My name is Captain
Don Quackenbush. I singlehand aboard HERMES a Pearson
Here is a brief rundown of what I know:
John and I were anchored together at Lake Worth
for a few weeks and supposed to leave for the Bahamas 23rd of Dec.
On the 21st he was trying out his new dinghy motor
and flipped his dinghy
completely over throwing him and Dingo into the water. Dingo of course panicked and kept trying to climb on top of John and I barely saved him from drowning. He was too weak to crawl back in his or my dinghy, so I ended up towing him to a nearby dock
and he used the ladder to crawl into his dinghy. He came by my boat later and stated " I think I am getting too old for this and this may have to be my last year of cruising." He was weakened by a plane crash he survived several years earlier and was concerned that he didn't have the strength to get out of the water once he went over the side.
When I prepared for leaving the next day he hesitated and didn't move to the South anchorage with me. He told me to keep him posted if I actually left and he would let me know if he was coming or would wait and cross with the next group. (there were a lot of cruisers waiting for a weather
window for a crossing) As I was leaving I called him on the radio
again. He said he was staying in Florida
for maybe a few more weeks and would meet up with me in the Bahamas. Probably at Green Turtle or Marsh Harbor.
I sailed for the Bahamas with several other boats that night. The wind
was on the nose enough that we had to motor
or motorsail all the way. Without an engine
it would have been very tough. The current
from the Gulf stream
this year seemed especially wider and stronger than usual. All our crossings took longer than we anticipated.
Once in the Bahamas I called Joy B every few days to see if John had come across yet. I never had an answer.
On December 30 his boat was spotted anchored right at the edge of the Bahama Bank near Memory Rock way out of sight of land. He must have crossed within a week after I did in basically the same weather
. Three boats saw his boat in the distance as they came across, but did not check on it. On January 19 someone from BASRA (Bahama Coast Guard) finally went out to check on it.
He was properly anchored. His dog was aboard, almost dead from lack of food
and water. His boat was wide open, his boarding ladder was down and his side gate was open, but his dinghy was still in its davits
and John was nowhere to be found. My guess is that he caught something on his prop again. The wind
was on the nose enough that we all had to motor or motorsail to get across the Gulf Stream
during that time. He probably limped just onto the bank, well North of our usual entry, dropped anchor
in 12 feet of water, and went over the side to see if he could fix it.
That is a horrible place for big sharks and lots of current
. Either way, he never made it back aboard. That was almost a month ago.
Anyway. Pretty horrible stuff for single
handed sailors to hear. He should have called for help on his radio
, but he was very strong minded and told me that he had cleared his prop of a line just that year in South Carolina without problems. There were several sailors going by within a few miles of him. He at least should have tied a line to himself when he went over the side.
There was no foul play. Such a suggestion is ridiculous.
As singlehanders we always face the issue of going over the side in a remote location and need to take stringent precautions when at sea and at anchor
. Especially in an area of such current and sharks (so close to the open Ocean).
I sailed with John for the past three years, he introduced me to the Bahamas. We would routinely leap-frog each other and sometimes not see each other for a month or so. But then we would spend a month or so cruising together. He stayed at my marina in NY for a few weeks this past summer on his way North and we leap-frogged each other South to Lake Worth.
He was a crusty old curmudgeon and I will miss him.
He was a sailor.