I was in ARC Europe
in 2012 and we left Norfolk VA with 4 other boats, one being a Hanse 37' called Outer Limits. The owner from the Netherlands
was a great guy and we got to know and hang out with him and his crew. We arrived in Bermuda
and spent a few days there before leaving for the next leg to the Azores
We were emailing each other with positions regularly... and about 2 days out from Bermuda
, in the middle of the night, I checked my email
to find that they had abandoned their boat after hitting a whale, just before sunset. They felt the boat come to a stop, and went up to see blood, and the whale in the water. One of the crew-members was a marine
There were port and starboard breeches in the hull
, right at the waterline as I understand it. They tried stuffing the holes and getting a tarp around the outside of the boat. They called Bermuda radio
with their predicament and a freighter was redirected to assist them. At that time, after dark, with the pumps unable to handle the flow, they gave up and boarded the freighter and headed for a 10 day passage
It was an eye opener for me - very sad for our friend Joost, the owner of the boat, but of course it was a blessing that everyone was rescued.
When these things it's human nature to try to determine how they did something different than what we would have done in the same circumstance - this is just a way to conquer our own fears. There really is no way to "look out for whales." You might see one occasionally, I have seen their spray from time to time, but if one is sleeping and you sail over it, you were just very unlucky. It doesn't often happen. In reality, they did what they could and when the freighter arrived the decision had to be made - risk my life or give up the boat.
Whales are a risk, along with many others that exist in the ocean. I have to take comfort that the odds of me hitting one are small. Not non-existent, but small. If I did hit one, maybe I could keep the boat afloat, but there are no guarantees. It's like lightning
- you might get struck, but you hope not.