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Who's had a sailboat disaster?
Old 05-28-2009, 04:31 PM   #1
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Who's had a sailboat disaster?

Boats--particularly sailboats--can be one of the most addictive things on this planet, next to drugs, guns, computers and girls. It can be sooo painful when Ya-Just-Gotta-Get-A-Boat.

In my case, it was a 26' long steel 'sharpie,' built by a Famous Yacht Designer, near Newport News, Virginia. Now, at the time, I might just have been able to afford a used 12' wood skiff, with closet poles for mast, boom and sprit, and a bed-sheet for a sail. Ah, but noooo, I just-hadda-have a modern-materials recreation of an 1890's oystering sailcraft.

Said watercraft had no engine, and was propelled in a calm by pulling off one of the long floorboards, and using it as a sweep-oar. This resulted in a forward motion of about 1/4-knot, if the tide was running just right.

Said boat was moored about 45 miles away, up off Mobjack Bay (where I could afford the mooring ... free). I cannot describe--at least in any typewritten space--the number of dumbass stupid things I did.

However, this was cumulated by my being caught in a Chesapeake Bay squall. The best thing I can say about the wind speed that day was that the indicator-dial at the coast guard station registered 130 mph ... before the entire weather cupeloa was ripped off the building and never found again.

During said squall, I was blithly sailing with all my sails up, 150% over-canvassed. Shortly after, I viewed the bottom of my boat for the first time, after struggling out from under the mainsail. Then the hatches fell off, and it sank.

Obviously, I got it back up again (an epic tale in itself), and spent the rest of the sailing season scooping the black, stinking muck from off the bottom of the bay, out of the cabin.

I lost a wife (eventually), job, savings, friends, acquaintences and the respect of my father over this. I eventually had to sell it at a big loss, which cost me the friendship and respect of the Famous Boat Designer.

I now tour on a Suzuki Burgman maxi-scooter, named the Demon Duck of Doom, and try not to do anything as boneheaded ... I failed, of course, going too fast on a backwoods road, and busting 7 ribs, 8 weeks ago (at 67 years old). I'm mostly healed now ... and still married to DW. Sigh ...
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Old 05-28-2009, 07:00 PM   #2
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Old 05-28-2009, 07:44 PM   #3
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Yeesh, when I look at boats and golf, my hobbies seem downright tame. The extra fancy homebrewing rig I bought ran me $1500 and will likely last me 20+ years. So long as I stay away from the finished product while brewing, the chances of a serious mishap (e.g. setting myself on fire) are minimal. And the trailer was inexpensive enough that if I eventually push it off a cliff it will be less of a loss than an average day in the market in 2008.
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Old 05-28-2009, 09:07 PM   #4
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I had a 27' Helmes that I sold for a big loss also. I was paying about $200 a month in slip fees and sailing in the Mississippi River was not that great. I grounded her a couple of times but nothing exciting. I was out once in some heavy wind with my dad and a friend of his. His friend was concerned but in the river your never to far from shore. I still driver through the marina from time to time to look at the boats though.

Now I spend my time golfing.
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Old 05-28-2009, 09:43 PM   #5
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Sorry about the ribs. Scooters are lousy on dirt.

We had a little sail boat once, maybe 14-15 feet. Turtled it in Allouez bay and I mostly lost interest in sailing. My spouse also owned a bigger boat with a bunch of guys. Once they were out in a Lake Superior storm that was so bad that the dog was laying on the window hatches below. Makes me ill to think about it. They almost didn't make it back. But he didn't lose me over it. Eventually, he sold his share in the boat.
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Old 05-28-2009, 10:51 PM   #6
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Foolish youth and lousy old dry-rotted boat hull did us in! Boat turned over on the shakedown cruise (a 16 foot Hobie cat sailed off the beach)

The Coast Guard had to send up a helicopter to find us, after drifting for 5 hours. We were submerged to our chests sitting inside the pontoons (it was still upside down) 3 miles offshore in April. In a huge storm.

The reservist and city cop who came to pick us up in a speedboat won Coast Guardsman of the Year that year. Deserved it for plucking us out of the drink--still the coldest I've ever been in my life.

Nowadays, you have portable radios--I wouldn't leave shore without one and/or a newfangled PLB. When we cruised we carried a 406 EPIRB plus handheld VHF waterproof radios. Still scares me to think what could have happened that day to us and our two friends.
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Old 05-28-2009, 10:52 PM   #7
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Yeesh, when I look at boats and golf, my hobbies seem downright tame. The extra fancy homebrewing rig I bought ran me $1500 and will likely last me 20+ years. So long as I stay away from the finished product while brewing, the chances of a serious mishap (e.g. setting myself on fire) are minimal. And the trailer was inexpensive enough that if I eventually push it off a cliff it will be less of a loss than an average day in the market in 2008.

Boats are the gift that keeps on giving..
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Old 05-28-2009, 11:35 PM   #8
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My son was on the CMA sailing team in college, when he needs to refuel his psyche he takes a little daysailer out. We rented a sailboat out of Bellingham one summer, they wanted proof that we knew how to sail. I looked on the table and found the current copy of a sailing magizine with the team on the cover and said... this is our skipper. For myself, I sail in the galley and fret.

When he was in school one of his friends was out in a sail boat with fiance the weekend before their wedding, not wearing life jackets. A boom came about and knocked him overboard. Nuf said.

My grandson was struggling to say his first word this evening, "boat".
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Old 05-29-2009, 05:34 AM   #9
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No sailboat disaster. A long while back had a 27' Jersey Skiff, wood boat. One day in high winds and fairly good chop on the Hudson river, I felt the boat groan and bend, smashed the throttle to the max. The bilge pumps, three of them, came on, and I made a bee line for the marina at full throttle. The pumps held the Hudson at bay. Had her hauled out. Then trucked to my house.

Cut it up into firewood, the keelsons at the engine mounts were rotted to powder, kept house warm the entire winter. Someone stole the wood steering wheel. Still have the 2'x2' bronze rudder, barnacle covered and the two 75 gallon Monel gas tanks. Oh and the name plate -SeaFox.
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Old 05-29-2009, 07:43 AM   #10
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Does getting whacked in the head with the boom count?
The scene...east end of Lake Ontario.
The players...LH and I
The craft...34' Pearson sailboat, 1985 vintage
Conditions...Little or no wind, floating within sight of home marina, practicing storm reefing procedures and inspecting mainsail control lines.
The culprit...me. I was always in charge of the boom control lines. I loosened them a little to do an adjustment to the track pulleys. I was inspecting the lesser lines running the length of the boom for soundness. I finished and forgot to retighten the control line.
A slight wind picked up. I was standing on the cockpit seats, and heard a slight creak. I turned around and Mr. Boom was swinging right toward me. I ducked and got clipped on the top of the head. Talk about birdies and stars and knees buckling.
I was not knocked overboard TG.
We applied ice, I recited the alphabet and all sorts of things to check to see if I was OK. LH wanted to take me to the hospital but "I was OK".
Motored back into port, drove me home, and except for a killer headache and some swelling around a scalp dent/cut, I felt OK.
I went to see the doc the next day, who shone a light in my eyes and promptly sent me for a head scan.
Dx: Mild concussion
Rx: A very stern lecture at high volume from the doc about messing around with head injuries. Dr's note for a week off at home for rest and recoup.
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Nothing as drastic as sinking ...
Old 05-29-2009, 07:43 AM   #11
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Nothing as drastic as sinking ...

but scared DW and myself. We had just finished a sailing class. And being novices bought our first sailboat, a Ranger 22. It was set up for racing which we thought we might do sometime in the future. Went out with broker for shakedown, no problems. Next day as proud owners (and confident), we go out again, no radio, no weather reports, no problems . Winds kicked up to about 15 -20 knots, we had full sails (150% genoa and main) going downwind and broach. In a calm cool-headed manor sheer panic we end up turning the boat 360°, slamming the boom across the boat twice, luckily we didn't get hit. Finally get under some control, turn the boat into the wind, drop the genoa and try to drop the main. It had gotten pinched in spreaders and we can't get it down. Once again in a calm cool-headed manor, I start cussing like crazy at DW to do something as I am at the helm being captain. We finally got it down, motored quietly back to our marina. Packed up, went home, licked our wounds (apologized to DW) and went back the next weekend. Took a while to get our confidence back but we managed through it.
We ended up getting a bigger sailboat but sold it many years ago, too costly at the time. Keep dreaming of getting another sailboat when we retire in a couple of years. Maybe, just maybe....
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Old 05-29-2009, 09:30 AM   #12
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Great stories.

Had an original Hobie Cat 16 one time that I had bought used and cheap. Fun. I loved hauling *ss across the lake with young folks on the trapezes, blowing the hatches off any other sailboats and many power boats. Yeah.

Anyway, took my kids and nieces and nephews out one time in a stiff breeze. The boat started to act a little weird. I look down and one of the pontoons is separating from from the rest of the boat, little by little, where the spreader meets the fiberglass pontoon. The boat is literally tearing apart right before my eyes. Pressure on the sail is accelerating the separation.

I point out the separation to my son, and as a teachable moment, say "what do you think about that and what should we do about it?" I turn slowly around and limp back to our dock. The boat goes to the landfill that afternoon.

Nieces and nephews never knew anything was wrong, and son and I have a pact not to tell their mom.
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:58 PM   #13
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Growing up, my experiences with sailboats and family members usually ended with shouting, arguments, and hurt feelings. No one wanted to be bossed around and none of us knew enough to be the captain anyway. So we stopped sailing.

We switched to powerboats and found that worked a lot better. Then the only arguments were during docking procedures. Bought a nice 70s vintage 17' boston whaler, used it for several years, and then sold it for almost what we paid for it. Easy to trailer, not much to clean, low maintenance. That was a great boat.
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Old 05-29-2009, 03:08 PM   #14
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Lived aboard for ten years in seattle but started sailing in portland way back. One time while returning from a monthlong trip around vancouver island I tried to cross the columbia river bar but was late for the flood. Tried it anyway. Was doing pretty good the first few minutes till the ebb started really running. The west winds were about 30 knots against the ebb tide. Then a couple waves broke over the 30' freedom sailboat I was sailing and it was downhill from there. Fog blew in, rain poured. I could look up 12 feet into the waves as they were bearing down on us and could see porpoise in them having a great time. A pilot boat was sitting offshore and told us to come hide behind them until the last ship of the day came out. So we hung out out there for about another 8 hours and then ran the flood in. Scared hell out of my kids. But we all continued to sail.
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Old 05-29-2009, 05:20 PM   #15
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I have fairly new 33 footer, been a sailboat owner for 20 years now. I have had some rough days, but no disasters. And hundreds of days of adventure and beauty. But every year I realize even more how financially questionable owning a boat is, so this will probably be my last boat...
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Old 05-29-2009, 07:49 PM   #16
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Disclosure here: my son and his wife own a boat yard in the northwest.

A couple years ago he hauled out a sailboat for a customer who intended to sail around the world with his family. The boat was sound, no problem there. BUT is was a racing boat, not a cruiser suitable for a family. Now and then I wonder if his marriage survived.

Before buying a sailboat always assure that it fits your skills and intended use. The surveyor YOU hire before sealing the deal can save not only your pocket book, but your life.
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Old 05-30-2009, 07:13 AM   #17
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Great stories!

I can only dream of these disasters since I only have a 16' pontoon boat that never leaves the small lake behind my house. I did sink my first pontoon boat though
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Old 05-30-2009, 10:11 AM   #18
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Great stories!

I can only dream of these disasters since I only have a 16' pontoon boat that never leaves the small lake behind my house. I did sink my first pontoon boat though
If it makes you feel any better, you're the smarter between us (not having a bigger boat). A few quotes you may have heard:
  • The best two days of a boatowners life, the day he/she buys the boat and the day he/she sells the boat.
  • BOAT - an acronym for Break Out Another Thousand...
  • What's better than owning a boat, having a friend who owns a boat (much).
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Old 05-30-2009, 10:30 AM   #19
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Not sure if "disaster" is the right word, but as far as serious incidents, otherwise known as "Oh Sugar" incidents -- too many to count.
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Old 05-30-2009, 12:38 PM   #20
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Nothing to do with sailboats, but I was fishing Galveston bay years ago and saw two 18ft. fishing boats hit pretty much head on going wide open. That's a sight I'll never forget.
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