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Sad day here in Marina Del Rey

May 25

Written by:
5/25/2010 4:40 AM  RssIcon

 A very sad day today:

Above is the wreckage of a Folkboat after a solo racer went overboard in a gale yesterday in Santa Monica Bay between Marina Del Rey and Palos Verdes. I have sailed that route many times, and was knockked down by a 15 foot  rouge wave about two months ago out off Palos Verdes. Luckily I saw it coming, was clipped in, and simply headed up into it, braced myself and ducked as it washed over Nomad. It's the only time I've ever shipped green water across the foredeck.

What a mess. His boat fetched up, steered by his windvane, on the beach in Venice. In the photos I've seen, he was on port tack, close hauled under a full working jib, with one reef in the main.

Note the jacklines below:

That's exactly how mine are rigged: Through the bow cleat. He was obviously not clipped in - the jacklines are still attached to the boat.

Yesterday, peak gusts were recorded at around 40 knots near my slip.  It was probably much higher out on the bay. There was also a high surf warning.

I breifly considered going out for a sail in the harbor under double reefed main, but the conditions were sketchy - something just didn't feel right, so I stayed put, and did some electrical work below instead.

The guy had done the transpac. How ironic to be lost in his home waters, a few miles from shore, within sight of land and millions of people. Never forget: The ocean is serious business, and sailing solo ups the ante considerably. He probably figured it was no big deal crossing the 20 mile San Pedro Channel, then the 15 miles across Santa Monica bay to Marina Del Rey.

I always wear a harness, tether, and PFD if I'm  more  than a quarter mile out - even in settled conditions. My PFD has a light, dye maker, whistle,and signal mirror, and I also carry a Mc Murdo Fast find GPS PLB and a waterproof handheld VHF on my person at all times. It gets a little uncomforrtable and cumbersome sometimes, but I really don't want to die just yet.

I'm considering a new policy aboard Nomad:  Wetsuits and helmets on deck  when conditions deteriorate into gales. I've been caught out a couple of times, and it get's very  rough in the shallow conditions near shore.

The sea is unforgiving.

2 comment(s) so far...


Re: Sad day here in Marina Del Rey

It's a timely reminder Bill, thanks for posting this. It's all too easy to get complacent and the sea will always punish you in the end if you are.

I've often wondered why sailors never wear helmets. Head injuries are very common in yacht racing and it would be sensible of all of us to wear them in challenging conditions.


By Gus on   5/25/2010 8:42 AM

Re: Sad day here in Marina Del Rey

Yea - time and again the helmet thing comes to mind. Most of the really horrific disasters at sea seem to involve head injuries and engine failures - that and MOB. The Coast Guard estimated his maximum survival time at 9 hours. I think that's very optimistic. When I used to surf here, even in the summer, even in a wetsuit, I'd become hypothermic after just a couple of hours - and that was on a big longboard, where most of my torso was out of the water. On a body board, you get colder faster. A life vest and no westuit (I'm assuming he had a vest on, but who knows?) and you will not last long - especially if you panic or give up.

If I ever find myself in that situation, a few miles from shore, I hope I have the presence of mind to remain calm, and to start breast stroking and swimming slowly on my back towards land. I don't buy the whole "wait for rescue" thing. Staying active prevents hypothermia, might move you closer to shore, and most importantly, keeps your morale up. People have actually swum the San Pedro Channel from the mainland to the island....

...and back! So it is within the realm of possibility and human endurance - especially with a wetsuit and PFD - though I hope I never find out. Several years ago a surfer was swept out to sea by huge surf off of Ventura, and survived the night in his wetsuit by clinging to his board, and paddling. Divers have been rescued clinging to marker buoys after swimming for miles in the channel. One guy had to evict a bunch of sea lions to climb aboard! I've seen stand up paddle boarders 5 miles out, and also lay down paddle boarders.

In all my reading about survival, the one thing that keeps coming up is the power of accepting the situation, not giving up hope, and continuing to fight on no matter what.

By Bill on   5/25/2010 11:32 PM
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