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Old 01-10-2012, 09:22   #1
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sailboats can injure and kill

It's taking me a while to get to where I can talk about this. I am writing with one hand in the hunt 'n peck tradition so please excuse the punctuation.
2 weeks ago today I was sailing up the Straits of Juan de Fuca with a crew of three.All of them were in experienced ocean sailors, but that was behind us and we were coming up on Port Angeles, the beginning of inshore waters according to the USCG.
Fog settled in about 2 hours before as well as an adverse tide. We were still making better than 4 knot SOG however so we decided to hug the Way coast and continue. I was getting tired so I turned the helm over. A sudden gust caught my helmsman by surprise and he headed up into the wind,and I got the large jib in. Beth turned down wind just as I had taken down the preventer in prep to flake. The flying gybe took less than a second. If I had hit the boom I would be dead. Instead the main sheet picked me up and threw me against the radar arch, breaking my right humerus,left ribs left shoulder tear and numerous bruises on my face and trunk. My crew called the CG. And now I am sitting here on a month of forced inactivity...
As captain I take full responsibility. I am glad no one else was hurt. But this brought home to me that inexperience at the helm and bad weather is a dangerous combination, and that our wonderful little dream machines can injure or kill.

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Old 01-10-2012, 09:30   #2
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill


Lot's of power in the wind. Lucky you stayed on the boat too! Hope you heal fast.

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Old 01-10-2012, 09:31   #3
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill

It happens man. Not sure your point of sail but I don't put the main up anymore wider than a beam reach. If the wind is light, I just run the drifter. If the wind is heavy, I have the staysail up. On a shorthanded crew the risk of an accidental gybe is just too much for me to risk.

I almost took my wife's head off doing the same. The boom missed her, but the mainsheet 4:1 lines grabbed her by the neck and threw her across the cockpit.

Probably the most dangerous operation I've ever seen on a sailboat, up there with getting your fingers into the chain/wildcat.
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Old 01-10-2012, 09:52   #4
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill

Geeze Newt, that's scary stuff. Glad to see you came through it relatively OK. As you say, it could have been a lot worse.

I live in constant awareness (fear?) of an accidental gybe. We have an 18-foot boom, so we almost aways sail with the preventer rigged. As soon as we're off a close haul the preventer gets snapped on. But as your situation shows, unexpected stuff can always happen.

I was once beaned by the boom of a 26-footer. It had a fairly small boom, and we were in light airs. Even here though, the hit was hard enough to leave me literally stunned for a good 15 minutes. It was dumb luck that I avoided a concussion ... or worse.

You're absolutely right. Our boats can be extremely dangerous. Thanks for the reminder (although I'm very sorry for your circumstances).
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Old 01-10-2012, 09:55   #5
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill

That's rough. I can't quite get the order in my head right, probably due to you trying to conserve typing effort. Was the situation that you were pointed well upwind in order to roll or douse the jib, and then you were near the boom when the helm fell off sharply, causing the gybe?

My habit, if it's windy, is to center the boom with preventers and mainsheet tensioned, and to motor slowly to wind to flake it down. When using the main aft of the beam in strong wind, I slack off the mainsheet, and use BOTH preventers to ease the boom around through the wind, tension at the angle I desire, and then tension the mainsheet last of all.

So I'm not clear why the preventers needed to be off to flake the main, and I'm not clear why the helm was swung downwind when you were prepping to douse the main.

If it hurts to type (and I've damaged my ligaments on a boat a couple of times...same damn shoulder), I don't need a reply, but it would make your cautionary tale clearer.
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:02   #6
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill

I think you were on the local news, having been pick up by a cutter rather then a helo.

This is one reason I use a boom brake, now. I about had my arm ripped off in a light breeze running down wind. I was lollygagging, admiring the views and had slightly turned across the wind. Once the boom starts coming across there's not much one can do except get out of the way. I tried to slow it down and got tangled in the mess but fortunately slowed it enough to keep from breaking my arm.

I never go w/o my boom brake while sailing! 650 sq.ft. of mainsail can do a lot of damage to life, limb or rig.

I hope you get well soon. Broken ribs are the most painful thing that I've ever been through. Along with all your other injuries you must be going thru hell. My condolences!!!!
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:09   #7
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill

Glad you made it through with just injuries and hope you mend quickly.

You are right in that sailing is inherently dangerous and I constantly remind myself and family that the more time we spend on the water the more complacent we become and the more danger that complacency puts us in.

My son owns a 30' sailboat and is a good sailor. He works as a dive master aboard a 40' dive boat. Yesterday while helping some divers on board he slipped and fell in the water. No biggie, but an excellent reminder that you are not in your natural element at sea and constant vigilance is no an option - but a life or death necessity.

Get well soon and thanks for sharing your reminder that we must always remain vigilant and careful.
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:12   #8
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill

the meaning of the word BOOM is a tough lesson. sad to hear of your brokenness.. glad you are ok. (if ye can type yer ok) please heal fast.
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:19   #9
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill

Goodness, Newt. Glad it wasn't worse.
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:24   #10
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill

OUCH! Glad no one else was hurt and sorry to hear you were. Heal fast, there will be more sailing next season
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:24   #11
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill


Glad you survived, and hope you have a speedy recovery.
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A ruby port your harbor, Raise three sheets to the wind.
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:30   #12
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill

Many years ago going down wind in lights winds on my pocket cutter, the boom jibed while I was leaning forward (for some forgotten reason) aft of the spreader stays. There being no lifelines, I went headfirst into the water when the boom hit my buttocks. Fortunately, the only damage/loss was my glasses ending up on the bottom of Suisun Slough.
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:32   #13
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill

And I thought my "Boat Bites" were bad. I'm always bruised or bleeding from the boat.

I do a lot of my sailing alone or with inexperienced crew of one. So generally I am very paranoid about accidents and tend to reef or pull down sails very early when wind picks up.

I usually let only a bit of sheet out at most and used the traveller on the main.

I also have no issues running under power with very little sail if I feel the situation can get out of control quickly. I have been in enough squalls now to know to not take any chances and set everything up for the worse right away.

Hope you heal up quickly.

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Old 01-10-2012, 10:49   #14
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Re: sailboats can injure and kill

Aloha Newt,
I hope you heal quickly. Darn painful. A friend from a long time ago had a Cheoy Lee Offshore 41 yawl. One of the previous owners lost his life to the very heavy main boom during an accidental jibe. I've been cautious since early on in my lessons someone was sitting on the mainsheet when I did a jibe in Rebel 16 and sent 4 of us into the water with a capsize and this is another reminder to me to be extra cautious.
kind regards,
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:56   #15
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Ouch! Sorry to hear this

So what does everyone use as a preventer?

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