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Old 26-08-2010, 03:13   #1
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Aground on a Lee Shore

24th Aug 2010. We left via the River Test after boarding at eleven and carrying out checks, depth gauge, radio (listening) engine warm up etc. at just before midday, a little before high tide. The winds were good for this boat, ten to fifteen knots at the marina with 15 to 20 knots expected as uk.weather.com and Bramblet.met at 09:00 showing 10 gusting15kts at the Bramble Bank, with similar for Chimet. The Prout 31, mine for the last 2 years, was a comfortable and dry boat that we'd spent a couple of hundred hours in, mainly in the Southampton Water. But it was time to reluctantly sell it, my and my wifes health have taken a turn for the worse, and the inevitable economic pressures.
My regular crew and I have both experienced this boat at up to 30kts under full sail in the Poole Bay and in 20+kts in Southampton Water both working into and running before the wind.
We motored down to Town Quay with fully reefed main and 30% genoa deployed. Apart from the usual noisy drive leg there were no issues, temperatures and oil pressure consistent and in the correct zone.
At Town Quay we raised the main to first reef, genoa to 2/3rds and soon after added the staysail. Wind was around 15 kts giving us 4 kts typical boat speed, some gusts to 20, some rain briefly but without any increase or direction change in the wind as they approached and passed. All systems normal.
As we approached the bramble bank the weather seemed stable, some gusts to 22 kts, sea reasonable, a few white horses on the bank, generally consistent with the forecasts to hand.
We turned downwind into the North Channel, having briefly considered an overnight stop in Cowes but it was 3 pm, plenty of time to reach the Emsworth entrance and find a river anchorage if the wind strength held up, the forecasts suggested little change.
As we approached the Fishbourne ferry route the wind and sea worsened, sail was reduced, the main furled, and then the staysail removed and bagged. This made handling a bit difficult, we were often on full weather helm to maintain direction so a storm staysail was raised which helped considerably although sheet forces were quite high.
Passing the Hovercraft route running into Ryde the wind and sea state were no worse, though the long fetch produced larger and longer seas they were not difficult or uncomfortable. The depth gauge had become suspicious, not changing as expected and not blanking when not in the water as waves passed. Visibility was fair to good but bouys were difficult to spot at more than a couple of miles.
We headed for the South End of the Isle of White looking for calmer waters but really only to allow a hot drink to be prepared and taken in reasonable ease. There was still am option to take shelter, tucked in close inshore or Bembridge but low tide by now, Bembridge has a bar, and we'd not visited it before.
Conditions were no worse as we ran down towards Nab Tower, identifying the buoys to our turn point towards Chichester Harbour Entrance, we had already found the boat steered and rode better with stay and 1/3 genoa deployed which gave us 4 to 5 kts. Without the stay boat speed was around 2 to 3 kts with wide (30deg) divergencies from chosen course. This would make us a little early at Chichester but this is a shallow draft boat (0.6m). We gybed our way towards our turn in point but had become disorientated, either misjudging our turn point, or not picking up the expected buoys and not having a working depth gauge. This probably caused us to overshoot Chichester entrance. The sea state had worsened, wind was now some 30 gusting 35 kts, I saw 39kts at one time, seas were genarally 1 to 1.5m with spray splashing across the boat quite often. Then we were hit by a single breaking 2.5m wave broadside on which rolled us to perhaps 30 deg and drenched us both. The boat righted promptly as the wave passed mainly under us, but there was 2 or 3 inches of water in the cockpit, we were both sat in it. it drained quickly, we were still OK.
I had recently started the engine, on tick over in neutral, so it was available just in case. The wave set off an alarm in the bay which didn’t respond to off/on ignition switching (re-starting the engine) but apart from being a little rough it was running ok, oil pressure and temperature normal and mid working range. This was when we noticed the Starboard rudder was missing.
We were still searching for some sign of Chichester Entrance when it became apparent we had missed it, Selsey Bill was a couple of miles ahead and we were on a lee shore, with unexpectedly rough seas to the South and Selsey Bills races to the SW, nominally ahead as we ran starboard at 150 to the wind.
Fearing a possible knock down/capsize and probale loss of the vessel in deep water I turned the boat inland managing to hold 50to70 deg portside to the wind and engaged the engine at low throttle. It was still running rough which seemed to upset the gearbox, possibly the linkage was overloaded, it tripped out of gear a couple of times then failed to re-engage, we'd had perhaps five minutes intermittent use before it failed completely. We were some quarter mile of the coast, but closing with it. A tack on one rudder seemed unlikely to suceed, she doesn't tack well, worse in rough waters, the engine was needed usually, but we still made a mile or more along the coastline, managing to hold 50 to 70 to the wind and a couple of knots on the boat to reduce leeway but we continued to close slowly with the beach, apparently a good gravel slope. We were advised by a wind surfer that we heading into very shallow water but at this point we lacked the ability to tack, it was just hoping we could fight our way clear but eventually the breaking seas in the shoreline forced us aground. I deployed a bow anchor, and had the staysail down, bagged and clipped on when a Coastguard Rib arrived. One waded to us, boarded and offered a tow to deeper water. When we explained the engine problem he decided to call in a ‘proper’ lifeboat to tow us to a safe place, probably Sparkes Marina.
The Rib towed us into deeper water, the towline secured to a heavy bridle I rigged, and the tow was then later over by the lifeboat.
I was still on the foredeck, expecting to take on the tow line but a lifeboat crewmember boarded us and took charge of securing the tow, and then of the vessel. We were dismissed below to a place of safety.
On the trip into wind, some two hours or so, it was clear that conditions had deteriorated still further, though no further damage resulted.
Routine checks were requested from our 'saviour' for leaks, none, and our condition, cold.
Damage to the vessel seems to be minor:-
1. damaged stanchion (lifeboat crew transfer)
2. one rudder lost
There may be a claim from the Coastguard resulting from their recovery of the boat.
Any additional claims from Sparkes Marina for mooring until I can expedite repairs.
And perhaps a tow to our destination, Thornton Marina, Multihull World, given that they will accept the boat for sale in this condition.
(Now done if you are in this area then Frank Dunster 07748997105 did that job in a weather window).
At the moment there seems to be no other damage as a result of the grounding and recovery though I have yet to determine what caused:-
1. the engine drive failure.
2. the engine alarm.
3. the depth gauge failure.

There was mayhem below as you can imagine, the crockery, and all lose equipment spread on the floor of each hull.

This is posted for general education knowing I'm due a good bit of stick.
I would say that the only other sailing craft out there after the wind got up was one big sporty mono, the little mono's that would have done much better had all run for home, most of them motoring at that and nodding like noddy dogs as they made their way into wind for Cowes/Hamble.
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Old 26-08-2010, 03:38   #2
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Thanks for sharing..... Glad that all worked out ok to get you to a safe haven.

Fantastic service from the coast guard, or was that the lifeboat service?
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Old 26-08-2010, 03:57   #3
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2. the engine alarm.
.
Good thing you dropped the anchor. Nice recovery!

Well done getting it off the lee shore virtually unscathed

Our engine alarm in the cockpit goes off if it gets a good dose of water into its little grill. Its NOT the alarm, but the sea water connect (shorts?) something inside and it goes off till the sea water dries.
Its only happend twice to us but the first time sent me into a total spin.

I don't know if that was the problem.

Loosing the rudder must have been scarey... as well as the looming beach!


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Old 26-08-2010, 04:04   #4
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Yikes, I feel your pain, brother. We were out in that too, and it was challenging in our heavy seagoing 54-footer. I can't imagine what it was like in a 31' cat. We had green water on deck a couple of times and the bow buried in the backs of waves a couple of times -- and we have a couple meters of freeboard at the bow. We saw definitely five or six meter steep breaking seas around Portland Bill -- not weather for a small catamaran, that's for sure.

We sailed out of Bridport in Lyme Bay on that day on a close reach, sailing on staysail and deeply reefed main alone, with the yankee jib furled. It was hard going and slow, 6 to 6.5 knots despite the power in the wind. We rounded Portland Bill and headed downwind towards Anvil Point. The sea state was awful around the Bill, but once clear of that we had a very enjoyable sail, running before the gale at 10 to 12 knots, seeing 13 at one point, surfing on the big waves. Sail handling was pretty easy as we were on a dead run using only our yankee jib, deeply reefed, other than having to gybe a couple of times. Rounding Anvil Point we headed up again to head into Poole, and it was hard sailing then in 40 knots of wind, but Poole Bay is sheltered from the West so the sea state was much easier, just white horses and a lot of spray. The waves were breaking even in Poole Harbour itself and docking up in the Town Quay was -- interesting -- in that wind.

For whatever it's worth, it's important to remember that every boat will lose its ability to go upwind after a certain wind force and sea state. This will occur much later on a boat with good storm sails which keep their shape at the small area required in high winds. This will occur much earlier in catamarans and in boats without storm sails and/or sails that reef down well. You lose pointing ability and ironically speed. The boat will sail well only running off or on a broad reach. So lee shores suddenly become terrifying and sea room means life. In your position I would probably have been motoring earlier if I could not find shelter down wind somewhere. I would not have tried to make shelter upwind and under sail. But of course, this is pure armchair second-guessing; I wasn't there with you.

Another thing: Windguru and XCWeather and all the other weather sources seem to very consistently underforecast the wind by one wind force, sometimes two. This is often a good thing. But if they are forecasting 35 knots, watch out! You'll see 45 for sure!

And one more thing: whatever one thinks about chart plotters as crutches and so forth, it is just such conditions -- where you are desperate to find the entrance to a harbour and in conditions where it is so easy to get completely disoriented -- where a chart plotter at the helm can save your life. This can also substitute data from your sounder if that goes haywire, helping you avoid a grounding in such circumstances.
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Old 26-08-2010, 04:20   #5
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In the flying world we call it "pressonitis" a peculiar disease that makes pilots "press-on" and try to make progress when they should land or turn back. I've suffered from it myself by becoming too focused on achieving my original goal and not realising that circumstances have changed enough to invalidate my goal. In my case it resulted in a safe landing but a severe telling off from the duty instructor, so I was lucky.

"Eleven" - I'm not criticising what you did because I've already been there in aviation and I'm sure that I'll do it again when I'm on the sea. One day it will be my turn again, but I think the key to this is the thought processes of the person involved. Why did you not consider dopping the anchor earlier or just pulling in and saying "I'll wait this out and see if it worsens"?

I'm glad that you and your boat are relatively unscathed and I think it is great that you posted this story here. Thank you for sharing it.
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Old 26-08-2010, 04:25   #6
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Thats our home play area too. On a nice sunny day in calm conditions the Witterings to Selsey area provides us with an area for novice divers to practise in without being able to get into trouble with strong tides or deep water.

In strong SW conditions are the exact opposite. A large area of shallow water (someone waded out to you) which will quickly build steep waves and pound the hard sand and gravel beach and indeed that whole coast line is under threat of return to the sea despite the local council constantly trying to maintain it. To the north the sand banks of Chichester harbour are a trap for the unwary if the channel is missed and the South a series of shallow gravel and rock banks that extent south for many miles with only the Looe channel consisting of a series of dog legs and small bouys to guide you through. Definately not a good place to be as I am sure you were aware.

Your actions to stay north West of Selsey Bill and the rocks probably saved the boat from certain destruction because the lifeboat wouldn't have been able to get to you. In calm conditions we have been across those rocks in a rib with the engine tilted up travelling very slowly and needed a very sharp lookout, just as you would travelling through a coral reef in exotic locations.

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Old 26-08-2010, 04:45   #7
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You did well to save the boat so there will be no armchair 20/20 hindsight from me. I was crossing the western approaches that day and by the time we had an updated weather forecast it was shorter distance to press on the Plymouth. Not one of my favorite days at sea I'm pleased you both were OK and the damage was minimal. Bet you're glad that we have the RNLI.

P.

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All you UK sailors reading this, please don't forget to add what you can afford whenever you see the RNLI collecting or perhaps consider a regular donation via your bank account.
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Old 26-08-2010, 06:09   #8
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"Bet you're glad that we have the RNLI."

Fishwife:

One of the English based boats in my boating association was demasted. RNLI showed up two fellows came on board cut away the rigging and then towed the mast into port instead of letting it drop to the sea floor. I doubt the U.S. Coast Guard would do that. Fine chaps involved in that service.
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Old 26-08-2010, 06:16   #9
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Snip... Fine chaps involved in that service.
An every one of them an unpaid volunteer. Brave men and women who not infrequently give their lives.

P.
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Old 26-08-2010, 09:31   #10
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All you UK sailors reading this, please don't forget to add what you can afford whenever you see the RNLI collecting or perhaps consider a regular donation via your bank account.
Two charities I ALWAYS donate to .... RNLI and I always get a poppy or two every November.
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Old 26-08-2010, 09:36   #11
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Glad you were able to get off with such a relatively small amount of damage, given the weather conditions you face. Those Prouts must be tough little boats!
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Old 26-08-2010, 13:33   #12
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Warm, fed, and still aching.

Just back from a clean up operation. The engine fired up straight away, like it never gave us any trouble at all, no alarms so I go with the wet intake theory.
The gear cable failed to work properly, and the rudder missing means a lift out, remove the remaining unit and use as a master to mould a replacement.
Drive is otherwise OK, using a cord for reverse and a boat hook for forwards we drove her into the dock area. Three hours sweeping the floors, and she looks no worse for the experience.
Pressonitis maybe, it only got bad after I'd made the decision, and with motoring to assist we should have made it in OK. The alternative to go around Selsey Bill, with rocks, worse seas, and no respite, or charts was really not on. I don't know if the boat would have survived the pounding while the tide came in, or if both anchors would have held. We were personally safe by turning in land, a short wet trip to the beach if required but no real danger. I'm not sure how we'd have got off without repairs to the engine but the winds dropped to 15kts after 8pm, and high tide about 11pm. A good chance of working forward with the two anchors, and attaching a more positive gear selector when things calmed down a bit.
Lying on the solid bridge deck, very wet, but in no danger of being swept away was OK, and a safe crawling passage back to the cockpit between rails and cabin when I was ready. Trampolines? No thanks. Forward masts, no way. Genoa, staysail and main were all dropped from the cabin, just the stay to bag and make secure and the anchor(s) to deploy. If it wasn't necessary to deploy the anchors I wouldn't have got out of the cockpit.
If it wasn't a cat we wouldn't have been bouncing fairly flat on strong long keels, built to take beaching (maybe not in those conditions).
I've said before, these old Prouts are better than most/all sailors.
I made three mistakes:
1. My forecast of steady weather for the week was wrong, it's been calmer every day since.
2. I failed to raise the drive leg when drive failed, too busy looking forward and taking the helm to squeeze everything I could out of her. That extra drag added to our leeway, but that would have taken us onto groynes and a landing stage. I would have had to abort and drop anchor before we reached them.
Sailing past a wind surfer, standing waist deep in the water, who kept telling us it was 'very shallow' as we sailed past him was an odd experience!
But we've still got ourselves, minor bruises, and the boat and rig all intact. Just the rudder to pay for, hopefully on Insurance, and the drive to get professionally sorted and thoroughly tested.
Yes I do regret not going to the Folly Inn, Cowes for the evening.
And I should have Googled that coastline in road map and terrain format, the ocean charts show a lot of mud which obscures the fact that we could have got into Hayling Island quite easily before the tide went right out.
Oh, and 3. I should have researched that coast line properly.

Hand held GPS is a very good investment. I'd add hand held radio as talking was impossible from bow to stern.

RNLI will receive 10 per cent of the sale price when sold, hopefully around three thousand pounds. Always There. Bless them.
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Old 26-08-2010, 13:58   #13
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You saved your boat and crew -- that's the main thing and it's a great result.
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Old 26-08-2010, 14:27   #14
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You saved your boat and crew -- that's the main thing and it's a great result.
I agree.

Eleven's story and subsequent posting confirms a little pet theory of mine. Namely, that regardless of the method of transport accidents/incidents usually have multiple causes.

In the world of aviation any incident is analysed to bits and over the years a pattern has emerged. One thing going wrong is not too bad, even two things can work against you without effect, but if three or four things work against you in succession then you are in trouble. I have long believed that this is true of other forms of transport too and Eleven's story firms up my prejudices in this matter.

Eleven - I hope that the rest of your boating issues get easily and speedily resolved.
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Old 26-08-2010, 14:34   #15
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Eleven, I just can't believe it! I'm glad you made it out ok. It reminded me of an old post I'd read. Here it is.

There are several other ways to get in a jam. Remember the boat that had a jammed rudder, mid-atlantic. Being prepared is a matter of thinking things through in the calm, like now, so you have more options in your mind when it goes wrong AND the right equipment to deal with most things. Lines under the boat, checking the liferaft is actually tied to the boat, keeping the fore hatches latched/locked shut so you don't loose everything in them when the boat goes roly-poly. Cushions in the cockpit that wont block the nice big drains.
Thinking about the things that can go wrong helps.
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