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Old 20-08-2019, 08:58   #1
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Key West sunset sail & storm

Last week we were in Key West on a land-based auto vacation (in other words, boat was left at home port and we were tourists.) We booked a sunset sail on a 63' wood schooner and eagerly awaited the experience. Little did we know it would be quite the experience.


The schooner had a crew of three. 22 guests, most with zero boating experience.



Prior to leaving the dock, the captain notified the guests that there were life jackets on board, below deck. Never did he say where, nor did he produce one, nor did he demonstrate how to wear one. During the entire (short) trip we never saw a life jacket, except later one passed forward to the 2nd mate but not donned. No mention was made of the life raft on deck, filled with stuff.


Shortly after leaving the dock I told the captain that radar indicated that a storm front was approaching, and would certainly hit us. No real acknowledgement. Within minutes and still within the protection of the harbor area full sail was hoisted.


Within ten minutes the skies went from wonderful Keys sun & cloud to dark. See attached photo I shot of another sailing vessel. It was quite clear- at least to me- that we were going to "get it."


When the first gust hit (25knots plus) this 63' boat heeled over and picked up speed such that the gunwhale was under water by six inches and water was rushing down the deck. Guests on the lee side were struggling to hold on.



The captain tried to hold it for a minute or so, but clearly there was way too much sail, not only comfort but control, all still quite close to land, islands, and shoals. He and the first mate let the main sheet out a small bit, but couldn't make it effective as the boom would then be near the heads of passengers remaining on the lee side.



The captain ordered the main down; I helped get it down. The rest of the passengers were holding on, some frightened.



Then he ordered the jib down. The jib, of course, didn't want to come down, so the mates went out on the sprit, sans life jackets, in 3' seas, 25knots of wind, and 25 degree heel. We were headed toward shore rather fast and rather out of control. The motor by that time was running, yet the captain made no attempt to turn upwind.


I went forward to help take down the jib and secure it. The first mate said it was secure, I said no it's not as it billowed out. So the second mate stayed out on the sprit as I passed forward ties and told him how to secure the sail so it wouldn't rise or billow anymore. He told me he'd now had two months experience on a sailboat. Guy had guts.


As we headed to dock (along with all other sailing and power tour boats) it started to pour. I went below, picked up all the cans, knives, kitchenware, etc that was on the sole, and told the female guests to get their purses below. Then I guided the passengers below, telling each to come down backwards and helping them. Dunno what the crew was doing.


After we docked it continued to pour. Two friends of the captain boarded and chatted with him. During the entire short trip, and even after docking, the captain made virtually no effort to engage the paying passengers. Very odd! Even when a good portion of the guests elected to stay below and enjoy the drinks and food the captain never engaged.


My wife was disappointed that she didn't get to see the sunset. I had a good time- as I told the guests, they may have missed a sunset, but they had an adventure to talk about! Still, in the back of my mind, I keep mulling over how poorly- and dangerously- the ship was run.


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Old 20-08-2019, 09:10   #2
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

That's nuts. I'd guess there was too much monthly rum in the licensed captain. Could be wrong-
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Old 20-08-2019, 09:26   #3
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

I will not comment on the obvious issues.


Some folks make fun of captains that do things by the book. ó- Glad I do.
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Old 20-08-2019, 09:37   #4
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

Summer-late afternoon-Florida= plan on the occasional ass kicking thunderstorm. Feel lucky it was only 25 knots. 60 knot gusts at the leading edge are not uncommon.
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Old 20-08-2019, 10:14   #5
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

in the charter business it is hard to turn down paying customers because of a possible thunderstorm .. probably a daily occurance in Key West. he probably had too much sail up to begin with.
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Old 20-08-2019, 10:37   #6
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

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Originally Posted by Snore View Post
Some folks make fun of captains that do things by the book. ó- Glad I do.
Hear, hear!
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Old 20-08-2019, 10:49   #7
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

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Originally Posted by gonesail View Post
in the charter business it is hard to turn down paying customers because of a possible thunderstorm .. probably a daily occurance in Key West. he probably had too much sail up to begin with.

Makes sense - he still kinda sounds like an idiot though. Just another day, another dollar.
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Old 20-08-2019, 10:58   #8
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Key West sunset sail & storm

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in the charter business it is hard to turn down paying customers because of a possible thunderstorm .. probably a daily occurance in Key West. he probably had too much sail up to begin with.


Remember the ďDuckĒ boats that sank, I believe unless Iím mistaken that there was significant pressure to take people out regardless of weather, cancel a ride and you lose income, cancel very many and you lose your business.
Itís a catch 22 and some professionals get caught in the middle, itís possible that the Capt didnít talk to passengers for fear that if asked he would say things that would get him fired, so he keeps quiet and doesnít have to answer questions truthfully.
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Old 20-08-2019, 11:04   #9
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

My brother is essentially a land lubber. He lives on a lake and enjoys his canoes, kayaks, sailboats and ski boat.

My father and I both spend large portions of time on the ocean. We're used to what 'weather' looks like.

My father recently took my brother out fishing. As my brother describes it they 'bashed' out past all the other fishing boats and kept heading out 'forever'. He seemed to indicate they were in the middle of nowhere. He describes Extrememly rough conditions, with 5 foot breaking waves and combers 'pouring' in over the gunnel. He, his wife and son were petrified.

When I discussed it with my father, his response was. "It was a nice day, conditions weren't bad. Oh sure it was a little rough I guess, but after all....we were still in sight of land the entire time"

The captain may not have considered the conditions or situation dire. After all, aside from a little discomfort and fear from landlubbers, was there actually a crisis??
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Old 20-08-2019, 11:14   #10
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

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Originally Posted by Shrew View Post
My brother is essentially a land lubber. He lives on a lake and enjoys his canoes, kayaks, sailboats and ski boat.

My father and I both spend large portions of time on the ocean. We're used to what 'weather' looks like.

My father recently took my brother out fishing. As my brother describes it they 'bashed' out past all the other fishing boats and kept heading out 'forever'. He seemed to indicate they were in the middle of nowhere. He describes Extrememly rough conditions, with 5 foot breaking waves and combers 'pouring' in over the gunnel. He, his wife and son were petrified.

When I discussed it with my father, his response was. "It was a nice day, conditions weren't bad. Oh sure it was a little rough I guess, but after all....we were still in sight of land the entire time"

The captain may not have considered the conditions or situation dire. After all, aside from a little discomfort and fear from landlubbers, was there actually a crisis??
In a large portion of disasters resulting in lost vessels or lost lives, the overly confident captain had no idea there was a crisis until it was too late, ignoring signs somebody more experience would have recognized. Ironically in some cases, somebody with less experience could recognize it.

When confidence and experience are out of balance, it can be a deadly combination.
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Old 20-08-2019, 11:15   #11
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

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In a large portion of disasters resulting in lost vessels or lost lives, the overly confident captain had no idea there was a crisis until it was too late, ignoring signs somebody more experience would have recognized. Ironically in some cases, somebody with less experience could recognize it.

When confidence and experience are out of balance, it can be a deadly combination.
I agree, but I think you missed my point.......entirely.
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Old 20-08-2019, 11:40   #12
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

Which boat was it? They're fun to watch while at anchor. Sometimes they charge right past you. The green one sailed to Cuba a while back, it must be well run.
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Old 20-08-2019, 11:52   #13
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

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I agree, but I think you missed my point.......entirely.
Could your point be summed up with "inexperienced people may think a situation is scary and dangerous when it wasnt?"

If so, I didnt miss that.
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Old 20-08-2019, 12:24   #14
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

Iím pretty sure we went on that same boat in KW a few years ago. It only had a captain and mate on that trip and one girl serving drinks (the mate helped with that). The mate told me he had been working there a week, and had only sailed small boats. We had great weather, but I didnít have much faith in the crew myself at the time and I never really relaxed.
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Old 20-08-2019, 13:16   #15
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Re: Key West sunset sail & storm

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Could your point be summed up with "inexperienced people may think a situation is scary and dangerous when it wasnt?"

If so, I didnt miss that.
The only alternative would be that the USCG Master Licensed captain in charge of a 63 foot sailing vessel in an area known for pop-up storms got in over his head.

Being scared doesn't mean being in danger. An not being scared doesn't make you oblivious to danger either.
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