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Old 03-06-2017, 11:53   #1
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completed my 1st offshore passage..

..on volvo60 racer, Bermuda-Halifax delivery.
Exhilarating experience, confirming what I already new in my heart: I want to sail the oceans (after some 40+ in the fresh waters).
I did some inquiries (here & there) what to check & what to ask before boarding, and if I paid heed to all the advise I got, I should have bought myself an airfare ticket back home from Bermuda...

But what one can do living it for months, gearing up, making all the arrangements (last will included ) ?, sitting on a beach watching the boat sailing away?; some of the shortcomings become apparent when on the way.

So I boarded, crew of 15, half of it had zero to cursory sailing experience.
The skipper (28) was skippering 1st time in his life (sic), learned that somewhere 400NM into the trip, the 'experienced' part of the crew sailed now and then; 10 got sick the first day, some stayed that way for 2 days and nights, I had my hot bunk to myself for 2 nights.

The boat although impressive in performance and looks was 'tired' (was in Caribbean since Nov 2016 taking part in three different ocean races.
Frayed lines, railings lashings I didn't trust, TuffLuff System on a headstay - one groove broken (the other one to fail later), True and Apparent Wind displays broken; when I was to take helm at broad reach with 25+kn I said 'wait a sec' and I attached telltales to the shrouds (it's hard to watch weather vane at the top of 100" mast), as: 'I watch the flag at the stern', by the 1st mate didn't convince me.
My 'exploits' at the helm got attention of the skipper and I was one of only two (besides him) to steer the boat that day, average 16kn with the ~25 down the waves. At some point we lost the one wheel I was at, but luckily it was at the moment when I was changing the skipper at the helm so he took over, but not knowing that they are independent I imagined for a moment boat doing 180 in a jiffy with bodies flying into the ocean..
Took a couple of hrs to fix, I was happy it happened, at least one steering was reliable now.
I almost never sailed when dark, and was wondering how they are going to manage in the night without really knowing the changes of the wind, and thought it may become a 'hairy' ride in the dark (full main and #2 jib), but trusting the skipper (that seemed to be competent operator) I hit the bunk at
end of the watch.
A very noisy ruckus woke me up, blocks banging on the deck, shouting, commotion, and eventually boat bobbing on what was then about 6-8' waves.
Got different accounts of what transpired, depending on the source, a compilation points to the skipper deciding to reef and somewhere at turning into the wind the jib zipped out of the luff groove and now it was flying high above the deck, eventually ending in the water, prompting shutting off the engine. After containing the situation we motor for the rest of the night.

At the first night watch I noticed that we are swapping the life jackets (self-inflating), went to forecastle where we stored our follies, boots and where lines l.jackets and tethers resided and started the count that results of were disturbing.
I couldn't find 15 l.jackets!
Looked like we had 8 self-inflating ones and some offshore life jackets.
I asked the skipper if we have 15 of them, 'we're one short' he says, 'I won't wear one'. I couldn't believe my ears!!

We were briefed on safety, MOB, which was bordering on farcical, don't even want to go there, didn't do any on water drills, no designation who takes the command when captain becomes incapacitated, no posts designation when in emergency, no life raft launching explanation (had to inquire individually),
not practicing basic under the sails maneuvers, mind that half or more of the crew had no or little sailing experience.
All of it lead to mistakes, confusion and stress.
Shall I add that I noticed that one of spinnaker booms (huge poles attached on port and starboard) is not tethered on one end, mentioned it to one of the 'crew proper member' 'yea, yea, will fix it, no big deal'. So it was fixed after it jumped out of its moorings when we hit a bigger wave, shall I mention that at the ceiling of the cabin there were two shorter ones attached by the straps and one of them was inching away and was about to fall down (on someone's head, most likely).
My buddy got a nasty cut to his finger misinstructed on how to release one of the backstays.
I won't continue, although the list is not exhausted...

Moored to the docks in Lunenberg on the 5th day, although not without a mishap, at the last moment the skipper's cry: 'don't have the reverse', made us all rush to the port side to arrest the movement of the vessel

So I asked the skipper when we're drinking champagne '... with 70% unskilled crew, 66% of them sick for some time, you must be very brave...'
he ended: '..or stupid'. But have to give to him, he was cool and collected when it got hairy..
On top of it 80% of the crew spoke mostly French, some with limited English

We may conclude with: 'All's Well That Ends Well', all are happy or appear so, social media is buzzing with excited posts, photographs and video clips...

But eight of us eating breakfast at the airport before flying to our homes shared uneasiness about some aspects of our trip that was going more or less along the lines above.
I was delegated to put it in writing and with consent of all there, forward it to the skipper, so he's aware and may benefit from the feedback and to the safety of the future expeditions.

Asked him for his private email four days ago, no response...

As for me it was a heck of experience, learned quite a bit (I think much more then if all went smoothly), tested my sealegs (didn't get sick) showed me that my old lake sailing know-how is not irrelevant off shore and made me thinking about earlier retirement on sailboat
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Old 03-06-2017, 12:15   #2
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Re: completed my 1st offshore passage..

Thank you for posting that, kazo. No matter how experienced or diligent the rest of us are, we can always learn something, or at least be reminded to not become complacent.
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Old 03-06-2017, 15:49   #3
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Re: completed my 1st offshore passage..

We did that trip several years ago totally without drama but it took 8 days...

The difference between racing, sailing and seamanship. In the future you will need to decide which camp you wish to be in!
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Old 03-06-2017, 17:24   #4
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Re: completed my 1st offshore passage..

Most of the problems go back to the skipper's lack of experience, imho. If he hadn't wanted to check the life jackets himself, he should have delegated. A MOB drill, using even a cushion, with each sailor taking turns on helm, and as spotter, would have been good.

The OP, who spotted some things that needed attention should have seen to fixing them. And, certainly gets full marks for fixing the steering.

No one should ever go crew without bringing something that is effective for him/herself against seasickness. It is the responsibility of the crew member to take care of himself about that, not the skipper's. However, most ships medicine kits should have enough anti seasickness meds to augment personal supplies if needs be. Seasick crew members cannot function as well as if the mal de mer is under control. Keep on experimenting till you find what works for you! There may be some conditions where nothing will help you, but usually they do not last over 24 hrs. There are suppositories to stop vomiting. Vomiting, leads to dehydration, and dehydration can actually be life threatening. So, do what you need to do to take care of yourself, and don't risk counting on someone else being able to do it if you haven't.

Of course, the skipper could have slowed down the boat, to make the motion easier.

I am glad no one was seriously injured, and pleased because the OP now has a whole lot more information stored when he goes to look at boats he might crew on. There are real concerns there, that is part of why Jim and I are always saying that crewing for unknown skippers is fraught with many dangers. Poorly maintained boats is part of those dangers.

Ann
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Old 04-06-2017, 07:59   #5
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Re: completed my 1st offshore passage..

Quote:
Originally Posted by JPA Cate View Post
No one should ever go crew without bringing something that is effective for him/herself against seasickness. It is the responsibility of the crew member to take care of himself about that, not the skipper's. However, most ships medicine kits should have enough anti seasickness meds to augment personal supplies if needs be. Seasick crew members cannot function as well as if the mal de mer is under control. Keep on experimenting till you find what works for you! There may be some conditions where nothing will help you, but usually they do not last over 24 hrs. There are suppositories to stop vomiting. Vomiting, leads to dehydration, and dehydration can actually be life threatening. So, do what you need to do to take care of yourself, and don't risk counting on someone else being able to do it if you haven't.

Of course, the skipper could have slowed down the boat, to make the motion easier.


Ann
As far as I know, most of the seasick were on some kind of medication, patches, pills. I had two boxes of Stugeron, that I shared, but decided not to use it myself as I've never had motion sickness before, and was happy to see for this trend to continue.
As you said, finding what works for you is a process, so I guess one can become seasick no matter what.
Interestingly we had a bush pilot on board (one would think he should be the least affected), wearing Scopolamine patch and he was out for about 48hrs
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Old 04-06-2017, 10:29   #6
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Re: completed my 1st offshore passage..

I am awaiting the book, and hopefully the movie.
Starring Justin Beiber ?

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Old 04-06-2017, 10:41   #7
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Re: completed my 1st offshore passage..

The skipper of this boat is it an ex plumber Canadian from Quebec(G Leblanc ) by chance?
Your description seems to stick!
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Old 04-06-2017, 11:12   #8
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Re: completed my 1st offshore passage..

KAZO,
Thanks for taking the time to write such a good detailed post about your experience.

You are observant, and that is a good thing for any crew member to be.

I am curious about a few things related to this voyage. Please answer if you will, though if you prefer to do so via a Private Message, that is OK.

1. That is a large crew for a delivery. How did the skipper find the crew? Was the voyage promoted in some way and if so how?

2. Did the crew have to pay the Captain anything for this voyage? IF so, how much and was it to the Captain or to some large "Delivery Company" that finds crew or promotes voyages as "offshore classes?"

3. Overall, do you feel the inexperienced crew members felt safe, unsafe, satisfied with the voyage, unsatisfied? IF they were paying to go on this voyage, did they feel they got their money's worth in learning experience? Was anything taught to the crew in a formal way while on the voyage?

Photos help to illustrate a story. Do you have a link to Facebook or blog posts that show the boat or conditions or voyage? If so, please post links.

Thanks again for sharing on CF.
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Old 04-06-2017, 12:04   #9
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Re: completed my 1st offshore passage..

You sound like competent, observant crew on a voyage of the near-damned. Worn, fast boats are more dangerous than worn, slow boats, which tend to carry more spares and to be more strongly built (in the long run). The comment of the skipper regarding the PFD shocked me; as the leader and supposedly most skilled seaman aboard, he's the only one who must have a PFD; one of you could sleep beside the valise of the liferaft, of which there should have been two eight-man versions.

I'm glad you learned and your account sounds truthful, but I found certain points very dodgy indeed. I would find such a voyage unnecessarily dangerous on a boat with worn, compromised gear and crew 2/3rd puking, and I've only done a few ocean stretches.
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Old 04-06-2017, 12:53   #10
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Re: completed my 1st offshore passage..

I won't add any more comments (or names) before contacting the skipper with my observations ; he contacted me today through the official email (I asked for his private one) of the company he represents so my response would be most likely disseminated through official channels.
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Old 04-06-2017, 13:54   #11
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Re: completed my 1st offshore passage..

I had a similar experience which I have referenced many times on this forum.

I did my due diligence with the skipper, and all seemed to be in order, until I got off the plane in Spain (for an atlantic crossing). It turned out the other two crew spoke little/no english and although they had been on boats, had no "sailing" knowledge. Even the skipper had always relied on others for the heavy lifting and skills required to sail his boat. For example...$10,000 worth of new electronics installed, and he had no idea how to even turn it on.

Despite assurances that there would be no smoking or drinking on the trip, it turned out to be a 4000 mile chain smoking booze cruise. We carried more booze than water, and even less food.

Like you, I had to decide if I would simply leave, and buy a plane ticket home. I figured I would go to the Canaries and re-evaluate. 6 days from Spain to the Canaries, and it was not too bad. But I was not the only one who felt the cruise might be a mistake. We had planned on spending several days in Las Palmas to re-provision, but after 12 hours, the skipper said there was a weather window and we were leaving....I presume because he suspected some of the crew would be leaving by plane that day if they had the chance. FYI, no weather window, it was BS.

Soon I became ill. First it was seasickness, but I later realized it was due to starvation. I lost 30 pounds on the crossing. Precious little food came out of the galley, mostly beans or baked potatoes. The skipper and the rest of the crew did not care for food, but rather to drink their fill every single day. I have never seen people drink so much and so often. Since they cared not at all about the sailing, they were simply bored and doing their best to remain drunk to pass the time.

After catching the crew and skipper asleep during their watches, I insisted on standing night watch every night...I could not trust them. First we ran out of hard liquor, then beer, then all the wine was gone, then we ran out of cigarettes. With 2 days left the rest of the crew was going through alcohol and nicotine withdrawal...tensions ran high.

What should have been, could have been, a great trip was absolutely ruined. However, a bad crossing was still better than not going. Life is an adventure. I kept myself safe, but honestly, I'm surprised we did not lose anyone.

I had heard this joke...the customs man in Antigua will ask 2 questions on arrival. 1) How many people aboard? 2) And how many did you start with? Since I have heard this joke told by others, I can only assume that my experience was not unique.
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