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Old 01-06-2010, 12:37   #1
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California Sea Monster ?

Firstly, a direct sincere apology for this thread. I do not mean to disrespect the memory or second guess the experience of those I am about to refer to. However, my mind wanders...and a bit of concern creeps in to my own sake. And maybe I am a bit sleepless from it.

In the last month, at least 4 well experience sailors perished off the coast of California. 3 boats washed ashore. 3 bodies were recovered. Although I don't know the extent of their paranoia, I believe all were well experience and knowledgeable sailors and they knew what they were doing, where they were, and where they were going.

Then there are other mysteries in recent history: Jim Gray and "Tenacious"; Kirby Gale and "Daisy"; and others... I won't bring up crazy journeys such as cat deliveries to PNW in November/December. The weather and season doesn't seem out of the ordinary for most of these mysteries.

So what's going on? Is it Orcas? Whales? Tsunamis? Or...is there some abominable sea monster cruising off San Francisco down to Los Angeles waiting to pick off a boater or two?
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Old 01-06-2010, 15:21   #2
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i suppose for the most part, we as individuals who "for the most part" consider ourselves accomplished sailors, really forget that the world is far from a liberal social event and if not taken seriously EVERY minute, even the clear days of spring and summer... can kill you dead.
We as a society have been exposed to the "nanny law" syndrome especially here in Kalifornia where everything that happens is someone elses fault or doing. Always trying to blame someone else for circumstances beyond our control. At risk of getting into a heated argument from others about this next remark, please think a bit about it.
The big oil spill in the gulf is certainly not a minor event and everyone from the government offcials down to the members of the board at BP are trying to point the finger of blame at "someone else" when in fact Do-Do happens and this is just exactly that. It's a Do-Do Storm of epic proportions and really it's no single one persons fault. Just as those unfortunate sailors who perished thought they were in control, it only took a few momnets of not being able to breath to make those follow moments an eternity.
As a scuba diver for the past 30+ years, I can atest to that fact. In a few fleeting moments years back I too saw the "face of God" and by luck or by chance I escaped the clutches of death and learned from the situation. In many circumstances, many people don't have that chance. Whether it's circumstance or just forgetting what's happening, a cascade effect of minor errors turns into one big ugly event that many will cry over in the future.
It's just life... and although it may sound 'cold hearted', my father (rest his soul) said it best... "Life is a terminal disease, no one gets out alive."
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Old 01-06-2010, 15:48   #3
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Its one thing to say...ok, it was an accumulation of errors that caused thus and thus. We can even site chaos theory are statistics to make a case. However, the numbers here are staggering. Moreover, some of these incidences have not been solved and are perplexing. Ornaith Murphy is another one...

I'm from the east coast...didn't ever see this kind of thing there.

The BP oil thing is not an accumulation of errors. For an organization and a government dept of this size...not even a solidified backup plan AFTER worse case appears...This was pure evil and greed and I believe a crime of highest order. This cannot be written off with the toss of a hand as "human error".
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Old 01-06-2010, 16:07   #4
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I think that for all that our big blue is called 'Pacific', it isn't peaceful at all. The western coast of the Americas is a challenging place to sail. There are many coastal formations that offer challenges that can be surprising in their diversity and in the scale of challenge they offer from day to day, season to season, year to year.

It's called the Baja Bash for a reason... and all of the cruise ship folks I have ever spoken with speak of the season shift for the big boats with dread for a reason as well. Particularly when on a northward course its just tough big water.

If it's a struggle for the big boys is it any wonder the small fry get burned as well? The coast is scattered with wrecks from the Armada era on... why would we think that that was going to change in any profound way?

Let the sailor beware... Doesn't take a sea monster... just an error in judgment that can lead to tragedy.

Respecting the power of the Pacific is your best safety measure.
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Old 01-06-2010, 16:21   #5
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3 boats washed ashore. 3 bodies were recovered.
If it is a monster it doesn't appear as though its very hungry.
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Old 01-06-2010, 16:33   #6
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If it is a monster it doesn't appear as though its very hungry.
Hungry enough and worse - 4 never found if you count the others...so the rest are sport?

Besides, maybe it isn't that kind of monster. Maybe it just eats the souls of sailor and spits out the rest.

Bones....I fear...merely bones...
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Old 01-06-2010, 17:00   #7
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If it is a monster it doesn't appear as though its very hungry.
Or is a Vegetarian?



Might be wise not to have any Bananas onboard when close to the Pacific Coast
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Old 01-06-2010, 17:47   #8
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The monster is the false illusion of safety that the coast visually provides. None of those people who lost their lives were wearing proper safety harnesses (apparently).
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Old 01-06-2010, 17:51   #9
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Surveyor. Nay, not true! A number of the recent ones were found with safety harnesses still attached!

David! You are genius! I feel deja vue! BUT NEVER EVER BRING BANNANANAS ON A BOAT THEY ARE BAD LUCK!! BAD LUCK I SAY!!!
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Old 01-06-2010, 22:22   #10
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Perhaps being too comfortable is front and center.

San Francisco entrance (and surrounds) is notoriously unpredictable and can turn quite nasty.
I have never sailed there. The closest was a few days from LA. But I, and every reasonably read cruiser knows of San Francisco difficulties.

If we sailed in there we would closely study the charts and go the safest possible route. We would stand offshore 5 miles and come directly in the dead center of the shipping lane, during daylight, hanked on with our inflatable life jackets etc just like crossing a river bar in Australia.

Thats how we would do it.

However when one knows an area well you will see them dancing close to rocks on a lee shore. They will go around a headland with a hundred yards (meters ) to spare. They will give turbulent water a 'good offing' of 100 meters.... not the 1 mile we would give it.

I know by the Movies that Alcatraz has strong currents. I know by weather that the prevailing storm winds are north-west. So I can deduce San Francisco gets a long outfall far out to sea and in storms or any heavy weather with an outgoing tide will be rough.

Throw those things in with eddies around headlands, a lee shore in every direction and the local who is wet, cold, hungry and just wants to get home and then yes a monster can rear its head: The monster that tricks locals with excelent local knowledge to just cut a little corner, a tiny miscalculation, a little error that is pounced upon.

Complacency? Maybe not exactly, but surely a different mindset than a person sailing into the area for the first time.


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Old 01-06-2010, 22:47   #11
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Mark:

Thanks you for your comment.

Its not so strange in the bay, in fact it can be rather dull sailing IMHO...but I am used to north lat currents...but alas you are correct about the entrance.

The problem is a number of these cases are baffling to the local authorities as well. The "Daisy" mystery is especially perplexing to me. And the recent losses were not all in the bay area...but much further south.

Yes, like you I would go straight in/out the gate to the end of the shipping lane...then head...well...For me solo north to Vancouver Island...the plan...

which is why its a bit unnerving...since I need to give sea room, it's uphill (so maybe not too much sea room), and anything above Mendocino point at whatever mile is a risk and not only depending on the time of year...so I have been told or learning. Those storms whip in from the W or NW.

But back to the equation...the days historically in question were relatively normal SF weather. Ship accidents ruled out. So, it's all very strange. Sarafina points are well taken, but I still ponder the questions about California Sea Monsters in general.
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Old 01-06-2010, 23:15   #12
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Its not so strange in the bay, in fact it can be rather dull sailing IMHO...
Dosent sound like the San Francisco Bay I sail on.. Afternoon winds to exceed 30 knots from under the bridge, a 6 to 8 knot current depending on ebb or flood and the washing machine from "X"bouy to Angel Island on either ebb or flood... The 20 foot hole in the water at Blossom Rock on an outgoing.. working the twisting winds from the north slot...not to mention the eddies off of the "big ol rock in the middle of the bay" that will spinn a 40 footer 180 degrees in the blink of an Eye..
Been racing the bay for a good number of years, inside and out, and the only place its dull is the berkley flats..
as far as sea monsters, those of us that know the bay and its enterance, know that sometimes, it dosent matter what you're doing, good or bad, right or wrong, its just what it is, Its the Bay!
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Old 02-06-2010, 01:49   #13
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However when one knows an area well you will see them dancing close to rocks on a lee shore. They will go around a headland with a hundred yards (meters ) to spare. They will give turbulent water a 'good offing' of 100 meters.... not the 1 mile we would give it.


Mark
They may be passing inside the turbulent water. That's the way we recently rounded Portland Bill, one of the nastiest bits of water in any sea. You can either stand five or more miles offshore, which can add 10 miles to a passage between Lyme Bay and Weymouth, or you can cut inside the tidal race. There are about three cables of reasonably placid water between the rocks and the container ship-eating race.

It's a bit hair-raising -- Scylla and Charybdis come to mind -- rocks on one side, a raging whirlpool on the other -- but reasonably safe unless there's onshore wind.


I know other headlands with associated tidal races which are best crossed very close to shore, if not very far offshore. Maybe that's what you've been observing, Mark.
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Old 02-06-2010, 02:46   #14
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They may be passing inside the turbulent water. That's the way we recently rounded Portland Bill, one of the nastiest bits of water in any sea. You can either stand five or more miles offshore, which can add 10 miles to a passage .
There ya go.

So a plausable senario why an experienced local sailor may get caught up where a newby or a visiting cruiser might be fine.

Sometimes, I guess, when we are doing something mundane we must give ourselves a shake and say "Hey, its when I get relaxed, too professional, too local, thats when I need to be aware"


We are doing the Straits of Messina soon so the Scylla and Charybdis will be interesting. But I understand the location might be wrong and its somewhere else. LOL in any even cruisers talk about the whirlpools going through. max current is about 3.9 knots.... Wanna get that one at the right time!


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Old 02-06-2010, 05:43   #15
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There ya go.

So a plausable senario why an experienced local sailor may get caught up where a newby or a visiting cruiser might be fine.

Sometimes, I guess, when we are doing something mundane we must give ourselves a shake and say "Hey, its when I get relaxed, too professional, too local, thats when I need to be aware"


We are doing the Straits of Messina soon so the Scylla and Charybdis will be interesting. But I understand the location might be wrong and its somewhere else. LOL in any even cruisers talk about the whirlpools going through. max current is about 3.9 knots.... Wanna get that one at the right time!


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I don't think you can be "too local". Stupid is stupid, and careless is careless, whether you are local or not, and more knowledge is inherently better than less. You can be safer by saying to yourself -- "I'm not local, so I'm not going to take any risks at all" -- but you are kidding yourself if you think you can be completey safe that way, because you can't go to sea without taking some risk or another. Going to great lengths to avoid one risk, because you don't have enough knowledge to evaluate it, will usually just put you in the jaws of several other risks.

Prepared with exact knowledge -- what wind does what, what tide does what, what rock to avoid -- things like the inside passage at Portland Bill are perfectly safe. It just takes precise preparation and precise timing.
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