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Old 23-10-2020, 14:00   #1
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How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

Hi all. I am interested in any data or peoples personal experiences hitting whales while on passage or steaming in powered vessels. What speed were you travelling at? What type of damage did you sustain to what type of vessel? There is several studies on line regarding survivability of whales after strikes but I believe they are also more related to coastal shipping, not smaller vessels.
My job requires I regularly continue travelling up the coast at night to reach a port and we have a seasonal whale migration in this area. My practice is to slow from 17kts to 10 kts after I lose visibility of the water 100m ahead. If the whales were mostly betwen shore and the 3 mile line (for example), I would stay at least 5-10 mile out after dark. My hope is that any strike will also be roughly parralelle to the direction whales are swimming and therefore a glancing strike rather than the 90 degree t-bone I see in my nightmares. At some point I must travel inshore again though...There are many commercial fishing boats here that travel at night also, and they tend not to travel faster than about 12kts, so I figure I am in the ballpark of some kind of industry standard, but that speed is based on other factors rather than safety. I have spoken to trawler fishers and Tuna boat fishers. They have told me to not think about it and suggested I am the only person they know of who slows down. Is there any data out there about damage sustained following an unintended negative whale interaction? thank you all in advance!
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Old 23-10-2020, 14:14   #2
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

ask the crew of the ESSEX. Someone wrote a book about it and then there was H. Melville's too
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Old 23-10-2020, 15:06   #3
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How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

Most of us who do blue water, or even open water at night, have a good relationship with The Almighty. Once the sun goes down and unless the moon provides good light,
you are in His hands.

Is what it is
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Old 23-10-2020, 15:27   #4
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

This one went down in about a minute and a half. Good book to read actually.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dougal_Robertson
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Old 23-10-2020, 15:53   #5
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

There was a sailboat in the Pacific Mexico fleet that had a serious whale collision south of Cabo a few years ago. We were stopped by 2 fin whales in the northern sea of cortez for almost an hour in 2017. The swam along the boat a foot from the hull and under the rudder as we drifted with no wind and engine off. A totally awesome and frightening experience, lots of fin whales in the northern sea in the summer. Considering all the boats and all the miles sailed not much to worry about since problems are so rare.
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Old 23-10-2020, 16:11   #6
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

I agree with the others, I think there are more likely things to worry about. Having said that, we did collide with an 18' whale shark basking on the surface; I think they're actually a whale. We were sailing very slowly and t-boned it, it slowly circled us rubbing against the hull and staring up at us with a grapefruit sized eye, but then left apparently unhurt.

We never sail faster than 8 knots, I always assumed whales were more aware of us than we were of them and would avoid being hit.
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Old 23-10-2020, 17:30   #7
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomodore View Post
There was a sailboat in the Pacific Mexico fleet that had a serious whale collision south of Cabo a few years ago. We were stopped by 2 fin whales in the northern sea of cortez for almost an hour in 2017. The swam along the boat a foot from the hull and under the rudder as we drifted with no wind and engine off. A totally awesome and frightening experience, lots of fin whales in the northern sea in the summer. Considering all the boats and all the miles sailed not much to worry about since problems are so rare.
We've read that whales may be sleeping on the surface of the ocean, or at least partially sleeping. Astrid Frisch Jordan a Mexican biologist National University of Mexico and a leading whale expert confirmed that recently on a PV Sailing FB Live episode. So they may be lying across your path (a T-bone strike).

Yes it is rare. But is it a bad outcome for the whale and possibly for you. The faster you go the more damage to both parties. Noisy power boats seem more likely to alert the whales. Fast racing sailboats boats seem more likely to have really bad encounters (same with container strikes)

My friend Tim Morganroth, on his Baba 40 hit a whale at night on Vic-Maui. The whale thrashed about and left a lot of blood in the water. Tim's boat was undamaged.

I personally don't know a good solution to this problem and I'm hoping I don't kill a whale or or break my boat. But I guess I don't intend on slowing down; at 6-8 knots maybe it won't be a big wreck.

It's just "a hope".
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Old 23-10-2020, 18:49   #8
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

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...If the whales were mostly betwen shore and the 3 mile line (for example), I would stay at least 5-10 mile out after dark. ...

My understanding is it is not uncommon for North Atlantic right whales to be spotted 50 miles off the Atlantic coast from Virginia down below Cape Canaveral to Sebastian Inlet. This is a migratory path. There is critical habitat, designated on your chartplotter or chart, from the Altamaha River in Georgia down to Jacksonville, Florida that extends from 15NM offshore GA to 5NM off Florida.
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Old 23-10-2020, 19:07   #9
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

https://www.sailmagazine.com/cruisin...rescued-as-sea
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Old 24-10-2020, 08:52   #10
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

I added a automotive sub-woofer to my stereo.

Good whale deterrent and good tunes
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Old 24-10-2020, 09:50   #11
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

We were sailing a Hans Christian full speed, maybe 7-8 knots in Maine waters during the day. Someone had just checked the chart, there were no hazards shown or in sight. Suddenly the whole boat rolled what seemed like 70°. The whole world stopped from roll to righting. Actually no sign of a whale, but what else. There was no bang when we hit, more like a thud. No damage to the Hans Christian.
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Old 24-10-2020, 10:09   #12
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

when we know whales are around and we are sailing we put on some music. I have no evidence that it helps but it makes us feel more likely to let the whales we are in the neighborhood. We have spent a lot of time around whale sharks, the world’s biggest fish, and they don’t seemed oblivious to our boat. A couple of times we had to wait to anchor till they moved.
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Old 24-10-2020, 10:50   #13
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fourlyons View Post
I agree with the others, I think there are more likely things to worry about. Having said that, we did collide with an 18' whale shark basking on the surface; I think they're actually a whale.
Nope, whale sharks are actually sharks. As Tomodore commented, damned big fish.
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Old 24-10-2020, 11:11   #14
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

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Originally Posted by Tomodore View Post
There was a sailboat in the Pacific Mexico fleet that had a serious whale collision south of Cabo a few years ago. We were stopped by 2 fin whales in the northern sea of cortez for almost an hour in 2017. The swam along the boat a foot from the hull and under the rudder as we drifted with no wind and engine off. A totally awesome and frightening experience, lots of fin whales in the northern sea in the summer. Considering all the boats and all the miles sailed not much to worry about since problems are so rare.
I was sailing from the Marquesses to American Samoa and was awakened by water splashing. This was early in the AM and I was asleep on deck sailing solo. On my port were 6 whales with the largest of the group along side my hull. Earlier I had heard of a whale striking a sailors rudder and the boat sunk quickly. I didn't know what to do. Do I change course, start engine, put up more sail? I just stayed still and it seemed like the larger whale was protecting me from the smaller ones. After 3 or 4 hours they just drifted away. It was both beautiful and scary at the same time as I was in a 37' Nan Tai Cutter Rig.
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Old 24-10-2020, 11:26   #15
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Re: How much damage to vessel from whale strike?

I had an interesting encounter with a Pilot Whale off the east coast of Oahu a few years back. We were in a regatta with about a dozen other boats (and losing badly in our wooden Columbia 35 which was setup for cruising) when one of the girls shouted "look at the Dolphin" As I looked up, I quickly realized it was no Dolphin, but a yearling Pilot whale (about twice the size of any Dolphin) After a bit a much larger one appeared next to our boat and it had a little one tucked up right next to us, apparently using us as a shield against some predator - it's deep water out there and could have been anything from a Tiger Shark to a Great White which do occasionally transit those waters. The mother whale having fallen behind her pod was using the sailboats to cover her baby. While having a whale that close was disconcerting, we kept our cool and just maintained our course so as not to alarm her - this went on for about an hour with no collision occurring.

Whales are pretty smart and will know you're there especially under power - I wouldn't worry about it too much.
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