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View Poll Results: What have you hit at sea?
8 x 40 cargo container 2 6.90%
Sleeping whale 2 6.90%
Cargo ship 0 0%
another sailboat 2 6.90%
Lost city of Atlantis 8 27.59%
Other ... please explain! 17 58.62%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 29. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 04-12-2007, 06:09   #1
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Whale/Container Collision

At a recent evening gathering, the topic came up of running into "things" while sailing offshore.

We concluded that the odds of hitting anything were very low. But the two most likely obstacles a sailor was to hit would be a container, or a sleeping whale.

One online article stated that as many as 10,000 containers are washed into the sea each year, all floating just below the surface. That number sounds a little high to me.

Another article stated that the fall from a ships deck to the ocean would break open a container, making it sink. are containers water tight in the first place?

It also came up that people have reported hitting sleeping whales, causeing the boat to sink. It seems that hitting a whale would be easier on your boat than hitting a steel container.

So... What are the odds? How many containers fall in? square footage of ocean (pacific and atlantic) compared to square footage of containers out there?

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Old 04-12-2007, 06:31   #2
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A couple of opinions:

Do shipping containers sink?
Vero Marine - Containers overboard

How long do containers float for?

Gord May
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Old 04-12-2007, 06:58   #3
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interesting articles Gord!
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Old 04-12-2007, 08:44   #4
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I have never seen a or heard of anyone seeing or hitting a container. However, it's a natural concern, just like falling into a sink hole or the road/bridge collapsing while driving. The odds are probably less for hitting a container.

Whale are a different story or at least "Whale Sharks". I hit of of those blubbery masses at sea one time. We were 3 days out of Darwin, Aust, bound for Christmas Island (S of Indonesia). We were sailing in 10-15kts of wind astern and probably doing 5kts. It was mid-day and I was sitting in the cockpit. All of a sudden, the boat just came to a skidding stop, everything went flying and Kanani just shuddered. My immediate thought was that we must have hit a sand bar, then I thought, "Impossible, it must be a big fishing net". About that time, this huge greenish, spotted mass came rolling up astern. It was a Whale Shark. He rolled on his back and gave out a big BELCH. It was the worst smell that I have ever smelled in my life.

We were very fortunate to have a modified full keel with a very heavy skegg-hung rudder. The day after this incident, we were becalmed in the morning and I jumped in the water to check for damage. Other than long, deep scratches in the paint (obviosly from barnecles) we were fine.

That same day, we saw another Whale Shark floating on the surface. It was a pretty scary feeling for a while.

I have heard a lot of stories about boats hitting trees and logs in the North-West US. That really is a concern. There is always the story (that most have heard) about the guy that hit a refridgerator off of the coast. He towed it to the marina, tracked down the original owner and notified the police.
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Old 04-12-2007, 09:21   #5
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I'm one of those guys who has hit logs in the PNW. It's happened twice and it's not fun at all. The first time it was my wife driving and it was dark (I wasn't aboard). She motoring in no wind and ran over a 30' log more or less at a 90 degree angle. The boat had a full keel, and no damage, but she said it sounded like the end of the world.

The second time was in daylight with 4 people in the cockpit of our Dragonfly trimaran.

We were blasting around in Admiralty Inlet for a daysail when we hit a 40' log absolutely square. Although we thought we had a decent watch going, we were traveling about ten knots and this log was disguised in a tide rip.

I thought the mast was coming down because we heard a rumble followed by a tremendous bang. That was followed about a second later by another huge bang. The bangs were caused by the clutches for the centerboard and rudder declutching as they were supposed to.

We then saw this log roll out from under the stern. It was about a foot in diameter.

I checked the bottom the next day. No damage but a little bit of bottom paint gone from the leading edge of the centerboard.

I've seen lots of deadheads in Puget Sound, the biggest one was over a foot in diameter and was floating vertically with about 4 feet above the water. It was black so even in the middle of the day it was hard to see. We passed it about 100 feet to port. I called the Coast Guard to report it, but they didn't sound too excited.

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Old 04-12-2007, 09:26   #6
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We've run across crab pot lines and fishing "long lines". Getting them undone has always been fun - especially at night. In each case - they were not supposed to be there (i.e. illegal, in a restricted area, etc.)
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Old 04-12-2007, 11:04   #7
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I was told that the previous previous owner of my boat hit a container with it. Took about 2 inches out of the fiberglass in the bow. Luckily the the glass there is about 4 inches thick.
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Old 04-12-2007, 11:11   #8
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For me, sailing off the Texas gulf coast and the Gulf of Mexico the primary concern is un-lit rigs and, after the storms of 05(rita & katrina), damaged rigs that are not lit.

Cape Dory 25D Seraph
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Old 04-12-2007, 15:19   #9
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We ran over what looked like a plam tree trunk one night of Bimini.
Heard a big "thunk" and several more as it passed under the 3/4 keel.

The Capt came running up on deck "what was that''.
Some of the pax were freeked out.

Go to The Cargo Letter Vessel Casualties

Read about all the ships that lose containers and see just how many HUGE ships hit each other out there, talking about odds!!!

My favorite
2007 Nightmare M/V Alpha Action
2 ships hitting each other and losing cargo containers.
You don't know if you won't go.
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Old 04-12-2007, 16:42   #10
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never hit anything but I did almost miss the bahamas once!!! Almost sailed across the top while dozing!!
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Old 04-12-2007, 17:03   #11
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Have hit a deadhead north of Port Hardy (northern tip of Vancouver Island). Bent the shaft, damaged the prop. No way to see, as it wasn't floating horizontally on the surface, it was vertical in the water, and something close to 2 ft in diameter. BIG impact and expensive to boot.

For some reasons whales seemed attracted to my previous boat. Had a full grown bull humpback do a full breach close enough to shower everyone on deck. Had a brace of blue whales come up so close in a mirror sea that I slowed to a stop and crossed my fingers. They gradually moved in to examine the nearly twice my length, it made the hair stand up on my neck. Majestic is what they are, but clearly capable of sinking a yacht should they desire to do so.

They also smell. But I will tell you, one has only to gaze into that huge eye to see that there is cognitive intelligence there. To be examined by them in the open ocean is a humbling experience not soon forgotten.

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Old 04-12-2007, 22:56   #12
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Wood, sleeping seals (twice!), and a mysterious plastic barrel in the middle of the night (we assume it had broken loose from a dock somewhere.) The only full log actually rammed *us*, well, gently, while we were anchored.

Strange things we've not run into but have seen... a fully submerged with sail partially hoisted trimaran, 50' of dock with nice cleats I considered stopping for (the cleats, not the dock), and a bundle of logs cabled together like a huge version of those "firewood" bundles, presumably from someone's log boom and looking very like a lost lamb.

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Old 05-12-2007, 00:00   #13
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I was takeing a 42 ft mono (in my 30 ft cat) up to windward in a race and he refused to tack away and instead dropped down on me suddenly trying to close me out from a mark (prick) . Then he got all upset cause I hit him.

Hit a reef in NewCal doing 14 knots with no real damage done. I was well outside the marks and it was'nt on the charts, so it must have been Atlantis

Numerous sand/mudbanks while exploring thin water. No damage

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Old 05-12-2007, 06:02   #14
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Saw a container 5 feet off my stern. About 3 inches above water. Must have missed it by inches. The only reason I could see it was the reflection from my stern light, it was during a night passage. I do not sail with those that don't believe in God.
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Old 05-12-2007, 09:43   #15
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Originally Posted by allegedly View Post
Saw a container 5 feet off my stern. About 3 inches above water. Must have missed it by inches. The only reason I could see it was the reflection from my stern light, it was during a night passage. I do not sail with those that don't believe in God.
So I suppose you might amend the old platitude often tossed around in times like these to, "There are no atheists in foxholes, or on overnight passages."


"Your vision becomes clear only when you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks within, awakens."
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