very good. A sturdy boat, taff log, a compass and star to steer by - was all that was available in the "old days." And a lot of seamen never returned and a lot of ballads were written about them.
- - Now with modern technology, the safety and accuracy of venturing offshore has increased dramatically. But so has the number of new and old who cannot understand or use the technology which often has a rather steep learning curve. I suspect there might be a feeling that simply having the latest and greatest whiz-bang stuff on board will magically protect you and your vessel even if you haven't a clue how to use it.
- - But in all fairness there is also an ugly specter lurking for those who have and know how to use the stuff - complacency! Add in boredom of a long passage of day after week of nothing but ocean and it is possible that lethargy has reared its ugly head and taken a deadly bite out of your butt.
- - All of these and more are the demons sailors and cruisers have to battle to stay alive and safe. Nobody said it would be easy.
Those are accurate and well-put observations. For every Luddite skipper who figures Morse code, signal flags and the ability to tie a sheepshank will see him through (and not all of these people are necessarily old; some are "purists" and/or hopelessly romantic), there are others who see sailing as a big video game with somewhat more sunshine and fresh air. Tying in the autopilot to the GPS...while convenient...is certainly symptomatic of this, as we see more and more frequently bad accidents from either failing to notice something isn't working, exhibiting too much faith in charts either in error or outdated, and simply failing to look around the boat.

The result? Boats come to rest on the piers built last year that simply aren't noted on that bargain circa 2007 chart collection you traded for a bottle of rum at the last raft-up. Your course is west in the afternoon, and yet the absence of the sun in your face and the old magnetic compass you haven't bothered to swing reporting 90 degrees goes unnoticed, because the NavNet says "270 W" in large, daylight-visible screen font.

So we are like chimps confronted with hand-tools and delicious nuts to crack. The old chimps just keep biting, because that used to work when their teeth were better and more numerous. Other chimps waste time and cut themselves using screwdrivers and hacksaw blades. Only the chimps who have used the right-sized rocks are going to figure out that a hammer is a right-sized rock with a lever attached.

The trouble is, of course, that either the old salts or the electronics-addled new sailors might both need rescuing from their lifestyle choices by the competent sailor who understands his tools and the limitation of those tools. If I put an Autohelm and a GPS in your car, and a few actuators, would you leave the driver's seat and have a nap in the back? And yet this is perhaps one answer to what happened to Emerald Jane.

I just spent an hour devising a fuel polishing system with my diesel dealer this morning with exactly this in mind. He asked why I was installing a FilterBoss and separately filtered cross-transfer pump and Baja filter at the deck fills, and various other amenities, like running all tank vents to goosenecks high on the cabin, for offshore work. I said that a wise sailor once noted that contaminated fuel caused engine problems One, Two and Three in his experience, and the diesel dealer agreed that he found this all too often, as well. I said that with 50 feet of fuel hose, I could offer "Remedial Raft-ups", do fuel polishing for other cruisers, and thereby barter for the things we needed. He said that given the lack of knowledge with which some cruisers go to sea, ideas like that could pay for the trip!
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Old 23-01-2011, 14:11   #26
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I would not dare to comment on the lack of seamanship evident in this story, as I am still getting over my boat's recent collision with a submerged rock. More on the reasons for that particular disaster is for another day after I finish counselling - just kidding ALMOST

but
an important point that I think all readers should gain from this tale is the following - NEVER NEVER use a tourniquet to stem harmorrhage or to treat envenomation, for that matter. More limbs have been lost from the use of tourniquets than have been lost from snake bite.

To stop bleeding, apply PRESSURE with whatever is available - a towel, clothing, your fist if need be. Apply as much pressure as is required to stop the bleeding. Tourniquets which are in place for more than 30 minutes will endanger the viability of all the tissue distal to the application point. In this case, the captain's leg. I am not saying that the use of a tourniquet was the cause of this man's loss of his leg BUT it would not have helped.

I am a doctor who works in remote areas and on trans-ocean oil rig deliveries so am qualified to bring up this point. As a good friend who is a trauma physician in Oz always tells me, there are only a few basic rules to preserving life in severe trauma.

"1. Blood should go round and round (the circulation)
2. Air should go in and out (of the mouth, nose & lungs)
3. Oxygen is important"

i.e. if #1 is going in & out, stop it by blocking off the leak with the application of pressure over the wound;
if #2 is not going in & out - clear the airways obstruction to ensure it can & provide some of your own air if necessary;
and for #3 - everyone suffering trauma should be on oxygen ASAP (not possible on a coral atoll in the middle of nowhere.)
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Old 23-01-2011, 14:44   #27
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Good advice, Doc. It's funny, but I recall the tourniquet advice going the way of the dodo when I was a Cub Scout learning First Aid...almost 40 years ago! And yet people are still using it.

Wait until they hear about the return of the leech...
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Old 23-01-2011, 14:58   #28
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I know it's serious but one sentence struck me as funny, "They had heads full of memories...
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Old 12-08-2014, 06:33   #29
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Re: Reader's Digest Story of the s/v 'Emerald Jane'

I'm sorry, I know this is an old thread, but I can't help myself. I've just read this book and I thought it a fantastic read. Three points,

1. They did not desert the watch. The teenage girl had come down stairs to swap the watch with her teenage brother and it was in this swapping of the watch the grounding occurred. Few if any sailors are on watch 100% of the time. There are toilet breaks, chart recordings, drink times. Etc.
2. The torn-aqua saved the mans life. His leg was cut off, with waves crashing over etc etc. by the time they got him ashore he had lost incredible amounts of blood. I've used pressure alone in trying to stem the severed limb of a car crash victim and it was damn near impossible with first aid gauges. So Dr, read the book.
3. To this day it is not known how this accident happened. Yes it was pilot error, but exactly what that error was is still not known for sure. What is known is that the vessel was not where they thought it was.

But anyway, a great read. An amazing family.
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