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Old 26-03-2008, 18:52   #46
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Larry,
I don't think the Flicka being 20 ft had anything to do with it. Not a boat I would choose, but certainly capable of making major passages, as most are. I disagree with your statement that ".. was jumping off on a sizeable voyage says good things for her ability to plan and prepare,". I'd say the planning was majorly lacking on this voyage. Planning would have included reasonable shake down trips that prepared the sailor as well as the boat. There was absolutely no reason to take off on a major stretch initially. It doesn't make sense to plan a solo circumnavigation while not also planning offshore trips to learn to sail in offshore conditions. Like learning what gets you seasick and how to deal with it, and how you react to sleep deprivation.

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Old 26-03-2008, 19:13   #47
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The good thing about a small boat is the smaller sails and lower effort needed to work them. That is where the advantages cease as far as an ocean crosser is concerned. In a small boat one feels every wave on the ocean even the small ones.

I have single handed my little tri in winds of over fifty knots, when it is hard to see anything because the tops blow off the waves and travel horizontally. Without deep water and a chartplotter one would not have much idea where one was. At night with an overcast sky and no moon, one might as well be sailing in the void. Navigational aids are essential--and then add a storm to that and it can feel daunting.

I thought trucking the boat to the west coast and practicing there would have been my ploy--some very nice cruising and a bit of rough stuff in season without going too far from a safe shore. One does not HAVE to cross the pond--plans change. She may have decided after the hands heal if she still has the boat that a larger tub is required for the crossing. Solo crossings are one thing--but a good soul mate aboard is a good thing too--and two of them could even be better, when it comes to watches and sleeping.

Still--I should not confuse my situation with someone else's dream. Solo is not the be-all and end-all for me, although being alone does have some benefits. I like good company aboard--and I think Heather and her adventurous spirit might be great company for someone who wishes to cruise coastally and expand her sailing experience--but it might be the last thing she would want.

I hope she gets well soon.
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Old 27-03-2008, 05:38   #48
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<I'd say the planning was majorly lacking on this voyage….>

Paul, we’re probably debating around each-other, but I’d argue (although not too strenuously) the planning seemed fine from what I could glean, it was on the execution where the shortcuts seemed to leave her vulnerable… Perhaps because I’m seeing through my eyes -- and I’m not a committed believer in practice exercises or arbitrary rehearsal drills other than the usual systems checks… too many folks have successfully completed their voyages by simply jumping off and going after researching, planning, and cataloguing as much as they could… and -- too many others are still wandering around the harbor, or some island, because they haven’t checked every last box on some training/equipment/certification schematic…

Admittedly, this is probably a collision of philosophies at some minor level, and I’m not an advocate of being foolhardy… but, frankly, Heather did it about the way I attack solo and potentially challenging endeavors… read, research and read some more, and then plan (especially for contingencies), and then assemble the best equipment I can afford (usually old, smelly, tarnished, but simple and trustworthy in my eyes…). Once I know how to operate any gizmos that were new to me, I either go or shelve the effort for lack of further interest… yep, I’ve had to abort… but usually it goes more or less according to my loose plan and even though I’ve temporarily had to wait out a situation for one reason or another, or nurse along machinery that didn’t meet my expectations, for solo endeavourers I think it’s the way to go… when family, especially grandchildren, are along I tend to be very cautious, but when I only have to look after myself, I only have to be cautious for one -- if I didn’t think I could do I wouldn’t attempt it –and if I think I can, then why wait…

The one aspect where I’d diverge noticeably from Heather’s methodology is in the “public” aspects of her trip… I wonder how much pressure that puts on someone – but then, most of us would not be discussing her attempt if she’d done otherwise… For me, I tend to play close to the vest, and ultimately victories and failures are private affairs, but that’s just my preference… I was recently rereading a section of Manry’s account of his transatlantic voyage aboard Tinkerbelle, and one of the resonant chords from his writing was the fact that few at the dock, let alone his work and others except for immediate family knew what he wanted to do – and he left on his own schedule… I’d favor that, but again it’s just an alternative way to skin the cat…
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Old 27-03-2008, 08:58   #49
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Larry,
I'm not opposed to the just-do-it philosophy of cruising. That is not what I saw going on here. What I saw was lots of public hype about making sure everything was done properly and claiming to be completely prepared, along with justifications of why what she did was the correct way to go. All this, without dealing with the training of the most important piece of equipment in a solo sail, the sailor. Offshore it is very difficult to evaluate heavy weather situations if you've never been in any before. A few small steps would have let her gain experience and gain the confidence needed to get through the tough times. I think the strangest thing to me was the beating some took who indicated that this might not be as well planned as it was said to be. The sideline cheerleaders didn't do her any favors.

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Old 27-03-2008, 09:51   #50
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<I think the strangest thing to me was the beating some took who indicated that this might not be as well planned as it was said to be….>

Yeah, it’s hard to be on the digital sidelines and know what those who have first knowledge know… If, in fact, the steps leading up to departure were described dangerously optimistically, ignoring obvious vulnerabilities of Heather’s venture, or if some of her cheering section helped to place her in an awkward situation – then shame on us… Heavy weather is heavy weather – some experienced voyagers apparently sail for years and manage to avoid it, and others get smacked in the face the first time out – don’t think I’d sail out into the teeth of a gale (unless something truly important depended on it…), but I don’t think I’d let the fact I’d never experienced force nine or ten off-shore keep me at the dock either…

My guess is we mostly agree… Maybe it’s my prior lives rearing their pointy little heads, but I’m a firm believer the skipper is responsible to skipper (no, Capt. Bligh may not apply…). Only the skipper can make the go/no-go decision… and the skipper is also responsible for the consequences of the decision… I’m suspicious of the effect that public proclamations of a specific departure time can have on recreational skippers, and the possibility that such overtly public declarations can distort proper decision making… I certainly share your general concern over the possible consequences of public hype…

Don’t know about the “beatings” on the sidelines – but Monday morning quarterbacks will probably always disagree as some level, with the skipper and each other… We Monday morning quarterbacks have the luxury of doing their assessment and analysis at a leisurely pace, usually in the safety and comfort of our home/office… the solo skipper, however, has to make their analysis in real-time, without consultants or debate, and in conditions as they find them… To paraphrase Mister Spock; they [can seem to] lack a common frame of reference…
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Old 27-03-2008, 10:11   #51
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"My guess is we mostly agree…"
Yep, I'm pretty sure we are on the same tack here. I wasn't going to use the phrase heavy weather, but couldn't come up with another one. I just meant snotty conditions that teach you about the boat and yourself. It's just hard to get this stuff from a book. The book knowledge on heavy weather is typically focused on serious heavy weather up to survival storms. Without some gradually increasing weather experience, it is really is easy to over rate how bad things are.

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Old 27-03-2008, 10:13   #52
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Paul and Larry. You both have very valid points. I also use the just do it philosophy, but there is a certain level of preparedness that should just be common sense.
I think that Monday morning quarterbacking is a very valuable in the fact that it provides a clear evaluation of what went wrong to benefit those who would try this in the future. The caveat is that this should be based solely on fact, or we risk making assumptions that would miss the real cause of the problem.
Since I do not know Heather personally, and can not assess her capability in undertaking such a venture, I have no idea if she was the victim of her own poor planning, or the victim of circumstance. What I can say is no amount of planning or preparedness can account for all circumstances. Consider something as simple as Heather being locked out of her boat. Not knowing the intimate details of how the latch was designed, I can not say for sure, but my guess is that this would fall into that latter category.
Even years of sailing experience may not provide an opportunity to deal with force 10 conditions. The best way to successfully deal with the unexpected is mental preparedness. I can not say if Heather had this because it is such a personal thing, but again, this is not solely based on sailing experience. Some people can stand in front of the approaching train and just react correctly the first time. Others will freeze. Only Heather's closest friends would know what sort of person she is.
All that said, I do agree that it is important to identify quantifiable errors in preparation and action, but I also think it is important to give her the respect for going for it. I also think it is important that we do not make assumptions about her personal abilities.
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Old 27-03-2008, 11:09   #53
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She had sailed as a little girl quite a bit, and her father was her mentor in preparing the boat. I would believe she had some capability. I think turning back after being sick for 2 days, and her injury was a good call. I give her the utmost credit for leaving the dock. At least she gave it a go to fulfill her desire. For laying out her biggest fears, and being honest I say she is the queen of courage.

I wrote her, and told her so. Maybe when she has time to get healthy she will start with smaller ambitions of sailing. If not then I still high five her for the courage to leave the dock. How many people here know someone who is always going somewhere, but never leaves? She gets my BEST WISHES in anything she does in life!
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Old 27-03-2008, 11:20   #54
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Kai,
After the fact evals are good for learning and keeping to facts is even more helpful.
" Even years of sailing experience may not provide an opportunity to deal with force 10 conditions. "
There were no Force 10 conditions in this sailing story.

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Old 27-03-2008, 11:52   #55
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I was generalizing. Granted, it seems many of her issues were far less sever than a force ten sea, but the point was, no one can put into practice all of the steps needed to deal with every situation. One can only prepare based on the available knowledge that they have.
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Old 27-03-2008, 12:11   #56
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Kai,
Agreed. Take it all a step at a time. In this case, it just felt to me a little prior experience on smaller legs would have made the whole thing turn out a lot better.

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Old 27-03-2008, 12:28   #57
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End result, I have to agree with your point as well. I am sure she is telling herself the same thing.
That said, what were some of the correct steps she took? I have to say that the flicka would be a good choice, but then again, I find right about 28' to be the comfortable boat for single handing. I tend to be a minimalist, so I would not have had all the systems she did, but they were well thought out...
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Old 27-03-2008, 12:39   #58
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" That said, what were some of the correct steps she took?"
She bought a solid, well built boat. It isn't what I would choose, due to the short waterline. But there is such a wide range of boats that successfully make major crossings, I don't see any need to second guess what she picked. For a single hander, the boat being that small can make life a lot tougher offshore. Long, slow passages. Small boats are easier to handle in shore -- mariners, shallow waters, etc. They can be manhandled while docking. Even rowed for backup.
I don't think she shrimped on the equipment she put on it. All good quality stuff.
No shortage of web site coverage

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Old 27-03-2008, 14:24   #59
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invincible

when i was young i felt invincible
i could stir for hours non stop...days and nights..i did not have autopolot or a life raft, no gps, or even radio, no weather fax ..or else.
i did not have the finance , but i had a youth that could have overcome a lot of adversities...and i did , looking back..i will not let my son sail ( without chart, flares security ..) like i did..
but then ,..the size of the boat or the equipment did not matter..

i think , one has to be realistic, youth has this power and strength who permit to accomplish hard endeavour , even on small boat ( 2 youngs just row from Australia to NZ )..
we do life longer, but , middle age are creepping on us , we need more sleep, more confort, more securities , and we are more reserved ...more set in "our way", and our little ache and pain are flashing their warning light time to time..

we will go far , but yes, maybe one step at the time , not running down the mountain like a goat anymore( it is why my mate climbing used to call me) ..
and yes privicy and humbility is a bit more raisonable..
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Old 27-03-2008, 15:38   #60
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I do sometimes question whether I tend to over encourage new sailing folk via the internet even though I know full well that I do not know enuf about their entire circumstances / abilities.......but I figure a bit of positive encouragement has never killed anyone. I hope!

I have said quite a few times on this site that I am nowhere near as experianced as many others here when it come to long distance / extended voyaging let alone blue water / transocean stuff......but I did grow up from 2 feet high "simply messing around in boats" on an island, so I do know plenty of "stuff" about boats and being on the water (not always useful stuff , but stuff nonetheless! )........

......from which angle I would say that folk who "know stuff" and are comfortable afloat can underestimate (forget?) the learning curve actually involved for folk who are completely new to the sailing game - and can offer encouragement that may not always be a good idea. Me included.

Many things are easy and obvious, but only when you know / have done it / experianced it - whilst of course other Stuff is more challenging. Not easy getting from zero far enuf up the learning curve to be confident of being able to learn from yer own mistakes in a certain degree of safety.....same as anything else new - Sailing, Mountaineering or Flying.

FWIW I reckon Heather's Website / Blog was both a positive and a negative thing - the risk being someone would get a bit too sucked into "small is good / more interesting" and being too rigid with a date (a specific year!) because of it - I would have gone for at least 26/27 foot - and maybe a 30 footer (Seadog?!) - primarily for an easier motion than 20 foot - and for the cost of the Flicka could easily have afforded to with something older and solid....but hindsight with the benefit of some experiance is a wonderful thing........and in any case Heather still got further than me (and many others!) on a RTW trip!

Dunno if Heather is reading this thread (or not - as possibly sick of hearing about "the bl##dy boat" ).......but just in case, I would suggest "next time" going for a............Seadog ......their is a "doer upper" in Greece at the moment for around £10k..........
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