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Old 21-02-2010, 22:33   #1
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Navigation Error = Almost Lost the Lot

Happened half a life-time ago:
My 1st time alone in deep water...
In the Tasman Sea, approaching the S.E. corner of Australia.

Wet, cold, insecure, fearful *the typical 'solo' things*

Every book I had read told me that "a newbie on the sextant will NOT take accurate sights".

So, when I saw the deeper blue of LAND appear on the North west horizon, I wanted this to be Gabo Island. And so, despite my noon sight putting me further south, I decided it was indeed Gabo Island. I had not yet learnt that 'living_in_reality" dictates that I must accept where I am, (emotionally, financially GEOgraphically!), and that my 'wishes have less than nothing to do with it.

Gabo Island has a large powerful light, visible 26 mile, Group flashing 2, 16 seconds. Thus, as the sun went down I confirmed: indeed Group flashing 2. Thus I am where I want to be. With the large swell, counting the 'dark' period was difficult to impossible. I put that off until "later".

The Gabo Island light has a 'red' that becomes visible at 12 mile, giving vessels clear warning and the ability to 'stay off' as they 'round the corner' and head for Sydney.

I sailed on closehauled in the dark, simply waiting for that 'red' to become visible. Tho it seemed to be taking forever, I sailed on happily .

Until I realised I seemed to looking UP at the light. I lept out of my cockpit seat, searching forward and upward... breaking waves ahead, CLOSE. The light was indeed above me.
Oh my God! reefs breaking to my left, reefs breaking to my right: Rocks ahead!

A gybe and backtrack on the only path I knew had no rocks: the one that I'd come in on.

I sailed back in the dark and stood off some miles out, awaiting dawn.

I wondered "What has gone wrong here"? Hmmmm.
I pondered.
I fell victim to another Solo error: having no-one to challenge me, I believed my own thinking.

Looking back it seems almost inconceivable to me now... I decided that the problem here is ...."the Australian government has not been looking after their lights properly: That red sector must be broken!"

And so with the coming of light I sailed slowly back to shore, staying a ways off....sailing slowly close-hauled north with a gentle breeze.
Deeply puzzled. The pilot talks of deep water and cliffs.
I could see sand dunes and the swell seemed affected by a bottom near.

Hmmm.

It is difficult to describe the experience of that morning: nothing I could see matched 'reality'. I felt deeply disconcerted, afraid, angry at 'the world'.

Until ahead I saw breakers reaching out to sea,
reaching a LONG way out to see...

and as I turned east to avoid them, the waters around me became like nothing I had experienced before: with a gentle breeze of only 7-10 knots, the small swell was suddenly 'peaking' and breaking, from the left and the right??
One jumped on-board from behind, smashing loose the lashings of my dinghy and dropping it into the sea beside me, dragging alongside by it's painter. I needed that dinghy, I'd built it my self. For one mad moment I considered jumping in to 'rescue it'.
That thought passed as I realised the danger in it.

The next wave simply took that dinghy from me.

I sailed South east and away from the coast, heading for the safety of deep water.

Although much of this is embarrasing for me, looking back I cannot believe how long it took for me to sit down with the facts.

My sights put me at this latitude.

At this latitude is .....
Cape Barren Island, with a light Gp flashing 2 and a dark period of 8 seconds (no red sector). I had looked at that light long enough to know it had a dark period og 8 seconds.

Hmmm
So if I was approaching Cape Barren,
then ... the coast would be sandy and
the Pot Boil would be 5/6 mile north... a notorious area of tidal rips and overfalls.

Accepting finally where I was, I headed back to sea, and landed safely in Sydney some days later.
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Old 21-02-2010, 22:50   #2
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Enjoyed the story very much...Hope I would do so well with all the disorientation you faced..and technical sailing ability to get out of it...
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Old 21-02-2010, 23:56   #3
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Good read! And good response to illogic's. Had to do the 180 once myself. Does remind me of an old quote.

"Never let urgency take over the things of importance"
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Old 22-02-2010, 18:09   #4
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A classic problem in this neck of the woods is transposing west for east longitude & vice versa. I have crossed the line countless times and still make this mistake on occasion. I got lazy on one of my trips from top end of Yasawa Islands to Futuna and didn't cross reference my gps plotting to my paper charts. Got to my second to last waypoint and wondered why they said go north instead of northeast. I had input 178 deg 10' west as 178 deg 10' east.
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Old 22-02-2010, 20:50   #5
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Yep.

Been on nervous, night-time backtracks twice. Got into those situations by relying on DR positions. Loved your description of how quickly the world unravels, and how slowly we make sense of it when tired!

Amazing how the mind can show you what you expect to see at night, even when by the light of day the logic is laughable. My old man was sure he was heading into a major French port, until my brother pointed out the rocky island ahead.

I lack defence against my own stupidity, but GPS helps greatly!
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Old 07-03-2010, 03:46   #6
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Excellent post -good tale very well told. If you were that way inclined, you could make it into a good magazine article and make a few bob out of it. There is a lesson for us all the tale. Despite the initial error, which could have hapened anyone, you did well to retrieve the situation. Bet you were sorry after your dinghy!
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Old 07-03-2010, 05:19   #7
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Great post

I once had a "discussion" with a skipper about not following the indicated GPS bearing (Pre Chartplotter) direct to our destination port. Tiredness was a large factor in that and really wanting the trip to end.

In many respects he was right, it would have been quicker, easy to follow, and the GPS was also 100% right - plus it was "his" responsibility. My argument centred around the proposed route going accross not so much a headland, more the corner of a country.........a surprisingly long (and heated ) discussion given the circumstances

Of course it's not as if I've ever done anything dumb like that Certainly not forgotten all about magnetic deviation when calculating compass courses through rather tricky waters - of course not
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Old 23-04-2010, 05:44   #8
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Yes, great post. I don't know how I missed this one.. except we were at sea at the time of posting!

I would love to be able to say thats a pre-gps story, but I still find myself bamboozeled even with the GPS. Now, I spose, the errors are smaller in distance.

Great story and I hope you have had many more sea miles but without the complexity!


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Old 27-04-2010, 07:33   #9
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Enjoyed that. You do a nice job of portraying the peril.

Even worse, possibly, than facing this kind of thing alone: what happens, when you are convinced, absolutely, that you are heading into trouble, as your partner, the skipper, believes everything to be hunky-dory? Two opposing beliefs of conviction--ever been in this kind of spot?
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Old 01-05-2010, 09:59   #10
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Originally Posted by seahag View Post
Enjoyed that. You do a nice job of portraying the peril.

Even worse, possibly, than facing this kind of thing alone: what happens, when you are convinced, absolutely, that you are heading into trouble, as your partner, the skipper, believes everything to be hunky-dory? Two opposing beliefs of conviction--ever been in this kind of spot?
Haven't been there, maybe 'cuz we've discussed it ahead - when in doubt or dispute, the more cautious option (the one less likely to result in general mayhem, death, and destruction) wins. Even if that means waiting all night in seas and rain and everyone's miserable, so you can try through the pass in the morning when there's light. And even if the captain isn't the one holding that cautious opinion.
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Old 28-05-2010, 12:45   #11
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Very good read, and I'm very sorry you lost your dinghy.

I find all the ocean sailing stories/threads fascinating, as I wonder to myself, "will I ever have the courage" to cross that bar and blue water cruise myself.
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Old 28-05-2010, 12:51   #12
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What a beautiful sea story!!! One of the best things I've read here. My hat is off to you, sir. How evocative.
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Old 28-05-2010, 22:10   #13
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Originally Posted by Mariness View Post
Haven't been there, maybe 'cuz we've discussed it ahead - when in doubt or dispute, the more cautious option (the one less likely to result in general mayhem, death, and destruction) wins. Even if that means waiting all night in seas and rain and everyone's miserable, so you can try through the pass in the morning when there's light. And even if the captain isn't the one holding that cautious opinion.
Great antidotal practice Mariness..I will adopt that into my own...My wife thanks you for it I'm sure.

But what if...ah never mind
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Old 28-05-2010, 22:26   #14
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Originally Posted by seahag View Post
Enjoyed that. You do a nice job of portraying the peril.

Even worse, possibly, than facing this kind of thing alone: what happens, when you are convinced, absolutely, that you are heading into trouble, as your partner, the skipper, believes everything to be hunky-dory? Two opposing beliefs of conviction--ever been in this kind of spot?
The Admiral and I agreed on this solution. If we don't agree on where we are and where we should be going we stop. Hold our place and figure out Where the Fugawi. When we agree we proceed.
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Old 05-07-2010, 19:36   #15
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Hats off to Scare_Rab... those of us who have not been sucked in by our...'I must be where I think I am/wanna be"... can surely relate. The one that sticks in my mind was a short delivery from San Diego down to Ensenada, Mexico, an easy trip in any weather. My client was a budding member of the 91 day Yacht Club and was waiting dockside for my arrival having driven down from San Diego. As we approached the harbor it is protected by a long rock breakwater from the prevailing northwesterlies. The heavy fog, which is common in the spring and summer on this part of the coast, had reduced visibility to about 20-40 yards in front of the vessel, a 40 foot dutch built steel trawler. I had been in and out of Ensenada many times and with the radar giving a good return from around 5 km out, I felt very comfortable with my position, approach trajectory and sea conditions. I asked the crew, a young marina rat from San Diego, to watch the helm for a couple of minutes while I went below to give the engine room one last check before entering the harbor. When I returned to the wheelhouse I glanced at the instrumentation and radar and sent him forward to sort out the lines and fenders in preparation for docking which I expected would be within half an hour. Suddenly, out of no where almost dead ahead of the bow and only a few yards away was the breakwater! A fast reduction to neutral on the port engine than a slam into reverse and and full throttle astern on port allowed us to miss a head on collision with the breakwater by about 10 feet! As I regained my composure, I racked my brain to figure out what had happened. Checking the radar once again I noticed that the range was not 1 km but 1/4 km and the return that I thought was a mile away was less than 300 yards. i called the decky inside and asked him if he had touched the radar and he mentioned somewhat sheepishly that he had fiddled with a couple of the knobs but everything was working fine when I had returned to the wheelhouse. I cannot fault him as he was inexperienced but it reinforced a lesson I learned many years ago, if you leave the helm only for an instant, check EVERYTHING on your return. Hope this little tale saves someone else from making the mistake I did...
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