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Old 28-03-2021, 08:20   #1
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A case against crayfish cages

A brush with death:
A case againt lobster cages.

It is 17 March 2021.
Sailing an 8 hours stint westerly from St.Johns to Puerto Rico to keep ahead of the 30kt eaterly winds and 9-12ft NE swells predicted for the Thursday and the Friday en route.

All went well but passing St.Thomas the next day's forecast met us prematurely.

I Decided to sail south of Vieques to use the island as guard agsinst and keep the high NE swells to a minimum and the easterly wind aft ship on our 44ft FP Catamaran.

Swells turned westerly behind Vieques so we then had a good powersail amidts 30kt winds; and for the first time I was riding waves with our Catamaran at 8-14kts. Fun.

Viz dropped to 2miles and I found myself shouldering the coast for comfort.

Two-thirds through our route, we jumped to alert when the first bobbing bouyes of crayfish (or lobster or crap ) cages appeared and disappeared under the big swells.

Around 50ft depths and nearing towns such as Esperanza, yes this phenomenon is to be expected. So I decided it is time to head out to deeper waters, because the cages are deemed to be less frequent at the deeper depths.

Naturally, sailing South, we were getting our waves at port broad side now, but rather that for a while then running danger of propeller fouling.

The two crew lookout at PS and SB side, gave commands to "turn port turn starboard" to miss cages and buoys visible only when we are on top of waves as the buoys appear in the lulls and disappear behind the waves.

Reaching +100ft deep waters, safe we should be.

Our path continues deeper into the sea, and yet it perilously increased our risk of fouling, as the buoys were now stretched from east to west in the strong current whilst we are heading south at 3-5kts to avoid the minefield.

Then "boom", the next wave revealed a buoy on SB bow. Swerving SB would endanger port side propeller and turning PS would only expand on the angle of impact. I pulled both propellers in neutral and hoped the ropes will pass under the propeller unhindered.

Then the sharp jolt to SB confirms my fear, the propeller did not stop in time.

My wave-riding game, became my wave-nightmare. With the yacht now constricted in, was anchored to the cage rope. The waves precariously rose, rolled and then slam against the stationary sugar scoop of the boat.
Time was little. Whk knows what could happen next. Port throttle steer did not assist us as it would not steer us left away from land, but caused us spinning on own axes, irrespective of the helm's angle.

I made the only decision I thought appropriate, yet life threatening, to jump over board with a lifeline to cut free the cage rope.

With me being 6'4" tall, I could stand in the water on the cage rope, which was strung as tight as a harp's string.

In my left hand I had the lifeline and the other end of the bouyed rope. In my right hand a 40cm butcher's knife to reach under water.

I tried to paddle with one hand clenching a very sharp knife. This I had to do, whilst trying see where the rope caught.
In all of this a 10ton vessel bobbed up and down on me. My blue coloured yacht which is my joy, now became a blue wall threatening to make an end to me.
Fear of the deep and dark, almost black sea under me, had no nice thoughts for me at that moment anymore.

Within seconds, I had to fight off the lifeline that the current kept on drifting on to me. It kept entangling my left arm and legs.

I don't want to dramatize the already life threatening scenario, but grasp this: I am holding on the one end of the cage rope, and as the boat rises on the current and then slams back into the water, it pulls me down with it.

In this drama I saw the rope caught through the top of the rudder and one turn in the propeller/shaft spleen. No change of getting that out off there in this extreme bobbing conditions.

Grasping for air, the next phase in which I was pulled down, the stiff rope to the cage was cut loose, thankfully, in a single cut.

The other 'loose' end through the propeller and back over the rudder would not budge. It is trapped in the gap behind it.
I was growing tired , paddling, catching breaths, fending off the boat, fending off the tangling lifeline. Working around the propeller with an idling engine (here the armchair commentators' comments will abound), but fears of an accidental engaging engine rushes through my thoughts. (The rhetorical question was:Should I or shouldn't I have shut the engine/s off), but now in the water I can only rely on previous 'safety' talks, that the accidental engagement will not happen. Both ways, I had not the breath to shout any instructions.

Cutting the first sneered line, happened relatively easy. Cutting a slack 10mm rope hopping in 9ft waves, not so easy.

Thoughts of death dances around me constantly, yet I am trying to stay calm for my wife's sake.

Then the rope is cut flush with the shaft and the buoy pops to the surface and carried away by the wind and the current before I could even think of securing it. (That is now someone else's problem for another day).

Lifeline in one hand, knife on the other, I made my way to the sugar scoop and ask my wife to help me back in the boat. I had no power left to pull myself up back in the boat and I was still dealing with the waves hitting the boat and pushing me against the vessel. ( which I guess was better than a current that could have dragging me off away from the boat).

The ordeal was over.

I am alive and lived to share my experience.

I now beg that changes come where these bouys are fitted with 3'-5' luminescent cones, making them more visible, day and night. Maybe bigger visibility will assist in avoiding them.
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Old 28-03-2021, 08:54   #2
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

Under no circumstance would I have entered the water in nine foot seas. The chance of being incapacitated by the heaving hull and its appendages is too great. You are lucky to be alive.
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Old 28-03-2021, 09:37   #3
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

Get ready for the armchair admirals to show up and tell you what you “should have done”. Sometimes you only have bad options, and have to put yourself in danger to solve a dangerous problem.
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Old 28-03-2021, 09:44   #4
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

Why were you motoring in those winds?
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Old 28-03-2021, 09:47   #5
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

I understand and hear the OPs pain etc. as i have been to Maine. Where they drop pots in the middle of the channel, in marinas, in anchorage and mooring fields. If you anchor and went to sleep last night and there were no pots around you, trust me someone with fix that in middle of night.
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Old 28-03-2021, 10:53   #6
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerrit Coetzee View Post
A brush with death:

Then "boom", the next wave revealed a buoy on SB bow. Swerving SB would endanger port side propeller and turning PS would only expand on the angle of impact. I pulled both propellers in neutral and hoped the ropes will pass under the propeller unhindered.

Of course if you are making way through the water, putting the engine in neutral does NOT, and never will, stop the propeller from turning. A common mistake.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerrit Coetzee View Post
I now beg that changes come where these bouys are fitted with 3'-5' luminescent cones, making them more visible, day and night. Maybe bigger visibility will assist in avoiding them.
That is a very selfish solution that you propose to solve YOUR problem. Every fisherman needs to spend thousands of dollars, when for $600 or $800 you could have line cutters on each propeller and avoid the issue. Or just sail the boat in areas of risk. This is a sailboat, right?

We sail (NOT motor) through fields of pots all the time. We avoid them when we can, but with our prop tucked behind the keel and locked in place, and a skeg hung rudder with no "line catchin" gaps, if we miss one, it just slides by. We have a line cutter on the prop "just in case" and, as far as we know, have never put it to test.
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Old 28-03-2021, 11:11   #7
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

I’ve always wondered if I should carry one of these:
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No sarcasm intended.

I’ve hooked pots on props more than once.
Sometimes a tiny bump of reverse a fraction at a time gets you unwound.
Sometimes I’ve had to go in and cut. Not fun at all.
And once I was able to get the line aboard with my boat hook and deal with it there.
That time I got the buoy end aboard as well so cut both and tied them together.
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Old 28-03-2021, 11:46   #8
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

May help / Len https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...ts-223111.html




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Old 29-03-2021, 08:54   #9
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

Being the adventuresome type, I too have gone overboard to check out a line fouled prop from time to time, but doubt that I would have tried in 9 foot seas. Dragging a lobster trap might have caused more damage to your saildrive had you continued on. Sometimes a burst of reverse will unwind the fouled line. Then, again it could have further fouled it. if you had been adrift or still underway you might have made it to the more protected bay at Esperanza where you could have dropped anchor and then gone over to cut the line loose. I'm guessing you didn't have that option at the time?
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Old 29-03-2021, 09:04   #10
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...ife-95211.html

We used our hook knife. To avoid getting into water
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Old 29-03-2021, 09:05   #11
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

In spite of Covid19 the human race continues to grow and the appetite for crayfish. Give it time and crayfish will be on the endangered species list. Go Homo sapiens!
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Old 29-03-2021, 10:09   #12
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

Quote:
Originally Posted by BillKny View Post
That is a very selfish solution that you propose to solve YOUR problem. Every fisherman needs to spend thousands of dollars, when for $600 or $800 you could have line cutters on each propeller and avoid the issue. Or just sail the boat in areas of risk. This is a sailboat, right?
Nothing selfish about wanting to minimize fishermen putting out unmarked (or very poorly marked) hazards to navigation.

He has a motor sailor if you want to be pedantic about it but what difference does that make...is it OK to endanger motorboats?

To the OP: unfortunately this is a common issue and isn't likely to go away in our lifetime. Avoid it as best you can and maybe consider cutters on your prop.

This is one reason, we liked our outboard powered cat. While we were lucky and have never snagged one, we could raise the motor and by laying down on the back deck reach the prop without leaving the boat.
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Old 29-03-2021, 12:42   #13
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

I am very happy for you it was not nighttime.

In my Yanmar manual it notes the gear shifter should be in gear if the motor is off to keep the prop from spinning, not sure that would work for your vessel.

Glad your OK.
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Old 29-03-2021, 13:06   #14
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

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Originally Posted by ohthetrees View Post
Get ready for the armchair admirals to show up and tell you what you “should have done”. Sometimes you only have bad options, and have to put yourself in danger to solve a dangerous problem.
Thank you.

A friend of ours sunk his boat when he lost steer and waves filled his boat aft, in a very short time. That was my prevailing fear at that moment.
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Old 29-03-2021, 13:22   #15
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Re: A case against crayfish cages

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kd9truck View Post
I am very happy for you it was not nighttime.

In my Yanmar manual it notes the gear shifter should be in gear if the motor is off to keep the prop from spinning, not sure that would work for your vessel.

Glad your OK.
Thank you for the empathy. I was powersailing. Having had the shifter in gear would not have saved the day, as the bigger problem was the line caught in the rudder with buoys on both sides.
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