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Old 29-03-2007, 08:26   #1
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"I learned about sailing from that"

In the spirit of the original concept here, I'm posting a summary which was very shortly after the incident which prompted such vitriolic bashing in another thread a while back.

As an update to the posting, seen below, repairs are well under way, and we'll be under way, too, not too long from now. We're doing the US East Coast before we head back to the Caribbean adventure so rudely interrupted a couple of months ago...

Please note that this isn't apologetic, self-saving, or otherwise sanitized. I sent it at the time in the interests of others learning from our mistakes. I trust that will be the impact here...

Oh - and the pix of the recovery and other stuff is available in the gallery titled "crash" under the gallery first up if you click the link to our pictures at the end.

From: "Skip Gundlach" <>
To: <>
Subject: "I learned about sailing from that"
Date: Sunday, February 11, 2007 2:56 AM

"I learned about sailing from that"

By this time, the post-mortem on our grounding is well under way. Nearly
always, even in a hurricane (which virtually always, these days, one would
know was coming), if a boat comes to grief, there's ample possibility to
make mistakes in preparation, and learn from the results.

Pilots nearly certainly will recognize the title's slight migration from the
stories which used to (been prolly 30 years, so I can't swear that it's
still so) finish each issue of Flying mag. Herein is my contribution.

Our plan had been to take a very easy ride down to Marathon, from St. Pete,
anchoring in each night, getting a full night's rest, and going on as the
spirit moved us the next day. We'd been on an insane schedule for the last
several weeks, typically up until at least 2AM and, as I'm photosensitive, I
was usually out of bed by 7 at the latest. That had been preceded by 5
months of intense work as we raced to finish our refit and head out to make
the jump to Georgetown, Bahamas, to pick up the kids, and later, Lydia's
mother, for cruising fun.

The ideal weather window passed us by, just as we were almost ready to
leave. So, deprived of a target, we were going to take it easy and recover
along the way. Forecasts for the entire way - at least as I could access
them - St. Pete, Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice, Charlotte Harbor, Ft. Meyers
and Cape Sable - were perfect. 10-15 NE, which, on our heading and speed,
would make for beam reaching the entire way, and moderate seas, which, for
our trooper of a boat, would be totally easy.

We'd planned to hug the coast, coming in each night, and make the passage
through Mosier Channel to clear 7 Mile Bridge, and anchor in either Boot Key
Harbor or on the south/west side under the bridge, opposite the shallows.

Despite my earlier concerns, and having pestered every forum and list I was
on about how difficult I thought it would be, with our 6.5+ draft, we were
assured that it was entirely feasible to come through and continue on our

Many discussions ensued about using Key West as a jumpoff point, and while
it could have been done, would entail a much longer time in the stream in
order to cross, and would have no readily available check-in point. In
addition, having done it the other way in the course of delivery from Ft.
Lauderdale, I knew that that channel was dead simple, but, yet, when viewed
on a chart or from the air in GoogleEarth or the like, looked totally
treacherous and impossible. From that we inferred it was much the same in
the route to 7 Mile Bridge.

With all the encouragement and affirmation, we elected for Marathon. In
hindsight, we would still do the same, as, while under tow at dead low tide,
we never touched on the way in to Keys Boat Works on the bay side of the
bridge. And, this was in full dark - but obviously the tow captain not only
had extremely good chart and radar information, he was intimately familiar
with the route. We had not expected, nor intended, a dark passage. Instead,
as we reached the area (as happened - as planned, it would have been full
light), we were going to throw out the hook outside the channel and wait for

So, what happened?

First, we went aground nearly immediately after turning south, in uncharted
new ground produced by prior hurricanes, just off Bradenton/Sarasota. The
decision was made to turn outbound and motor hard for a short while to get
offshore so as to not have a repeat performance.

This was in the early-mid afternoon - about 2-3 hours from sunset. Sailing
conditions were, as forecast, ideal. We were still in sight of land, but
the ideal point of sail was taking us further from land. Thus, the first of
several cascading decisions was made. Instead of backtracking as would have
been necessary under sail, or straight motoring in to an anchorage, we
continued into the darkness.

We were both alert and in fine condition. The boat loved it, reaching
effortlessly on into the night. We had a lovely dinner of leftovers from
the prior night, heated up. Lydia went below to sleep while I continued my
watch. The VHF's mechanical man and woman on NOAA weather radio continued to
say it was marvelous sailing, and the boat proved it. The chartplotter
showed our progress steadily down the coast, but continuing to reach

As we had to miss the corner, anyway, that was no problem. And even though
the wind picked up a bit, the boat handled it with aplomb. Otto steered his
course without so much as a tweak from me. The waves built a bit, but that
was to be expected as we continued to move offshore.

However, as the new day dawned, it was apparent that the waters weren't all
that benign any more. The world outside was empty - never a sight of another
boat on the entire trip once we left landfall - and nasty, as well as
getting windier and lumpier.

Still, she shouldered on, with our full enclosure keeping us relatively dry
and reasonably warm, and our course was fine for our destination. As we
began to heel a bit, we just eased the sheets, allowing her to stand up
again. That she did so, and also increased her speed suggested to me that
we'd been too tightly sheeted, anyway. Our speed over ground (SOG)
increased to the high 8s - high performance and exhilarating and

That was another decision point which, with hindsight, probably contributed
to our eventual downfall. We probably should have reefed, instead, and
pinched up a bit. None the less, at this rate, we'd make our marker well
before dark - an outstanding run for the trip. That, too, contributed to
our continuing as before. Had we any concept of what was to come, we'd have
done something different - but hindsight's always 20-20. Instead, we
continued, making extremely good time, in comfortable position.

By this time, the winds were pretty reliably in the 20s. Again, no worries,
as we came over on our delivery in winds which never went below 20. VHF
forecasts were now very spotty, as we were pretty far from land, and the
seas were beginning to be nasty. As the wind built, we heeled even more.
Yet, still, we were well within our experienced prior range for wind and
felt no concern. So, with about 70 miles to go, we just bore off a bit,
easing the pressure yet again - but taking us further from shore.

Soon, the seas and winds were untenable. We dropped all sails and headed
inland. By this time the winds were in the high 20s and flirting with 30.
We made more than 4 hours of motoring to next to no effect. All the prior
decisions had put us, effectively, out to sea, in nasty conditions.

What to do? Lydia didn't want anything to do with my going forward to put
in a triple reef, but if we didn't have some sail up, the boat was extremely
uncomfortable, thrashing around in the washing machine of what I estimated
to be 9' seas or better, based on the disappearance of the horizon from a 6'
freeboard/cockpit elevation with me sitting on top of it.

However, I pointed out that we could run the engine full blast and make less
than 2 knots, perhaps overheating it (there was an elevated temp but not an
overheat condition), and in the end, take the next two days to reach land at
that rate, or put me into the harness and straps and go forward in a
cautious fashion, straighten out the sails issue, and stabilize the boat if
nothing else.

So, I did. Good decision, among what might have been several poor ones, as
it stood right up and sailed. However, the winds were still building, and
it required bearing off, again, from a beam reach. That put us yet again
further downwind of what we wanted, but we were still a great long way from
anything, so sailing was ok from a safety standpoint.

We discussed going to Key West. Another potential missed opportunity; if
we'd done that, likely we'd not have had any problem. But, again, we were
very far from anything, and the charts all showed pretty much a clear shot
at our first waypoint. Two equipment failures contributed to our eventual
demise: The radar would not light, so land was invisible in the night, and
didn't see the squall/front, either (apparently we were just in front of a
weather system the entire way down, none of which was mentioned in the VHF
automated reports updated so regularly), and our electronic charts didn't
have the detail needed to see what was coming.

So, having discarded the Key West option, Lydia wanted me to get some sleep,
as the boat was sailing along at a comfortable (for me) 5.6 under triple
reef, again still far from anything. So, she took over and I went to the
aft berth where the motion, while substantial, was easy and thus was of no
issue, and I slept soundly. What I couldn't have known was that she was
very uncomfortable, nearly seasick, and rather than standing watch, was on
the saloon sole, popping up every few minutes, looking around, trying to
make sense of the chartplotter which - since she'd not been monitoring it,
and making range adjustments to look ahead and also in detail at where we
were headed by zooming in along the intended route - she really couldn't
comprehend, worsened by her physical state.

Looking back, she should have gotten me, despite how tired I was, or how
much she wanted me to get some rest. My practice with the chartplotter
would have revealed our course taking us dangerously close to the reefs on
which we eventually came to grief, and we could have pinched up, rather than
doing our broad reach, or, even, simply tacked off in the opposite
direction, to take us away from where we were.

The final straw was what the locals characterized as a real stinker of a
storm. Visibility was nil, waves were very high and breaking over the boat,
and in Boot Key Harbor, normally the best hurricane hole in the Keys, people
were staying up on anchor watch (which is how the first word of our rescue
reached the Morgan group - someone had heard the entire exchange between us
and the CG, following them all the way to Key West and their eventual two
refusals on previously chosen landing spots, on their VHF. So, already
perilously close, we were blown off course.

Any of the prior decisions, had they been different, might have saved the
day. However, up until the end, all of them might have worked out well.
When we were under tow into Keys Boat Works, at dead low tide, not once did
we touch, let alone ground, on our course behind the towboat. So, the path
is eminently do-able. We just weren't quite on it...

I'm glad to say that Lydia's recovered and is ready to get back in the
saddle again. Of course, our insurance company may have other thoughts on
the matter, because once they've decided it's a total loss, there's no going
back, other than to buy it from them for salvage - and our bank account
won't stand it (I know what it will be, because I helped someone buy another
M46 out of insurance salvage from the owner who was willing to take the
reduction on the expectation that my friend would buy it for an immediate

So, your prayers and thoughts are encouraged on our behalf. Some of you
already know about Hayden Cochran's web site - an Island Packet owner, no
less! - at Morgan 461 Flying Pig. A poster in
cruising has pictures up of our boat on the hard, before we even did
(Flying Pig) - though we'll soon have
pix of our extraction up, and later the gory details on the damage which -
since it's just some of the exterior, Geoff's pix can't really convey.

Thank you all for your support. It truly has been overwhelming, literally
hundreds of mails, the office at Keys Boat Works (700 39th Street, Gulf
Marathon FL, 33050 305-743-5583, where we can receive
mail, brownies, cookies, or anything else) has been inundated with calls,
and all the other things too many to mention which show how our amazing
sailing/cruising network responds to someone in distress...

That's all I can manage for right now, being sleep deprived in the extreme.
Thanks for all the love...


Skip and Lydia

PS for those seeing this event for the first time, extensive discussions
have taken place in the sailnet Morgan, west florida and livaboard lists,
the newsgroup, and to a lesser degree, the renegades and
lats and atts forums, if you'd like to catch up. Of course, you could also
look at our log lists for a compressed view, without all the chatter on the
event, of the sites above

Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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Old 29-03-2007, 12:07   #2
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Thanks for the AWESOME read Skip.
So does this mean the boat was repairable??? I had thought it was a write off. But then, the original discussion was far from pretty and the true facts got lost in the fog. We will ensure that doesn't happen again.


For God so loved the world..........He didn't send a committee.
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Old 29-03-2007, 13:29   #3
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Hi, Wheels,

Keeping in character, below is a post I made about the aftermath, WRT insurance, answering a marine attorney's question about how I was treated by Allstate. I'll come back with a separate segment of a loglist posting I'm working on next which amplifies, but... Here's the insurance post:

Hi, Ed,

So far, Allstate is paying the entirety of the policy other than portable
equipment, as it's described, and they've continuously asked us for the list
of those items. That is, they're already agreed to the amount of the face
value on the decs, plus 5% for salvage, plus 1000 for personal effects, 100
emergency money, plus, if it turns up, up to 2k of medical (no bill [yet]
from the USCG, but there was an ambulance ride and my checkout at the ER),
and the "portable equipment" stuff.

I've just sent off a list of what we know of that I don't consider part of
hull coverage; we'll see if there's any fussitation on those items (I expect
not, from what I've seen so far). Things like sails, anchors, some separate
electrical items, wind and solar generators, etc., which we'll see how they

At this point in the game, I believe they may just say that's enough to not
bother with itemization, and pay us that total, too. However, I'll wait to
see what they say. At this point they've already cut the salvor's check,
and are anxious to pay off the bank - all with no written commitments from

So far I have no complaints...



Morgan 461 #2 Disaster link: Morgan 461 Flying Pig
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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Old 29-03-2007, 13:41   #4
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Originally Posted by Alan Wheeler
Thanks for the AWESOME read Skip.
So does this mean the boat was repairable??? I had thought it was a write off. But then, the original discussion was far from pretty and the true facts got lost in the fog. We will ensure that doesn't happen again.
Hi, again,

This is a segment of a post to my loglist (the one at yahoogroups in my sig) on which I'm working at the moment. It shows how things go when you pay it forward, as we've always done...

From: "Skip Gundlach" <>
Subject: Thanksgiving...
Date: Wednesday, March 28, 2007 4:55 PM


Isn't for quite some time, at least here in the good ol' U S of A. However,
as we round second base on our home run trot, I thought I'd set down some of
the thoughts which have been bouncing around in the last several weeks.

As I assume you all know, our adventure started off with rather more
excitement than we'd planned. At first glance (well, peek through fingers
over the eyes, at least), our "catastrophic grounding" had all the elements
for about as much catastrophe as could be imagined with our "comfortable"
(no bruises, broken bones, or other life endangerment) survival. Badly
hurt - maybe destroyed - boat, no home (nearly certainly the insurance would
be a total loss and we'd lose the boat), and everything we owned was either
on or tied up on/in that boat.

However... It's like the old bad news/ no! - good news stories. Examples

We were shipwrecked, truly. But not abandoned, nor alone. We were picked up
by the Coast Guard, deposited to dry (well, firm - it was still raining)
land, and fed, medically inspected, given a place to sleep for a while, fed
again, and then directed to the local Red Cross facility, which, due to
their telephone and internet, allowed us to immediately get on with getting
our lives back together. Thanksgiving came early this year...

We were homeless, and without transportation, having sold our homes, given
nearly everything away, including - on the day we left - our only remaining
vehicle, which had done heroic service in running up and down the road
between GA and FL during my initial refits and later for our mutal work on
the boat, and totally committed to the boat (which we expected to lose).
Yet, in less than a week, we were back aboard Flying Pig, had transportation
donated to our cause, and two trust funds set up in our interest, the latter
quite immediately and unknown to us. Since that less-than-a-week, we have
been inundated with support, love, interest and assistance of all kinds. To
try to enumerate them here would both be too long and impossible, as I'm
sure I'd miss someone or something. Suffice it to say that we're eternally
grateful and continue to "pay it forward" - except that in this case we're
also paying it back. The trust funds alone allowed our painless stay in the
repair facility - those donations covered the yard costs for the 3 weeks we
were there, for example - and the assistance of many folks to help us
restore our home has not only been the expected benefit it provided, but has
led to many new friends as we work alongside them. Thanksgiving came early
this year...

Many have wondered about our end results with the insurance side of things.
I had an entire message to a couple of the mailing lists and forums on which
I'm active about the subject but the short story of it is that Allstate gets
my vote. However, the good news/bad news stuff is a bit more telling...

* As expected, our boat adjuster's coverage decision totaled the boat
(the boat was determined to be a total loss, and they would not attempt
arranging repairs). Normally that would mean that we would have to give up
the boat, or, perhaps, accept a negotiated, lowered settlement, or, have to
buy back the boat as salvage, leaving little or nothing with which to
rebuild (after pre-existing commitment costs). However, in the course of
many email and telephone contacts, the adjuster became aware of all the work
we'd done in the last 3 years on our home, increasing the value of the boat.
The decision came down - we were under-insured. Bad news, right? No...
Because we were under-valued (the boat was worth more than it was insured
for), they had no salvage rights. Instead, the entire value of the policy
would be paid, and we'd retain ownership. Thanksgiving came early this

* That means: The salvors - those many folks who got Flying Pig off the
dry rock it was banging around on - were paid off. The mortgage was paid
off. And there's enough left over to provide a boating kitty against future
disasters. Thanksgiving came early this year...

* Unfortunately, nobody will insure us - or, at least, the boat - as
there's been a wreck. However... We can't be insured. Many cruisers
self-insure, due to the costs of true bluewater (offshore, not covered in
coastal cruising)insurance. That is to say they are responsible for any and
all of their own losses, and have a good reserve for emergencies, but the
main reason cruisers self-insure is to save those considerable costs of
insurance. Because we can't be insured, we also don't have to spend that
considerable amount. Because the mortgage is paid off, we aren't required
to have that insurance, but we also don't have to pay that mortgage amount
each month. The difference in monthly income (insurance and mortgage
payments not made) may mean we won't have to work as we'd expected.
Thanksgiving came early this year...

Back to giving away the car, here, to one of the yard folks we felt could
benefit from having it. When we wrecked less than two days after leaving, we
called to ask if we could borrow it back for a while, as we were doing our
expected repairs. He'd already given it to his son (part of the reason we
chose him as the recipient), and it was unavailable. Within another 36
hours, one of our Morgan mailing list members - someone we'd never even had
correspondence with, let alone met - in the Marathon area had given us
another work-suitable vehicle. We'll pass it on. Thanksgiving came early
this year...

In our pounding on the rocks, we fully expected to find great holes in our
side when we returned for the salvage removal of the hull. Instead, the only
water intrusion was next to a fitting which had been bashed loose. The
bilge pump very easily kept up with it. Literally every one of the team of
salvors expected us to have to gather up the pieces and put Flying Pig on
the equivalent of air mattresses in order to tow it to the yard for
insurance review. Instead, she was towed on her own bottom, with her own
steering. To a man, they were astounded, and hugely complimentary to Morgan
Yachts and Flying Pig. Thanksgiving came early this year...

The boat was pounded on the rocks by the surf for 36 hours. During that
time it must have been lifted and dropped, and rocked, not less than 5000
times. As the fuel tank was about half empty, if there was any crud
remaining after my months of fuel polishing prior to our departure, it
certainly was dispersed by the time we were removed. Sure enough, when I
changed the fuel polisher filters after running them for the three weeks we
were ashore, there was a large accumulation of debris in the bottom of the
primary filter. Then, just to make sure, we ran the pumps for the entire
time of our return to Salt Creek. During that trip, there was a 36 hour
period where we swung between a 40-45 degree arc in the waves, and got
pitched (forward and aft) as well due to our heading. If there were any
remaining particles not suspended before, there weren't any left after that
trip. As we ran the polishing system the entire time, and very rarely turned
on the engine, we are confident that we have a clean fuel tank and clean
fuel. Thanksgiving came early this year...

Among the friends we've made in this adventure is a salvage operations owner
(not the one who pulled us off), here in Salt Creek Marina. He, too, pays
it forward. Among his adventures was a charity boat donation which was
located in Ft. Lauderdale. He was leaving the next day after we arrived
here, with a crew, to sail it back, as his donation (a delivery captain and
crew would be thousands of dollars for that trip). He agreed to give me a
ride to Marathon as part of that trip, so I could pick up the car above.
Making a long story short, this donation wasn't nearly ready to sail home.
So, for the next two weeks, he and I went down and worked on the boat,
essentially rebuilding the engine (in place!) and preparing to rebuild the
fuel system. Trading time, this very experienced boatwright is working with
me in the restoration of the interior structural integrity. I couldn't buy
his experience, let alone afford it. Thanksgiving came early this year...

On which subject (interior structural integrity)... The exterior/hull of
the boat was repaired fully, with the exception of the rudder, which I'm
currently fairing out to make a symmetrical shape so water flows more
smoothly, before we even left Marathon. That the hull was as strong as it
was allowed a quick repair. Thanksgiving came early this year...

As to the interior, however, with some inspection and adjustment, we're
proceeding to what will be a very strong restoration. It's more technical
than most of you want to hear about, but it suffices to say that instead of
being nearly impossible, we'll have Flying Pig put back together such that
even the most picky of surveyors, the quality control and service manager at
Morgan Yachts during the entire production run of our model boat, will give
her a clean bill of health. All this at no cost to us. Thanksgiving came
early this year...

Back to the exterior, the new bottom paint has been applied. However, as
some of the October 06 launch pix show, our waterline has crept upward as we
have continued to add gear and live-aboard materials of all kinds. It got
worse as we provisioned her for months in the Bahamas. As such, we were not
adequately protected from sea critters' taking up residence at the
waterline. However, we had to come out of the water to finish our repairs.
That made altering the waterline very easy. Along the way, we made some
cosmetic improvements along with correcting some prior paint alignment
errors. The new work will look better, and perform better, at a minimal
cost. And, Lydia's getting pretty skilled as a painter. We have no doubt
that were she not already committed, if she wanted a new sailing partner,
all she'd have to do would be put on her shorts, get the stepladder, and
grab a brush. The men flocked around! Not to help, of course :{)) But, we
continue to acquire new skills and confidence as a result of our "disaster."
Thanksgiving came early this year...

In our rush to get on the way with our adventure, we made the decision to go
immediately to the Bahamas, and work our way down island, eventually getting
to the Eastern Caribbean, and then cruising up and down that chain. This
adventure (as it has unfolded) has provided the wakeup call to suggest that
perhaps it would be effective to gain much more experience with the boat and
its systems before starting over on our long-term plans. So, instead, we've
taken the decision to do the US East coast, following/chasing the warm, but
not hot, weather as we go. In exchange, we'll be: Within range of our tow
service should we ever need that kind of help; Within range of umpteen
different chandleries (boat parts supply houses), should we ever need parts;
Within the US so we can receive some benefit, should it be needed, from our
COBRA health insurance continuation following Lydia's retirement; Able to
explore and enjoy literally hundreds of US locations and attractions, as we
may choose; Within easy transport of family and friends who may wish to come
cruise with us for a time, and, not least; When it's time to head to the
tropics, very experienced sailors, comfortable with our boat and systems,
with most of the inevitable bugs worked out and/or killed. Thanksgiving
came early this year...



Morgan 461 #2 Disaster link: Morgan 461 Flying Pig
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
See our galleries at Web-Folio -- Your Portfolio on the Web !
Follow us at Flying Pig Log | Google Groups and/or
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There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.

You seek problems because you need their gifts.
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