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Old 07-08-2015, 21:48   #1
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Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

Sunk by a Whale

As part of reading stories of the sea and how sailors have survived shipwrecks, I found it interesting over the last 30 years to notice that several noteworthy examples of sinking sailboats were due to encounters with a whale or whales.

Here are a few of my notes (and sources of quotes or excerpted text below). I am posting this here in this forum as it may be of interest to some CF members to follow up and read the original books or accounts of their survival. Over the years I read those books and enjoyed each one.

For me, the most interesting aspects are what the people did after their boat sank. These are true survival stories in most cases, with some extraordinary examples of perseverance, will power to live, and scary challenges by the sea and sea life too.

NOTE: Most of these examples of sinking sailboats occurred before the advent of GPS and EPIRBS and SAT Phones. Today it would be more likely that a sailboat equipped with those items would have the sailors rescued in a matter of hours or days.

NOTE 2: See Also: You Thought You Hit a Whale
You Thought You Hit a Whale
http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...57#post1885957
____________
Incident 1
The Robertsons


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dougal_Robertson
Boat: the Lucette, a 43-foot wooden schooner built in 1922 which the family had purchased in Malta with their life's savings.

On 15 June 1972, Lucette (Lucy) was holed by a pod of killer whales and sank approximately 200 miles west of the Galapagos Islands.

The inflatable raft became unusable after 16 days, so the six people crowded into the three-metre long dinghy with their supplies.
Shipwrecked by whales: The Robertson family survival story - BBC News
Shipwrecked by whales: The Robertson family survival story

Dougal Robertson
A family is shipwrecked in the Pacific ocean by a school of killer whales and have to survive in a dinghy for more than a month with hardly any food or drinking water.

But 17 months into their voyage, while on the Pacific ocean, the boat was struck by a pod of killer whales near to the Galapagos Islands.
"The whole boat shook and the keel must've cracked. There was a splintering noise of wood cracking, if you can imagine the sound of a tree trunk being snapped in two," said Douglas.
"I heard this splashing noise behind me and there were three killer whales following the boat."

The inflatable raft became unusable after 16 days, so the six people crowded into the 10ft (3m) long dinghy called the Ednamair, taking turns to sit in the dry part of the boat.
Steady NOTE: See the attached photo of the Robertsons (and crew) in the small 10 foot long dinghy in which they survived for 22 additional days after their life raft failed. Remember, they were adrift for a total of 38 days!

On 23 July 1972, 38 days into their trip in the Ednamair, they were finally picked up after a Japanese fishing trawler, the Toka Maru II, spotted their distress flare.

Before his death from cancer in 1992, Dougal Robertson wrote a book about the family's adventure called Survive the Savage Sea, which was turned into a film.

Dougal went on to write Sea Survival: A Manual, and continued to sail until his death in 1992.

____________

Incident 2
The Baileys


In 1973, a British couple, Maurice and Maralyn Bailey, drifted 117 days after their sloop sank in the Pacific.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauric...Maralyn_Bailey
The Baileys' journey began when they left Southampton, England in their 31-foot (9.4*m) yacht, the Auralyn. Their intended destination was New Zealand. They passed safely through the Panama Canal in February and were on their way to the Galapagos Islands. At the crack of dawn of 4 March 1973, their yacht was struck by a whale and severely damaged.

After transferring some supplies to an inflated raft and dinghy and salvaging some food, a compass, and other supplies, the Baileys watched as the Auralyn disappeared beneath the waves.

As they drifted in the open Pacific, the couple saw seven different ships, but were unable to attract these ships' attention since their signal flares failed and their emergency kit did not contain a signalling mirror. Their liferaft began to disintegrate and required frequent reinflation.

After traveling some 1,500 miles (2,400*km), the Baileys were rescued by the crew of a Korean fishing boat, the Weolmi 306, on 30 June 1973. Sailors on the ship spotted the raft after initially passing it by. The couple was brought aboard in an emaciated state, having lost some 40 pounds (18*kg) apiece and with their legs barely able to support their weight.

The Baileys returned to England and wrote an account of their ordeal entitled 117 Days Adrift (Staying Alive! in the U.S.), which was published in 1974.
https://books.google.es/books/about/...PwAACAAJ&hl=es

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Incident 3
Steven Callahan


He was single handing across the Atlantic when he hit something in the night. He suspected it was a whale. His small sailboat sank quickly. He drifted for 76 days.

Read his book:
Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Callahan
In 1981 on Napoleon Solo, a 6.5-meter (21.3-foot) sloop he designed and built himself, single-handedly sailed the boat.

In a growing gale, seven days out, his vessel was badly holed by an unknown object during a night storm, and became swamped, although it did not sink outright due to watertight compartments Callahan had designed into the boat. In his book, Callahan writes that he suspects the damage occurred from a collision with a whale.

Unable to stay aboard Napoleon Solo as it filled with water and was overwhelmed by breaking seas, Callahan escaped into a six-person Avon inflatable life raft, measuring about six feet across. He stood off in the raft, but managed to get back aboard several times to dive below and retrieve a piece of cushion, a sleeping bag, and an emergency kit containing, among other things, some food, navigation charts, a short spear gun, flares, torch, solar stills for producing drinking water and a copy of Sea Survival, a survival manual written by Dougal Robertson, a fellow ocean survivor.
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Incident 4
The Butlers


Couple's Boat Sunk by Whales : Pacific 'Unfriendly,' Man Says After 66 Days on Raft - latimes
Couple's Boat Sunk by Whales : Pacific 'Unfriendly,' Man Says After 66 Days on Raft
August 22, 1989|BARRY BEARAK | Times Staff Writer
MIAMI — The sailboat was on automatic pilot, and the two Butlers were asleep down below. They were awakened by a thump, then another. William went topside, and that's when he first saw the whales in the moonlight. Dozens of them, he remembers. Maybe even hundreds. Whales as far as he could see.
Then, one of the whales hit the boat hard on the port side. There was a crunch, and it sounded awful. William could hear water gushing. He raced below. Find the leak! Fix it!

He began turning things over, pulling up the floorboards. But, in just a few minutes, there was water up to his waist.

And then the Butlers were adrift in the vastness, off on what would become a 66-day odyssey in the warm seas west of Central America. They were found only last Saturday by a Costa Rican coast guard boat on a routine fisheries patrol 13 miles from land.
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Incident 5
The Glavins


NOTE: The Glavins were quickly rescued. As I recall, they were rescued by another yacht in a matter of a few hours.

British couple's yacht sunk by whale in Caribbean - Telegraph
British couple's yacht sunk by whale in Caribbean
A British couple's two-year dream holiday ended in disaster when their £150,000 yacht sank after hitting a whale in the Caribbean. 10 Jun 2009
Paul and Helen Glavin were on a round-the-world voyage when the freak collision happened in rough seas near the British Virgin Islands.
Their yacht struck the whale in the early hours of the morning, throwing Mrs Glavin, 59, against the wheel.

Within an hour the 47ft vessel filled with water.

The pair took to a life raft from where they watched as the boat capsized and sank five hours after the collision.
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The photo below is of the Dougal Robertson family and crew (a total of six people) in the 10 foot long dinghy on which they survived!
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Old 07-08-2015, 22:07   #2
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

Excellent post, Steady Hand! Thank you very much.

True stories about actual mishaps and disasters at sea are what I personally find most fascinating, and instructive. I enjoy learning from true-experience navigators about potential dangers at sea. I already know how to uncork a bottle of fine French wine, so the "fun in the sun" blogs and blogs hold little interest.

Thanks again, and keep 'em coming!
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Old 07-08-2015, 22:23   #3
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

Add the yacht matuku, sunk mid Tasman in the 1960's


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Old 07-08-2015, 22:36   #4
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

Add to that an excellent read, 'In the Heart of the Sea', about the whaleship Essex. It's a great book with brutal detail on what those men suffered through after their vessel was sunk by a whale and it's also now being made into a movie, due out on December 11, 2015. I personally am really looking forward to the movie.
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Old 07-08-2015, 22:37   #5
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

Bill Butler outfitted his boat in Miami before heading out. I got to know him pretty well.
Some years later he came into my store and we had a good chat. He told a story of losing another boat up in the North East! This time he was close enough to swim ashore.

He had an EPIRB when the whales hit him but he was in an area where there was no coverage. This was before the 406 EPIRB and the satellite had to be in sight of a land station when it received the signal.
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Old 07-08-2015, 23:46   #6
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

Ishmael.
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Old 07-08-2015, 23:49   #7
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

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Ishmael.
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Old 08-08-2015, 00:09   #8
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

When we lived in Lymington, England, outfitting our boat for cruising, we met and got to know the Bailey's through friends.

Of the two, it was Maralyn who kept the two of them alive. She invented many things while in the raft and dinghy that provided them with food and water. She had a really dynamic personality and was a "hard charger" by any standard.

This was a few years after their rescue, and they still couldn't eat food with other people, or throw any food away. It definitely left a mark on them.

When you read the book, take note of the damage that they mentioned. I always thought it might have been possible to plug the hole from the outside, but neither of them could swim!!! I am always amazed at how many people go cruising who can't swim.

The boat was a twin bilge keel Golden Hind 31 as I remember, so they would have had to go into the water to either plug the hole or put a collision mat/sail over it. They took pictures of the boat sinking, so this was a fairly slow event.

The Avon company - who built there 4 man liferaft and Redstart dinghy - use to take the liferaft to all the boat shows so you could see how well the raft survived. It was a little scuffed up, but held up very well all things considered. What is rarely mentioned is that they did the majority of fishing and turtle killing from the Redstart dinghy, which was made from far stronger and tougher material than the liferaft.

Having the second "lifeboat" made a big difference in their survival.

Excellent book, learn from their mistakes (can't swim being #1) and ingenuity that they had. And her attitude - never give up.
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Old 08-08-2015, 00:21   #9
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

Interesting.....please indulge a stupid question....


With all the thousands of possible semi submerged containers, whales, unlit boats etc which may pose as a yacht crippling hazard. Does everybody on passages just sail along at night hoping not to hit something. Nobody stops the boat till daylight?....given one is in proper sea and weather conditions to do so.
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Old 08-08-2015, 00:27   #10
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Brown View Post
When we lived in Lymington, England, outfitting our boat for cruising, we met and got to know the Bailey's through friends.

Of the two, it was Maralyn who kept the two of them alive. She invented many things while in the raft and dinghy that provided them with food and water. She had a really dynamic personality and was a "hard charger" by any standard.

This was a few years after their rescue, and they still couldn't eat food with other people, or throw any food away. It definitely left a mark on them.

When you read the book, take note of the damage that they mentioned. I always thought it might have been possible to plug the hole from the outside, but neither of them could swim!!! I am always amazed at how many people go cruising who can't swim.

The boat was a twin bilge keel Golden Hind 31 as I remember, so they would have had to go into the water to either plug the hole or put a collision mat/sail over it. They took pictures of the boat sinking, so this was a fairly slow event.

The Avon company - who built there 4 man liferaft and Redstart dinghy - use to take the liferaft to all the boat shows so you could see how well the raft survived. It was a little scuffed up, but held up very well all things considered. What is rarely mentioned is that they did the majority of fishing and turtle killing from the Redstart dinghy, which was made from far stronger and tougher material than the liferaft.

Having the second "lifeboat" made a big difference in their survival.

Excellent book, learn from their mistakes (can't swim being #1) and ingenuity that they had. And her attitude - never give up.
Good post! Thanks for sharing all that.

It has been many years since I read their book, but as I recall, their story was gripping, because of the sense of desperation from lack of food and water and frustration of not being seen.

When you mentioned that they had difficulty with eating with others or food after their rescue, it struck me that some traumatic experiences, especially those that are long lasting, can really affect us, especially when survival is required.
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Old 08-08-2015, 00:30   #11
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saleen411 View Post
Interesting.....please indulge a stupid question....


With all the thousands of possible semi submerged containers, whales, unlit boats etc which may pose as a yacht crippling hazard. Does everybody on passages just sail along at night hoping not to hit something. Nobody stops the boat till daylight?....given one is in proper sea and weather conditions to do so.
Sailing at night on an offshore passage can be wonderful if the weather is nice.
In short, someone should always be on watch, awake, and often if not always on deck while the boat is moving.
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Old 08-08-2015, 00:39   #12
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saleen411 View Post
Interesting.....please indulge a stupid question....


With all the thousands of possible semi submerged containers, whales, unlit boats etc which may pose as a yacht crippling hazard. Does everybody on passages just sail along at night hoping not to hit something. Nobody stops the boat till daylight?....given one is in proper sea and weather conditions to do so.
The danger is actually overstated. It is chiefly bad in certain coastal waters, such as those off the Pacific coast of Panama and around Borneo, on account of the logging industry. I have only ever met one skipper, professional or otherwise, who has seen a bona fide container at sea, which he picked up on radar as it was floating with a corner sticking 5 feet out of the water. I think container strikes are so rare but so talked about they rise to the level, almost, of "urban legend". Whale strikes are much more common and indeed I have been bumped by one at one time, though not hard.

It has to be said that the overwhelming majority of whalestrike SINKINGS are of wooden boats, as they are the most vulnerable build to this kind of impact.

This at least partly explains the decline in whalestrike sinkings despite the recovery in some species of whales and the increase in sail traffic on the oceans.

I am friends with several of the Robertsons, and they run a website on facebook with the same name as Dougal's book: Survive the Savage Sea.
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Old 08-08-2015, 00:40   #13
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

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Originally Posted by Steady Hand View Post
Sailing at night on an offshore passage can be wonderful if the weather is nice.
In short, someone should always be on watch, awake, and often if not always on deck while the boat is moving.
Thanks....I understand that. I understand that radar may pick out some of the hazardous stuff.....but sleeping whales?, submerged containers?.....say on a moonless night. I've read that fwd looking sonar doesn't work that well for that purpose unless one is going really slow. Maybe this issue just falls under acceptable risk.

I'm just doubtful that these objects will be seen at night. Just my humble uninformed opinion. Not trying to be argumentative.
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Old 08-08-2015, 00:42   #14
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saleen411 View Post
Interesting.....please indulge a stupid question....


With all the thousands of possible semi submerged containers, whales, unlit boats etc which may pose as a yacht crippling hazard. Does everybody on passages just sail along at night hoping not to hit something. Nobody stops the boat till daylight?....given one is in proper sea and weather conditions to do so.
Furthermore, daylight doesn't help much, as even if a CONSTANT visual watch is kept ahead, which it rarely is on long distance sailboats, it would be of little value in most sea states and states of light for small objects, let alone being of no value at all for objects floating just underneath the surface…

It is of some value in the likes of the Java Sea and the southern South China, as these are usually very calm in the "sailing" season, and large logs are often visible and easily avoided. I've dodged plenty!
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Old 08-08-2015, 00:43   #15
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Re: Sunk by a Whale : Survival Stories

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Originally Posted by Saleen411 View Post
Thanks....I understand that. I understand that radar may pick out some of the hazardous stuff.....but sleeping whales?, submerged containers?.....say on a moonless night. I've read that fwd looking sonar doesn't work that well for that purpose unless one is going really slow. Maybe this issue just falls under acceptable risk.

I'm just doubtful that these objects will be seen at night. Just my humble uninformed opinion. Not trying to be argumentative.
They would likely not be seen at night… or in the day for that matter!

Cheer up, it's rare!
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