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Old 05-06-2009, 12:28   #1
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Bahamas Boat Ramming

Hi Everyone,
This is a continuation of my first thread in Meets and Greets. To review, do a search on the boat name of "Sanderling".

To recap, I'm a 68 year old singler handler and the boat is a Cabo Rico 38.

Leaving Trinidad on November 19th of last year I'd island hopped up the Eastern Caribbean and over to Puerto Rico. I then went acrossed the Mona passage to Luperon, DR and onto Mattewtown, Great Ingua Island. Rounding the north end of Long Island I went over to Georgetown for a week or so. before I began my fateful passage.

At about three am on the morning of April 29th, about 4 miles SE of the Island of Eleuthera, I noticed a boat approaching off of my port bow. I was using my masthead tricolor and I have a radar reflector. I was on a starboard tack with one reef in the main and the roller furling yankee genoa set with the staysail furled. The wind was from the ENE at about 10 to 15 knots with the seas around 3 to 4 feet.

I could see his red navagation light and it appeared that he was going to pass within 300 yards off my port quarter. This was a little close so I shinned my flashlight at him to insure that he saw me.

We passed port to port. When he was about 300 yards off of my port quarter, just to my stern, he suddenly did a turn into me and started to head for my boat. I disengaged the autopilot, grabbed the wheel and did a sharp turn to starboard. His response was to follow my turn, he also turned on his deck lights.

My impression, as he came up along side at a distance of less that 10 feet, was that it was a steel coastal freighter of about 90 to 100 feet. Dark blue hull with a square white structure (cabin) on the deck. There was a man on the deck watching.

We were both now traveling in the same direction. He struck my boat, his starboard side to my port bow. He kept going and did not stop or turn around.

I sat there dumbfounded for a moment before I started to check for damage. No water inside the boat, a good sign. Cabo Rico builds a rugged boat! Going forward, the forestay had been broken halfway up the cable, as had the roller furling, and the remains of the jib was all over the foredeck. The staysail stay was broken at the lower shackle. The mast is stepped on the cabin sole and I quickly rigged a spare halyard to the bow sprit to help keep the mast up. Then I took the mainsail down to further releive the pressure on the mast. There was (is?) a hole in the deck and port side about eight feet from the bow, ten feet or more of caprail was damaged and the hole extends about 18 inches down the side from the caprail and several inches on the deck, the length of the hole where the caprail used to be is about 5 feet. The bowsprit is cracked. Stainless steel bits and pieces from the stanchions are all over the place.

I motored over to some 15 foot water and anchored to await daylight. The following morning I joined a SSB radio net (first time I've ever used the term break, break) to discuss options. Someone on the net made a few phone calls and a boat from Davis Harbor, Eleuthera came out to guide me into their Marina. There I made a detailed report to the local Police and it was their theory that it was a Haitian smuggler. It is doubtful that I'll be getting any financial help with repairs. As you know, singlehandlers are not insured, they may think they have insurance to keep the bank happy, but without "proper crew", insurance compaines as a general rule won't pay.

So I stuffed parts of the jib into the hole and ductaped the heck out of it. I was able to remove a shackle from a lower shroud and re-rig the staysail stay, after hanking on the staysail, and tighting the backstay it appears that I've almost got a sailboat.

I waited for high tide to leave Davis Harbor in the afternoon and anchored in 15 feet of water for the night. I then crossed the Exuma Bank and made my way to a small harbor just to the east of Freeport where I spent a night and most of the next day. I made a night crossing of the Gulf Stream. It was more worry than danger as the weather stayed calm.

I entered the ICW at Lake Worth in the Palm Beach area. I decided that I didn't want to live on the boat on the hard in Florida during hurricaine season while someone did fiberglass work, and there are many more maintance issues that need fixed. Then what? I'll be almost 70, and I'll never recoup the cost of repairs when I sell the boat. Should I become another singlehandler sitting somewhere on a damaged boat? Or just abandon the boat? Which many unfortunility do.
Plan B
I donated it to an IRS approved charity whose volunteers keep a portion of the ICW clean.

This old Idaho farm boy is landing on his feet. I'm at my sisters in Vancouver, Wastington with a deposit on an apartment. We go camping and fishing in eastern Oregon and Idaho next week.
It is with sadness that I leave the boating community and all of the great people I've known. The whole sailing thing has been an absloute hoot.
I promised a story and it seems that I've gotten carried away, sorry. Maybe this is helping me to come to terms with the ordeal.
remember to keep at least a foot of water under the kee at all times.

John - from what used to be his sv Sanderling
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Old 05-06-2009, 12:57   #2
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Thank you for posting your story, John. I'm sorry to read of your "close encounter" with an irresponsible, deliberately aggressive fool. That your vessel suffered such disheartening damage is sad, but that you have survived the ordeal not only physically, but, apparently, in fine form mentally, as well, is a credit to your better nature.

Your point about how "insured" single-handers aren't really covered to the extent they think they are is good information to bring to CF readers.

So, welcome to the Forum, John. I'm sorry you won't be returning to the life of the sea, but I'm glad you have family with whom you can enjoy the years ahead. As a member of CF, you can always come here to get your sailing fix, and the many readers here can greatly benefit from your experiences.

Keep the stories coming.

TaoJones

PS: I wonder, had you cast your light on your main rather than in the direction of the other boat, would he have acted so menacingly?
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Old 05-06-2009, 12:57   #3
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disturbing to say the least. sorry you lost your cabo rico that way. guess you met up with the wrong boat that night. wonder how many of them are out there in the bahamas?
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Old 05-06-2009, 14:24   #4
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It's not just the Bahamas. Sailing from Tarpon Springs to Key West I've encountered commercial fishing boats that seemed to want to play chicken. It's usually off the Everglades in the wee hours of the morning and like as not the weather is a bit stinky.

No matter which course I take, they alter to intercept. When I am finally forced to pull a hard 360 to avoid collision, they finally come on the radio and wish to know if I am experiencing difficulty. Occassionally, they also kill all onboard lights as they get near. One of these days these jerks are going to gode me into doing something both of us will regret.
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Old 05-06-2009, 15:41   #5
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Dear John,

An extremely sad story to read; I am glad that your future looks to be providing you with some interesting alternatives. As others have stated welcome to the forum and we shall look forward to your contribution to our wealth of experience and knowledge.

Best Regards

Alan
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Old 05-06-2009, 15:48   #6
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Once I was at a fuel dock on S.F. Bay. The young man attending the pumps asked me what it was like to sail. I gave him my feelings about sailing, and I could see he was lusting for a sailboat. He said he'd like to sail, but his father, the owner of the fuel dock. Told him there's not enough room for power boats, and sailboats on S.F. Bay. I kind of got the feeling he was the type of man that would instigate problems with a sailboat.

There's a lot of whackos in this world, and unfortunately many of them drive all kinds of vehichles........i2f
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Old 05-06-2009, 22:16   #7
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I wouldn't be surprised to find out it was a Haitian smuggler. From talking to a number of locals I found out that they used to come into Nassau all of the time and anchor on the east end of the harbor, do their thing, and then leave. Nassau kicked them out and they now primarily do their transfers off of Eleuthera and San Salvador. Maybe they thought you were law enforcement - who knows. I'm sorry to hear that you ended up leaving sailing and a such a wonderful boat was so badly damaged. Fortunately, you were not injured, so there's a blessing. Good luck with your future endeavors.
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Old 06-06-2009, 06:55   #8
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late night encounters

Sailing into a small harbour on the coast of Victoria, Australia, one night at around 4am I could suddenly hear an engine, although there were no lights. Out of the dark at high speed came a 20' aluminium work boat. It shot past close enough to see it in the dark. I guess it was an illegal crayfish (lobster) fisherman out to collect pots he didn't have licences for. Fairly freaky experience none-the-less. There's lots of people doing all sorts of things out there.
James
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Old 07-06-2009, 12:51   #9
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Another good reason to carry guns aboard.

Steve B.
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Old 07-06-2009, 17:33   #10
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Incredible! I can't imagine the mentality that would cause someone to deliberately run down a sail boat.

I also can't imagine smugglers doing it. If anything I would think they would try hard to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

I have had near misses with commercial traffic but I always felt it was because they weren't maintaining a good watch.

Good for you for keeping such a positive attitude.

Sorry for your loss of vessel.

George
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Old 07-06-2009, 17:58   #11
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I still wonder if the OP had used his flashlight to illuminate his mainsail, rather than shining it in the direction of the other vessel, would the result have been different. By lighting up the sail, you're saying "I'm here - see my sail?" By shining the light in the direction of the other vessel, an obviously unstable person in command of that vessel may have taken it as a macho challenge - kind of a "Hey a__hole! Watch where you're going!" He may have also become furious because his night vision was disturbed.

While I understand that it wasn't meant in that way, some cultures are more easily provoked than others. An innocent gesture can sometimes be interpreted as a challenge to one's manhood (yes, 99.999 % of the time it's a man).

In the San Joaquin Valley of California a few years ago, a car that held two teenage couples going on a double-date passed an oncoming car that was driving with his headlights still off, but well-past dusk. The kids in the first car made the sign that many (most?) would recognize as the almost universal symbol for "You forgot to turn on your headlights." That is, they pointed toward their own eyes with their first two fingers.

The two young men in the other vehicle, of a different ethnic background, didn't interpret it that way, however. To them it was a sign that meant something like "Are you f__ing blind?! You're a devil!" As a result, they spun their car around, pursued the teens' car, and the passenger stuck a handgun out his window and fired.

The bullet went through the trunk lid, the trunk, the seat back and into the spine of the teenage girl sitting there. She was paralyzed for life - all because of a cultural misunderstanding.

TaoJones
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Old 07-06-2009, 18:51   #12
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TaoJoens,

I really don't think that shinning my light on the sails would have stopped the boat from altering its course 180 degrees and coming along side to strick my boat.

Now that iyou have pasted judgement on my actions and used the thread for your personnel rant and display of wisdom, I respectfully ask what your sailing experience is.

John A
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Old 07-06-2009, 19:22   #13
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I believe if you re-read my post, John A, you will better understand that I never suggested you were anything but the victim in the incident you reported. What I did suggest is that it is possible that the person or persons aboard the other vessel may have taken offense to your shining your light directly at him/them.

You stated the vessels were going to pass port-to-port with some 300 yards of separation, which you felt was too close. Then you directed your light at the other vessel, then he altered course to intercept your vessel, subsequently striking your Cabo Rico.

It appears to me, based on a careful reading of what you wrote, that the vessels would have merely continued on their respective courses without incident until you directed your light in the other boat's direction. You don't indicate why you did that except to state that 300 yards ". . . was a little close so I shinned [sic] my flashlight at him to insure that he saw me."

I've merely raised the question for readers here to contemplate: Could it be that a cultural difference is the basis for the actions of the other boat's skipper?

It's unfortunate that you interpret that as passing judgment on your actions - it is not. It is also unfortunate that you regard my post as a personal rant - it is not.

Your reaction to my post, however, is interesting.

TaoJones
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Old 07-06-2009, 20:33   #14
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TaoJones,

I shinned the light in his direction as he approched off my port bow. Several minutes before he was astern of me, or close. Shinning a light in the direction of a passing boat in the night is quite common. commerical boats use scearch lights. Several times I have exchanged light flashes in the night as a greeting to passing boats mostly to return their greeting. That's why I asked for your sailing experience so that I would know the level of your knowledge about nighttime offshore sailinng.

I would have to agree with you that the other boat had a "culture" problem with an agenda. Part of the thread was started to alert others that there are such people g in the Bahamas. I fail to see the connection with something that hapened in California on a highway several years ago. That there are wierd people in the world is a given.

Your statements sound like you are blameing me for shinning my light. You state that if I had not then you think that they would have continued on their way. That is an assumption or a judgement on your part and I take issue with that.

I did not start the thread expecting someone to make misinformed judgements, or to expand their own agenas. Unless you were there you haven't a clue.

Tell you what: lets agree to disagree OK?

fairewinds and calm seas and please continue to have fun.

John A
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Old 07-06-2009, 20:44   #15
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We met a Tayana 47 in Panama before we sailed across the Pacific Ocean. When we arrived in Fiji, we met him again. He told us that when he was making the 3000 mile sail from the Galapagos to the Marquesas of French Polynesia, there was a freighter that ran him down. It was a similar event in which the freighter matched him turn for turn until it struck his hull. It didn't dismast him, but it did put a crack in his hull above the waterline.

Because of that incident. I maintain radio silence whenever I see ships. I don't talk to them. I don't want them to know that I exist just in case there is a crazy helmsperson on board.
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