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Old 06-04-2022, 11:15   #1
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Cautionary Tale

I liveaboard my sailboat in Southern California.

We have a guy on our dock (Let's call him "Bill") who is an inexperienced sailor, but thinks he is an expert because he's read a lot of sailing books.

A friend of his bought a new-to-him 35 ft Hunter and wanted to move it to the San Francisco Bay area. "Bill" told his friend that he would captain the boat and his friend (totally inexperienced) could be crew.

"Bill" planned to leave at the end of March / beginning of April to take the boat from SoCal to SF. When he told me his plans (I've done the trip 15 times delivering both power and sailboats) I cautioned him, because it can be really rough this time of year. He dismissed my advice, saying "It's a sailboat, if we get high winds we'll just be able at hull speed."

The weekend came when he planned to leave. I saw him on the dock and asked him when he was leaving. He said Sunday at midnight. I asked how the Marine Forecast looked. He replied that he hadn't checked it yet.

I went back to my boat and checked the Marine Forecast. Their prediction: Winds 20 to 25 out of the South / Southeast for 48 hours, then turning Northwest at 25 to 35 with big seas.

Concerned, I went back down to discuss the forecast with him. I told him that if he left that night, he would have 48 hours of favorable winds to take him up the coast, and then he could tuck in at one of the harbors to wait out the unfavorable weather. He again stated, "It's a sailboat. We will just sail through it." I asked him if he had a bailout plan and he didn't know what that was. I also told him that if he's going through the Santa Barbara Channel to remember he could tuck into Cojo anchorage to wait out the weather. To this he said, "We are heading straight west until we are past the tip of San Miguel Island and then turning North."

Seeing that myself and several other experienced sailors - a delivery captain and a sailmaker, were not going to persuade him to postpone the trip until the weather was more favorable, I left him to his tasks.

Sunday at midnight they left the harbor. I got the report on what happened from his friend who he called.

Him and his friend got 40 miles out and then the engine packed it in spewing a volume of white smoke. They called BoatUS to get a tow, but because the owner had not purchased towing insurance, BoatUS wanted to charge them $10,000. They declined and eventually called the Coast Guard, who sent out a rescue helicopter to take them off the boat. The boat was abandoned.

From a short video clip of the rescue, the wind and seas were no way bad enough that you couldn't have sailed back.

Through inexperience and arrogance "Bill" put the lives of himself, his crew and the Coast Guard personnel in danger.

Don't let this be you...

https://twitter.com/i/status/1509692218012962816
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Old 06-04-2022, 11:41   #2
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Re: Cautionary Tale

So know-it-all amateur captain Bill is responsible instead of clueless skipper/owner?

Ask a California maritime lawyer, but I thought the onboard owner and the vessel itself become legally liable for its conduct in the absence of a compensated captain.

Seems clueless skipper/owner is the one who ultimately lost his boat and paid the price. Can clueless skipper/owner sue know-it-all amateur captain Bill.

Why were they motoring in 20-25 knots of following wind?

Beyond a certain minimal amount of experience, I suspect general intelligence and problem-solving ability might be more important on a boat than either extensive book learning or experience alone. Seems to be a huge deficit in all areas this particular scenario.

Glad they both survived their ordeal...
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Old 06-04-2022, 12:02   #3
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Re: Cautionary Tale

You did your best, but sometimes people just have to learn from experience. Maybe Bill can write a book about it.
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Old 06-04-2022, 12:07   #4
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Re: Cautionary Tale

They sound like idiots, but that also sounds like an insurance scam. Reef the sails and point it in the right direction. Even 35kts and "big seas" can be ridden out.
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Old 06-04-2022, 13:34   #5
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Re: Cautionary Tale

I bet the boat is afloat drifting somewhere waiting for salvage. What are the currents speed/direction there like?
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Old 06-04-2022, 14:45   #6
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Re: Cautionary Tale

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailor Sailor View Post
So know-it-all amateur captain Bill is responsible instead of clueless skipper/owner?

Ask a California maritime lawyer, but I thought the onboard owner and the vessel itself become legally liable for its conduct in the absence of a compensated captain.

Seems clueless skipper/owner is the one who ultimately lost his boat and paid the price. Can clueless skipper/owner sue know-it-all amateur captain Bill.

Why were they motoring in 20-25 knots of following wind?

Beyond a certain minimal amount of experience, I suspect general intelligence and problem-solving ability might be more important on a boat than either extensive book learning or experience alone. Seems to be a huge deficit in all areas this particular scenario.

Glad they both survived their ordeal...


I don't know if "Bill" was paid or not. However, if you are inexperienced and buying your first sailboat and a friend professes to have tons of experience and seems to be an expert, I don't think it's on the owner. What Bill did was basically fraud and the owner lost his boat, and could have possibly lost his life because he relied on a friend to be honest.
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Old 06-04-2022, 15:34   #7
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Re: Cautionary Tale

OP, did you consider passing your experienced advice directly to the owner? That seems to me (monday morning advice) to have been a reasonable path given your concerns.

It is an awkward position to be in, but could have saved the boat.

Jim
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Old 06-04-2022, 23:44   #8
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Re: Cautionary Tale

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OP, did you consider passing your experienced advice directly to the owner? That seems to me (monday morning advice) to have been a reasonable path given your concerns.

It is an awkward position to be in, but could have saved the boat.

Jim
I never met the owner. He showed up just in time to take off.
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Old 06-04-2022, 23:58   #9
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Re: Cautionary Tale

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailscubasurf View Post
I never met the owner. He showed up just in time to take off.
Ohhh... what could possibly go wrong? A voyage doomed by a combination of inexperience and overconfidence. Glad they survived.

Jim
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Old 07-04-2022, 04:53   #10
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Re: Cautionary Tale

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailscubasurf View Post
I don't know if "Bill" was paid or not. However, if you are inexperienced and buying your first sailboat and a friend professes to have tons of experience and seems to be an expert, I don't think it's on the owner. What Bill did was basically fraud and the owner lost his boat, and could have possibly lost his life because he relied on a friend to be honest.
What is required is due diligence in the real world. You do not naively accept whatever someone tells you, especially about himself. You question the basis or foundation for that assertion and his claimed expertise. That is expected in the business world to avoid liability.

Obviously, the owner exercised poor judgment, on multiple fronts, at the cost of his boat. As another poster noted, live and learn. That was likely an expensive lesson. I don't particularly blame the dockside poser, unless this was a professional transaction.

On the other hand, a bad incident can happen to anyone out there. There seem to be a lot of posters on this forum who want to jump right out there, without much experience and don't appreciate the dangers of sailing offshore or even coastal hopping. The idea of slowly, thoroughly, and methodically learning how to do something properly is apparently not very appealing nowadays.
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Old 07-04-2022, 05:59   #11
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Re: Cautionary Tale

in the end there were 2 idiots working together. What could have gone wrong

I will say it takes a few real bad trip decisions for some to learn that there is no shame in changing your mind and not leaving on one. Schedules be damn!
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Old 07-04-2022, 06:52   #12
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Re: Cautionary Tale

These are the people who bring problems to us all. Its a good thing that they dont always come back.
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Old 07-04-2022, 10:34   #13
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Re: Cautionary Tale

It would be good to hear the story from those on board and determine if there are lessons to be learnt.

People help others out with their boats all the time. There are many unanswered questions, the most obvious being why do people with little or no experience buy expensive yachts when it is so easy to buy a little cheapy and learn to sail? Why wasn't a professional Skipper hired?

From the very short video of the yacht itself it looked to be in fine shape. The head sail was furled and the main loosely packed and tied on the boom. So why didn't they just sail? OP said a 35 foot Hunter and it looked to be a reasonably decent yacht, no obvious signs she was sinking or damaged, but the video is short and only shows a couple of angles.

But I don't think it fair to pass judgement from afar, especially from the comfort of my warm, safe and dry keyboard.
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