The Loss of Kelaerin

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Doug Lord, Jun 27, 2018.

  1. Doug Lord
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    Doug Lord Flight Ready

  2. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Though tragic, the story was amazing. And a tribute to the USCG rescue personnel.
     
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  3. Skyak
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    Skyak Senior Member

    It is good that these epic struggles for survival get published to bring some reality to the puff pieces and sunny pictures that dominate the ad supported media.

    I think there is something missing in the story. It comes across as "We did everything right but almost lost our lives...". My read is that they likely missed a major threat. When you are sailing into large and or building waves, check your course for major depth reductions. Even though you still have hundreds of feet of depth, if you sailed into that shallow with 20ft swells (from several thousand foot depth), they will become 50ft breakers seemingly out of nowhere. Rogue waves are real, but if you plot out all the places that cruising sailboats got rolled, you will find that they are mostly over significant depth changes.
     
  4. motorbike
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    motorbike Senior Member

    I thnk these guys were not prepared for the conditions. Their call but the boat was floating! A few things dont add up, all the crap thrown about including a scuba tank, even though they knew it was going to be very rough.
     
  5. JosephT
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    JosephT Senior Member

    Checking my charts. 180 nautical miles offshore in this area shows depths at 9,000 feet and beyond. In other words, they were not in a shallow area. With sustained high winds beyond 30+ knots you're basically transitioning from sailing to surfing a roller coaster. You'll need to work with those waves 24/7 with someone on the helm. Ideally a storm jib would be up to allow for better control so you can edge your way into calmer seas. If the wind is 50-60 knots, the surface area of the mast & boom are enough to get you there in a high speed downwind situation. I recall a fellow skipper telling me he sailed bare poles across the North Pacific for a few days straight.

    As for motorbike's comment on abandoning ship, from the report hypothermia was the main concern. She was treated for that back on base. With luck they were within coast guard range. If not, she might not have made it out of this event alive. The water temp in this area is typically quite cold.

    How could have this been prevented? By closing the companionway hatch. Why was it left open during heavy seas?

    Answer: Laziness

    It takes 3 seconds to slide it closed. Hindsight is 20/20.
     
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  6. tom28571
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    tom28571 Senior Member

    I hope those who have been critical of these sailors are as resourceful when at and beyond 70 years of age. While not perfect, their preparation and performance appears to be above average to me for two older people with injury, shock and hypothermia. Hypothermia can create plenty of problems that are not apparent from your couch. The sea has taken many many young athletic men in lesser circumstances where just plain luck plays a large part. Many of us have seen people go to pieces under far less stress than this.
     
  7. JosephT
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    JosephT Senior Member

    My heart certainly goes out to anyone in harms way and I’m very glad they were rescued.

    However, we really must be honest and address the root cause. Any skipper who leaves the companionway (or hatches) open in heavy seas is risking it all. That is the case here. In my opinion, this is the key lesson learned from this event.

    Beyond this, a drogue chute off the stern would have probably helped as well. That would have eased the workload on the helm.

    Age and physical strength are also a factor. If a crew is not physically strong enough to do battle with a storm far offshore, then sailing such distances should absolutely not be a consideration. Stick to coastal cruising with safe harbor in sight.

    Colorful write ups about unprepared sailors that do not address the real issues only invite trouble for others. Iseally, the USCG should be more direct in their constructive criticism of unprepared sailors.
     
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  8. tom28571
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    tom28571 Senior Member

    I take your point but think that, in this instance, the injury to the man and the hypothermia of the woman caused the USCG to insist that they be taken off the boat. That the helicopter was nearing the extreme end of its range and fuel supply made that decision imperative without time to make any further consideration. Ankle deep water in the cabin is not a real threat to either crew or the boat. The report seems to indicate that the major damage was due to storm wave action and not water that entered the boat through the hatch. For sure, hatches should always be closed in heavy weather though. If the crew were not so incapacitated, they could have more than likely survived and brought the boat home without assistance. Four bilge pumps were certainly enough to deal with the water but, since they were not adequately shielded from debris, they all blocked.

    Thinking about the rescues that have taken place off our local coast here around Cape Hatteras, I think these folk were much better prepared than most of them. A very high number of boats from which crew in distress is taken off continue to remain afloat long after the incident is over.
     
  9. JosephT
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    JosephT Senior Member

    Very good points tom28571. You also note two more additional points on lack of preparation:

    • Inadequate fowl weather gear
    • Objects in cabin not secured before a storm
    Both are basic requirements for offshore passages. Anyone who cuts corners on those may end up being a casualty. I would venture to say they could have easily ridden out this storm by tossing out a sea anchor or drogue chute. I recall another couple who did a fine job using theirs. Closely watch the video below. Notice how they proceed down wind in heavy following seas with relative ease. The usage of rope covered tires as both a drogue and fender system for docking is also ingenious. Two thumbs up for these two fine sailors.

     
  10. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    It was largely poor seamanship. She claims that "Our biggest mistake that we could have avoided was not putting all our important personal items in a ditch bag." The real mistakes were to have heavy items not lashed down properly, the companionway not closed in heavy weather, floor boards that could come loose in a rollover or even a knock-down and no manual bilge pump that could be operated when needed among the main ones. Also, the bilge pumps should be accessible to get them unclogged.
     
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  11. Remmlinger
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    Remmlinger engineer

    Whenever I got in trouble at sea, it was always because of lack of preparation or poor seamanship. JosephT and Gonzo have listed already the biggest mistakes that were made in this incident.
    I would like to add, that you do not keep tons of paperback books in open shelves, that become papier-maché and clogg the pumps when the ship rolls. I got this advice already as a teenager many years ago.
    The purpose of this critique is not to put down the crew of Kelaerin, nobody is perfect. Instead I see every accident as an opportunity to learn and to avoid mistakes in the future.
     
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  12. Kelaerin
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    Kelaerin New Member

    Thank you for your constructive criticism, I would like to add a few things to my wife's account. 1. Both companionway hatches were closed and the drop boards were in, the main cabin skylight hatch, which is a Lewmar ocean series 70 that had been closed and dogged since departing Honolulu, was ripped open and most of the water entered there. 2. The boat was under control, we were not being pooped or boarded by any seas, using a drogue or streaming warps to slow down may have resulted in less steerage and being pooped.
    I was not wearing foul weather gear because I was not getting wet but I was bundled up in a sweat shirt, fleece jacket and even longjohns.
    We have owned Kelaerin for 28 years, everything had a place and everything was in it's place. Think how your own boat would fare if you picked it up, turned it upside down and shook it with several tons of water in it.
     

  13. Doug Lord
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    Doug Lord Flight Ready

    Kelaerin, welcome to the forum! What a harrowing experience you had. Did the boat make it or was she lost?
     
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