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
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
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.