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Skip Allan's Report


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#1 Editor

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 12:48 AM

Decision (from the front page)

Many of you know of ocean racing legend Skip Allan's trauma in scuttling his Wylie 28 "Wildflower" while sailing the boat back from Hawaii after his win in the Single Handed Transpac. We dropped Skip a note and he was good enough to share this, and it is quite a read. Btw, we asked Skip if there was anything we could do to help, and he said so far he has things under control.

Dear Anarchists, Friends and Loved Ones,

The following is an abbreviated excerpt from WILDFLOWER's Ship's Log. I will be glad to attempt to fill in details or answer any questions posted to this SA Forum thread. But this is the best description I can do on short notice as I travel home by car from S.CAL.

On Saturday, 8/23, 10 days after leaving Hanalei, we were halfway home to Santa Cruz with 1190 miles to go. We had passed the Pacific High, and were running in the Westerlies at latitude 38-38 x longitude 147 -17. So far, the passage had been going well, my sixth return passage from Hawaii aboard WILDFLOWER. But an ominous note on the thrice daily weather fax charts was the notation “GALE” between our position and the Pacific Coast.

I began to plan for this possible gale by increasing latitude, slowing down, and closely monitoring projected GRIB files out to 144 hours. It appeared from all forecasts that we needed to slow down at least 48 hours to let the gale ahead abate. However, it is against my instincts to try and slow a boat down, and so with difficulty I reefed the main and dropped the jib in 8 knots of wind, reducing speed to a sedate 3.5 knots in smooth seas.

On Wednesday, 8/27, the morning GRIB file showed the area of most wind ahead was between 124 and 128 degrees, with no weather abatement until at least Monday, 9/1 earliest. Dwight on NA NA, 450 miles ahead, had reported gusts of 42.5 knots from the north between latitude 127-128 and having to run off under storm jib 80 miles. NA NA reported 20 foot seas the previous night near 37 x 124-30. I hoped that WILDFLOWER, by being at the latitude 40 degrees, would allow us to run off 180 miles to the latitude of Santa Cruz, should conditions worsen.

On Friday, 8/29, at sunset near 40 x 130, conditions began to rapidly deteriorate. I changed to the #4 (75% short hoist) and storm staysail, dropping the main completely.

The following day, Saturday, 8/30, with Santa Cruz 365 miles on a bearing of 095 T, we were having to run off due south (180 T) in winds 30-35 knots. By 1530, the sail combination proved too much, and I dropped the #4, flying the storm staysail (39 sq.feet) and towing a 30” diameter metal hooped drogue. It was uncomfortable, windy, and rolly that night, with the cockpit filling about every five minutes, and the boat being knocked down to 70 degrees at least half a dozen times. WILDFLOWER's shallow cockpit and oversize drains allowed full drainage in about 90 seconds, and this was not a problem.

The electric Auto Helm 1000+ tiller pilot was doing an amazing job steering, as it was being continuously drenched, even submerged. The Sail-O-Mat windvane was useless preventing or correcting breaking wave induced broaches and I retracted its oar to avoid fouling the drogue rode.

On Sunday, 8/31, the wind was 30-35 with a confused wave train from the NW, N, and NE. At 0915 I winched in the drogue to change from a hi-tech spinny sheet to stretchy nylon anchor line. Unfortunately, I found the drogue had split, and was no longer effective. I deployed my spare drogue, but without a metal hoop, it would periodically collapse astern in a breaking crest.

At noon, it looked like the gale was lessening. I left the safety of the cabin, and with two safety harnesses affixed to the windward rail, began to hand steer eastward on a reach with the #4. It was mogul sailing at its best, having to radically bear away to avoid hissing 8-12' breaking crests on the top of 15-30 foot seas.

At sunset I again went below with the Auto Helm tiller pilot continuing to steer nicely under #4 jib. Not long after, the wind came on to blow from the NNW, and the seas began to build further. That night I stayed suited up below with full foulies, headlamp, and harness, ready to dash out the hatch and take the tiller if the autopilot failed, and we subsequently rounded up. In addition, I dropped the storm staysail, as we were running too fast at 6-9 knots. Under bare poles DDW, the speed was better at 5-7 knots.

What followed ultimately played into the following day's events. During the long night, my third in this particular gale, breaking crests would poop the boat about every five minutes, filling the cockpit and surging against the companionway hatch boards. Even though I had gone to lengths for many years to insure fire hose watertight integrity of the companionway hatch, I found the power of the breaking wave crests slamming the boat would cause water to forcefully spray around the edges of the hatchboards and into the cabin.

During the long wait for daylight, I had more than enough time to ponder what might happen if the autopilot was damaged or was washed off its mount. I had two spare tiller pilots. But it would take several minutes, exposed in the cockpit, on my knees, to hook up a replacement in the cockpit, on a dark night, when the boat was being periodically knocked down and the cockpit swept.

In addition, I pondered the fate of the DAISY that was lost in the spring's Lightship Race, when presumably a large breaking wave crushed and sank DAISY. I also reminded myself I was responsible for not only my own life, but was also a family care giver at home.

There was no doubt that if WILDFLOWER's tiller pilot was lost that we would round up and be at the mercy of these breaking waves, some of which I estimate to be in the vicinity of 25-35 feet, and as big as I hadn't seen since the '79 Fastnet Race storm on IMP.

The anxiety and stress of this night, with the whine of the wind in the rigging, the wave crests slamming into the hatch boards, and the 70 degree knockdowns that would launch me across the cabin, created serious doubts that we could continue this for another night, much less the 3-4 days the conditions were expected to continue.

The boat was fine, and had suffered no serious damage yet. My physical health was OK, but I could see with minimum sleep that my decision making could be beginning to be compromised

At 0715 the following morning, Monday, 9/1, I Sat phoned my long time sailing friend, ham radio contact, router, navigator and weatherman, Joe Buck in Redondo Beach. Joe and I had maintained 2x/day ham radio schedule since leaving Hanalei, and he had instant internet access to all forecast weather and wave charts. I explained the current situation to Joe: that I'd had a difficult night, and wasn't sure I could safely continue. Joe's weather info had the highest wind and wave on my current drift southward continuing for at least another three days, with continuing gale force winds and 18-22' significant wave height.

I asked Joe for help in some difficult decision making I had to do. First, would he phone San Francisco Coast Guard Search and Rescue (SAR), and query what the protocol is for asking for assistance, all the while making sure the CG understood I was not in trouble and was not asking for help at this time. (Coast Guard NMC Pt. Reyes, Kodiak, and Hono were not answering my radio calls on their published safety and working 4, 6, 8, and 12 mg frequencies, both simplex and duplex.)

Joe called back an hour later (0830) on ham radio 40 meters and said that Lt. Saxon at SAR reported no military assets within 200 miles or 20 hours, that WILDFLOWER was 200 miles beyond helo range, but that there was an inbound container ship TORONTO coming in my direction at an undetermined distance.

Joe helped me to understand if the boat were lost, I would likely be lost also. But that if I left WILDFLOWER proactively, that only the boat would be lost. I told Joe of my hesitation of putting my life in the hands of a possibly foreign crew on a big commercial ship during a transfer off WILDFLOWER in these conditions, especially at night. We agreed that a decision had to be arrived at soon, before 1130, and before TORONTO passed by.

I spent the next hour, sitting on the cabin sole on my life raft, debating whether to ask for assistance in leaving my beloved WILDFLOWER. “FLEUR” was my home, consort, and magic carpet that I had built 34 years ago. I cried, pounded my fist, looked out through the hatch numerous times at the passing wave mountains, remembered all the good times I had shared with WILDFLOWER. And came to a decision.

At 1115 I called Joe back and told him to again call Lt. Saxon at SAR and inform her that I was asking for assistance. Joe called back and informed me that TORONTO was 5-6 hours away, and that SAR needed to hear from me directly as to my request.

At 1200, like a gopher popping out of its hole, I slid the hatch open to get a clear Satphone signal, and called SAR. Lt. Saxon already knew my details and position, and only asked “what are you requesting?” I replied, “I am asking for assistance to be removed from my boat.”

We kept the conversation short and to the point, due to my exposure topsides with the Satphone. She said the MSC TORONTO would be requested to divert, that I was not to trigger the EPIRB, but that I was to take the EPIRB with me when I left WILDFLOWER. Contrary to published reports, at no time did I call “PAN PAN,” and no com schedule was kept with the Coast Guard, although I did check in with Joe every 30 minutes on ham radio.

Lt. Saxon also said that if I left my boat, she would be considered “derelict” and broadcast as a hazard to navigation. I assured her I would not leave my boat floating.

An hour later, at 1300, WILDFLOWER's AIS alarm rang. MSC TORONTO was showing 30 miles away, and closing at 23.4 knots from the south west. I had to do some fast planning.

But with no idea how the transfer would be made (jump, swim, climb, hoist?) I didn't know what I could pack into my bag, bags, or backpack. I decided on my documents, wallet and and passport, laptop, camera, cellphone and sat phone, logbook, EPIRB and a change of clothes and shoes. All this I bagged into waterproof bags. And in a moment of whimsy, decided to try and offload the two Single Handed Transpac perpetual trophies, as they had 30 year historical and sentimental value to our Race.

At eight miles, the captain of the MSC TORONTO rang on the VHF. He spoke perfect English, and as I had a visual, directed him to alter 20 degrees to starboard to intercept. He explained his ship was over 1,000 feet long, that he would lay her parallel to the waves and make a lee at a forward speed of Slow Ahead (6 knots).

The captain also explained that I would board his ship from a rope ladder that led to the pilot's door, on the aft starboard side. I asked if he could slow to a speed between 3-4 knots, and he willingly agreed to try. At five miles, a sharp eyed lookout on MSC TORONTO sighted WILDFLOWER ahead. But MSC TORONTO's radar and the rest of her bridge crew did not sight WILDFLOWER until 2.5 miles under these conditions.

At 1415 hours, one of the world's biggest container ships was bearing down on WILDFLOWER, less than five boat lengths (125 feet) dead ahead, the huge bulb bow scending 20 feet and making a five foot breaking wave. With my heart in my throat, I motored down the starboard side of a gigantic black wall, made a U turn, and pulled alongside the pilot's door and rope ladder.

The crew threw a heaving line, and in the next five minutes we transferred three bags. Knowing I was next, I jumped below decks, said a final quick goodbye, and pulled the already unclamped hose off the engine salt water intake thru hull.

Back on deck, I reached for the bottom rung of the Jacob's Ladder, which was alternately at head height, and 10 feet out of reach, depending on the ship's roll. I grabbed hold, jumped, and did a pull up onto the ladder, and climbed up, wearing a 15 pound backpack with my most valuable positions and EPIRB.

At 1429 hours, on Monday, 9/1, 2008, at position 35-17 x 126-38, the MSC TORONTO resumed its voyage to Long Beach, leaving WILDFLOWER alone to bang and scrape her way down the aft quarter of the ship and disappear under the stern. I watched, but could barely see through my tears.

Four hours and 100 miles SE of where I left WILDFLOWER I was on the bridge of MSC TORONTO watching the anemometer True Wind Speed graph continuing to register 32-35 knots. From 140 feet off the water, the swells below still looked impressive, and the ship was rolling enough to send spray above the top containers on the foreward part of the ship

For the next 24 hours aboard MSC TORONTO (1065' LOA, too wide for Panama) I was treated with the utmost kindness and compassion by Capt. Ivo Hruza and his 24 man crew. We stood watch together, ate together, told stories, viewed family photo albums, discussed the world situation, toured the ship and engine room (12 cylinder, 93,360 horsepower diesel). By the time we came down the Santa Barbara Channel and docked at Long Beach, I felt a part of this happy crew of 6 nationalities. I could not have been assisted by a better or more professionally manned ship.

On Tuesday afternoon, after clearing customs and immigration aboard, I shook hands with each and every crew member. And descended the gangway alone, to meet Joe, sister Marilee, and begin New Beginnings.

I will never forget WILDFLOWER. She took a beating in this gale. She never let me down, and took me to amazing places, where we met wonderful people and made new friends. In this time of loss, a most wonderful thing is happening: many loved ones, friends, interested parties, and people I've never met are closing a circle of love around the mourning and celebration of WILDFLOWER.

Time will heal a broken heart. I look forward to seeing everyone at Carla and Mark's. I apologize in advance if at times I have to look away and wipe my tears.

Treasure Each Day,

Skip
9/05/08

#2 Grinder

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 01:03 AM

Wow, Great story, glad you are alright.

Thanks for sharing.......

#3 vouz etes ici

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 01:08 AM

Skip,

Glad you are safe and I'm sorry for your loss.

Your story, however sad, should be required reading for any sailor.
Thanks for sharing it.

#4 TexLex

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 01:22 AM

Amazing. SO glad you are alright.

I have never met you, but your skills. decision making, and ability to share that with those of us who aspire to do a Singlehanded Transpac is truly amazing.

Thank you.

Fair winds, and here's to the next fleur!

#5 PHM

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 01:25 AM

Man, that's heartbreaking to read. Skip, you've been an inspiration since your days on IMP which I followed as a teenage wanabe racer, and the preparation, experience and rational thinking under tremendous stress that saved your life this time continues to inspire and educate.

#6 SR CHIEF (RET)

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 01:33 AM

Skip, Tom Morgan here, presented you with our SA awards after the 02 Pac Cup at Dan Doyle's house. My brother, you absolutely made the correct decision wrt your abandonning of Wildflower. Your account of the events tells me that all though clearly fatigued you understood the severity of your situation. What impresses me is the extent of your sail (voyage) plan and how well the boat was prepared for gale force conditions. Having spent alot of time in my Naval career (5 ships), and sailing offshore , I can relate to the sheer awesome power of the sea and extreme weather. Your account needs to be revisited and please share it with as many other sources as you can. Your courageous and valiant efforts to get Wildflower home will no doubt be required reading for any mariner going offshore. Glad you lived and are safe to share your epic experience with all of us and god bless my brother, and your Wildflower will live on to save a mariner...r/sr. chief

#7 podrick

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 02:05 AM

Skip, I don't know you but I am glad you are safe and share your the loss of your boat. Thank you for sharing your story as it is a great example of prudent and safe seamanship, I will be passing it on to a few people I know as an example of how your own life and those around you is always more important than that of much loved boat or someones ego.

#8 Phil

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 02:30 AM

My thoughts go out to Skip.
When he came out to do the Hobart with Improbable[too long ago], we hosted him for Thanksgiving. In return I was treated with a couple of sails on board Improbable these were a highlight to a teenager of the time.
As a yachtsman, I've followed his exploits, we should all keep a copy of his story to remind us. I know I will.

#9 BarePoles

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 02:45 AM

That story is absolutely amazing and what makes it even better is the happy ending. WILDFLOWER will truly be missed, the articles the past couple of months in SAIL and Practical Sailor are a true tribute to this beautiful boat.

BP

#10 @last

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 02:52 AM

very sorry to hear about the loss of the boat, when you invest so much of yourself emotionally and share so many good times over such a long period of time with her, am sure it feels like losing a close family member. Having said that, on the flip side, am sure there were alot of people shoreside in '79 who know exactly what the term loss means, as wierd as it may sound count yourself both fortunate and smart that you live to sail another day.....

#11 inappropriate

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 02:52 AM

Skip, my heart broke too just reading it; can't imagine what living it was like. You are the stuff that sailors of old were made of. All the best in future endeavors.

#12 razorback

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 03:09 AM

Skip, that was incredible. So sorry we lost Wildflower, but more glad we kept you. Thanks for sharing.

#13 wsafm

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 03:47 AM

Skip,
Thanks for the details, we can all learn from your experiences. Had a close friend who had to make a similiar decision. Be prepared for lots of second guessing from the arm chair sailors as that seems to come with the hard decisions one must make at sea. Glad you are still among us and not a boating statistic.

#14 timber

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 03:49 AM

Skip,

Although it has been years since we last talked, the loss of your Wildflower has touched me deeply. From time to time you have come up on my radar and always brought a smile. Time will ease your sadness, and the special times with her will always be as fresh as if time has stood still.

Best wishes always,

Tim Reiter

#15 CJV

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 03:56 AM

I don't know you, but I now know you are a pro and a fine seaman. Sorry about your boat, happy you are still with us.
Why don't you consider a lecture on this topic, when the time is right, so that other, less experienced sailors can look in your eyes and understand that we all need to know when to do what you did.
Just a thought.
Respectfully,
CJV

#16 krispy kreme

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 04:09 AM

Have some balls ED and put this on the front page as a sample of seamanship.

It might make up for the sewerage of the likes of Crapstain and Daniel Taylor that consistently pollute this place.

#17 NoStrings

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 04:13 AM

Hey doll, it's been on the front page since at least 6 pm pdt.

#18 born2sail

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 04:21 AM

Repeating what I said to a mutual friend of Skip's: "...chillingly pragmatic...good seamanship in my book.
Of course, he will be forever haunted about whether he did the right thing. Answer...he did, period."

#19 chinesegybe

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 04:45 AM

What a brilliant example of seamanship !! Hopefully the positive that will come out of this, will be the experience that others can now learn from. Thanks for sharing.

#20 Heaven can wait

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 04:46 AM

Repeating what I said to a mutual friend of Skip's: "...chillingly pragmatic...good seamanship in my book.
Of course, he will be forever haunted about whether he did the right thing. Answer...he did, period."




Totally agree, it's better to leave on top of a bad situation, rather than be lost forever because of it.

RIP Wildflower, her last voyage was destined to get Skip to safety.

#21 Surf City Racing

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 04:54 AM

Glad you're OK Skip. See you in SC.

#22 stinky

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 05:18 AM

I'm sad for Wildflower but happy that you're still with us. Glad to still have you around.


Whats next?

#23 Don'tCallMeJudge

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 06:28 AM

Chilling story... and a very, very wise choice.

Could Skip have made it through yet another couple days (and nights) of extreme gale conditions with giant seas, and safely returned to CA? Quite possibly, but only at extreme risk. His most telling comment was, "I also reminded myself I was responsible for not only my own life, but was also a family care giver at home."

It reminds me of how one of the smartest men around deals with high altitude mountain climbing to Everest, Annapurna, and similar peaks near the top of the world. Ed Viesturs is one of the very few people in history to ever stand atop all 14 of the world's 8,000 meter peaks, but his mantra is a simple one born of wisdom: "Reaching the summit is optional. Getting down is mandatory."

So it was with Skip Allan on "getting home" safely.
Cheers on a good decision!

#24 sailbad the sinner

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 08:20 AM

Oh, tears in my eyes.
Even in your loss you've shared and taught us so much..
Thank you.
Your no B.S. narrative is so instructional.
You must be really a great guy and a tough sailor.
It would be an honor and a pleasure to be on a boat
or in front of a bar with you
anytime.

#25 paulus

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 08:58 AM

Now that's a textbook story about seamanship.
Nothing but respect. I guess it's a situation none of us will ever choose to be in, but if it ever happens, we can only hope to act as clearheaded.

#26 paste

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 09:44 AM

You have my respect! I hope, I never must make a decision like yours.

Nothing but respect.

#27 ChristianSch

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 10:54 AM

Hard to imagine the thought of 3 more days of this weather after you already managed 3 (!!!!). It only takes one 360 roll to take the mast out and start hitting the hull. Even with a full crew WILDFLOWER would not have managed much better and the call to transfer would be the same. Interesting to hear that the drogue split. We shredded ours in the Fastnet '79 and it looked bulletproof then. I guess the loads are still a lot higher than the manufacturers ever imagine. :angry:
Glad everything went smooth after the correct (and very admirable) call.

#28 AKushTic

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 10:55 AM

Truly heartbreaking story and a good lesson for us lesser sailors. Loosing a loved boat is like loosing a loved person, I ve felt both in the past. I am glad you made it ok to shore, now keep looking forward! Thanks a lot for sharing this

#29 dryfrog

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 11:04 AM

Good call Skip. Live to sail another day.

#30 Kalumder

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 11:09 AM

glad you are alive Skip, and cheers to Wildflower, she will be missed.

#31 kent_island_sailor

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 11:55 AM

I almost cried reading that :(

I do wonder if a parachute type sea anchor might have saved the day. Not being critical at all - it isn't like I have one - just wondering what the result might have been.

#32 Bowgirl

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 12:34 PM

L'importante c'est la rose ... or in this case "la Fleur" (with apologies to Gilbert Bécaud)

What an amazing story and what a difficult decision. Thank you for ensuring you would be around to share it with us.

#33 dacapo

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 12:38 PM

I am glad that you made it home safely..............my heart goes out to you for the loss of your boat. A truly great display of seamanship and courage.

#34 IRL DB

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 12:49 PM

There has to be a book in this. I for one would love to read a book about Skips adventures

#35 DEAD MONEY

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 01:23 PM

Skip,

It takes real Big balls to go Offshore but it takes larger ones to leave the boat you love behind !! Try not to dwell on that lose. it is only a material and was made by man and can be replaced, you cannot!! Just remember that anytime you doubt your brave decisition!!

#36 MoeAlfa

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 01:34 PM

Very sad, but a well-written, iinspiring, and extremely informative story. I'm glad the outcome wasn't much worse.

I knew about this sailor and boat from the feature in Practical Sailor and greatly admired the thought and experience that went into his preparation. My admiration has now doubled.

The more I learn, the clearer it is that I'm not cut out for that level of adventure, but I also have more and more appreciation for those who are and what they experience.

Welcome home, Sir, and many happier voyages.

#37 Buford

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 02:09 PM

Wildflower may be gone... but she will forever remain a legendary boat in the history of the Singlehanded Pacific Cup.

#38 billy backstay

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 02:11 PM

Moving story, thanks for sharing. Glad you are safe.

#39 bluelaser2

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 02:21 PM

a valuable life lesson for all of us when we find ourselves between two awful choices- glad I had the chance to learn of the experience.

another design lesson for craft venturing beyond assistance; when the drag device became life-critical gear, there needed to be two if not three fully equal units available to survive a failure.

change=opportunity, a fella who does these kinds of things can hardly be kept down for long......

#40 Hard Day's Night

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 02:41 PM

I too am very happy that no serious injury or loss of life occurred. I'd point out, however, that 30-40 kt conditions are fairly commonplace offshore and I'm wondering what a vessel incapable of weathering a force 7 blow is doing out there in the first place. This is not intended as a diss on Skip at all.

#41 Hike, Bitches!

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 03:08 PM

Skip, tough call. Glad you pulled thru and had a friend on the other end to help you reason...imagine the rescue effort had the boat or you (after too many more days in that) failed and you ended up in a liferaft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

#42 Guitar

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 03:13 PM

Skip,
Thanks for sharing and providing some salt water for my coffee this morning. Tragic story with a great ending, I am sure you will forever remember Wildflower and share your moments aboard with friends and family who will always be grateful of your very difficult decision.

Welcome home.

#43 kent_island_sailor

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 03:14 PM

It wasn't the boat. Given enough people on board they would do OK. With one person and no more drouges or sea anchors it was basically autopilot malfunction = death :o
I am very lucky that every time I have been out in the shit offshore we had a good and energetic crew of at least 5. Makes a BIG difference.

I too am very happy that no serious injury or loss of life occurred. I'd point out, however, that 30-40 kt conditions are fairly commonplace offshore and I'm wondering what a vessel incapable of weathering a force 7 blow is doing out there in the first place. This is not intended as a diss on Skip at all.



#44 rbpatt

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 03:27 PM

Not to belabor what everyone else has said, but wow. I've never met you Skip, but you made the right decision and showed terrific preparation, seamanship and self-awareness in judgement. It would make a great case study for safety at se seminar, or something similar. And as someone above said, the boat was made by man and can be replaced, but you cannot- getting down the mountain is mandatory. Now you can build the boat you want with all the strengths of Wildflower, adn try to eliminate any of the weaknesses

It's stories like this that keep me a coastal dinghy racer.

Glad you're still with us.

#45 Hitchhiker

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 03:56 PM

An excellent narrative of hard decision making, in tough conditions. Thank you Skip for sharing your sad loss with us. I have nowhere near the number of miles as you, but have done alot of blue water sailing. Not sure I could make the same hard but smart decision that you did. Well done and my condolences for your loss of Wildflower, truly a legend in her time. Also, thanks to Joe for helping you come back safe and sound. Joe is definitely one of the good guys of our sport/community.

#46 DWD

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 03:57 PM

Yet again - Wow. Easily the best article I have read on SA. Nothing else comes close. Your seamanship and ability to think rationally in tough situations was amazing, but what most struck me was your preparation. Having sailed a 30' boat to Hawaii I like to think I was prepared, but your report was a lesson. One sea anchor? No, you had a backup. One autopilot? No, you had two backups.
As others have said, write a book of your experiences and include your philosophy on preparation. I'd be the first in line.

#47 JackMontana

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 04:19 PM

Skip, you have been an inspiration to me since I first learned of the Singlehanded Transpac and your enviable history in this race and sailing in general. Though I've never met you I feel comfortable stating that you're the consummate seaman. You're judgment in this difficult situation further underlines this point. I know you mill dearly miss Wildflower, but the world would have missed you far more. Full respect.

#48 Big Show

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 04:32 PM

Send this account to every sailor you know.

#49 sleddog

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 04:51 PM

I'd point out, however, that 30-40 kt conditions are fairly commonplace offshore and I'm wondering what a vessel incapable of weathering a force 7 blow is doing out there in the first place. This is not intended as a diss on Skip at all.


Hi HDN,

What WILDFLOWER was doing out there was what she was designed and built for. In this day and age of bigger is better, in 1975, influenced by the stories and my sailing aboard solid little ships like SOPRANINO, TREKKA, SPIRIT, RENEGADE, and JESTER, I decided to build the smallest and most cost effective boat I could. Like many dreamers in those days, I wanted to voyage.

Over the next 34 years, WF and I voyaged over 100K miles around the Pacific Rim, as far south as NZ and far north as AK, including 6 times to Hawaii and return. We regularly sailed together in the Gulf of the Farallones and off Santa Cruz, one of the West Coast's roughest patches of ocean.

As you know, wind speed is not an issue for a well found boat. It is the height, period, and steepness of breaking waves that can damage.

When I left my ship, despite being swept for three days by the tops of cresting and breaking waves I estimated to be upwards of 30-35 feet in height, WILDFLOWER was in one piece. The bilge was dry, the rig and sails intact, the batteries charged, the engine available.

That was one thing that made it such a difficult decision: why leave my home when she was floating and undamaged? It would have been an easier call had we been broken.

WILDFLOWER and I were a strong team together. As I purposely built her with extra layups and thicknesses, stringers, oversize mast and rigging, full skeg, dacron sails, etc. she did exactly what I had hoped: was stronger than I am. I've been sailing all my life (63), racing offshore for 54 of those years, including Fastnets, Hobarts, 28 Transpacs, etc. I know what a broken boat looks like.

Nevertheless, every time I go to sea, I learn something new. GRIB files and QUIKSCAT are not infallible, and predicted windspeeds and direction can be off by as much as 25% . Diffuse wave trains can combine.

For years, I carried a 12' diameter parachute sea anchor, as well as three drogues and tire. What I learned by practicing with the sea anchor during those years: it is wave and boat specific. The sea anchor is better suited in gale and storm conditions for a heavy displacement, full keel, deeper forefoot such as TALEISIN as she makes slow leeway 45 degrees off the wind. For a fin keel half tonner like WILDFLOWER, a parachute sea anchor proved more dangerous in practice than effective.

Thankyou for questioning my motives. I am most happy to attempt to answer from my perspective, and hope others will chime in as well with their experiences. As we celebrate WILDFLOWER, her legacy will be what we can learn and share with each other. The power of the ocean can be an awesome thing.
~skip aka sleddog

#50 Jaja

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 05:07 PM

Interesting precisions. Thanks again for sharing your experience.
I won't be surprised that someone find your boat one day somewhere !

#51 PhiloBeddoe

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 05:09 PM

Interesting precisions. Thanks again for sharing your experience.
I won't be surprised that someone find your boat one day somewhere !



maybe with a trawler




28 transpacs. wow!

#52 War Dog

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 05:12 PM

sleddog,
I have had the pleasure of competing against you and WF in the past. Sharing what must be a heart breaking story with us and the public must be an extremely hard to do. Thank you for sharing and we are glad to have you around to learn from. Dang I just don’t have the words to express what I’m feeling………………………………………..BRAVE SMART MAN!!!!!

#53 kokopelli

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 06:17 PM

Sleddog, that has got to be one of the classiest replies I have ever read on SA.

From a fellow singlehander you have my admiration on what must have been a gutwrenching decision. I share your pain. There is a much deeper connection to our boats that crewed racers quite often do not fully understand.

I hope to some day shake you hand.

Jan

#54 walk the dog

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 08:04 PM

" A man has to know his limits." Clint Eastwood said it in one of his movies, words to live by. A boat can be replaced but life is precious-how many of us would of made the wrong decision and tried to ride out the storm? Stay safe, live hard and don't take shit from no one.

#55 gangbusters

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 08:54 PM

Skip,

Sorry for the loss of your boat. I was reading about you yesterday while trying to decide to leave Chicago on a 50 mile delivery to do a solo race that started today. With a forcast of 25-30 mph winds and 5-7 foot seas I decided not to go. Compared to what you endured it may seem to be just a minor inconvience but I believe that like you I chose to prudent route. Ther will always be another time to go sailing and I hope that you enjoy your next voyage as much as the ones in you past.

Mark

#56 denali

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 09:14 PM

Skip, I have had to be rescued by an oversized ship from a disabled sailboat. You did a remarkable job of putting us on board with you, with all of the heartwrenching decisions that must be made in a remarkably short period of time. Like you, I was taken in by the professional crew as one of them and left with a newfound respect for those who man those huge ships. Keep on; the next boat is just over the horizon. Denali

#57 40grit

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 09:20 PM

While delivering our Express 37 to SF we experienced a touch of that same weather, over the same weekend.

Nothing prepared us for the beating we took rounding Pt Sur. with 38 knots apparent wind and twelve to fourteen foot seas at 8 seconds. we slogged into it for seven hours at three knots.

The three of us took wave after wave. at one point I thought about running off with it. but could see the end of the tunnel as we finally got around. A lot of things go thru your mind when your looking down that gun barrel, like what would happen if some thing did go wrong, then what?

I can't imagine what I would have been thinking if I were alone? The fear I experienced was shared by two others.
Skip Allan has shown us all an excellent piece of seamanship and smarts. Three cheers Skip.

#58 PiperN4467

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 10:06 PM

Skipper Allan,

Incredible story. I am sure others could have written a similar and equally eloquent account (Sure?). But they didn't make it back. Glad you did!!

I have been doing a few post mortems of some of my really bad sailing related decisions of late. In each case, two things seemed to stand out; over confidence/familiarization with the circumstance, and fatigue. You came upon your circumstances after over 3,000 miles of open water sailing in the last 8 weeks; you would seem to be a perfect candidate for either or both.

Other than the comm schedule, how did you keep these two demons at bay? Sixty hours in the washing machine? What kind of brain food were you eating?

I hope you will find WF's voyages were only half done, and WF2 will handle the next 30!!

#59 Geff

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 10:43 PM

Incredible. Keeping a good thought for you and yours during these days. Sorry for your loss, but glad you are alright and made the right call/decision. Thanks for the amazing read on seamanship.

#60 Mistral

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 10:47 PM

Incredible story, exceptional rational in the midst of insanity! You are here, no second thoughts necessary. Here’s to you Skip, the book you need to write and to Wildflower 2!

#61 Geff

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 10:51 PM

Sleddog, that has got to be one of the classiest replies I have ever read on SA.

From a fellow singlehander ... There is a much deeper connection to our boats that crewed racers quite often do not fully understand.

I hope to some day shake you hand.

Jan



Agreed! and very well said on both accounts.

#62 Ragtime

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 11:00 PM

I have learned a few things (like are our light race-spec cabin boards heavy duty enough?) and have a few questions below that are not meant as criticisms.

I am left wondering the scuttle and remove the EPIRB decision. And to a lesser extent, whether sea anchor/bow to the waves would have made a difference.

1. My thoughts are most boats abandoned (due to lost keels, weather, etc) are very difficult to find again. Causing an accident with another boat is highly unlikely. Leaving the EPRIB (on) would make finding much easier. Presuming it is a 406, the Coast Guard will know the signal is from a "known" vessel and allow them to call off unnecessary stops to inspect and look for persons aboard. It is a given that the boat is a long ways out, so a return trip to find her would be a challenge. Other than that, with the Epirb, a recovery seems possible.

2. I am curious about people's thoughts on using a bow drogue, presenting the bow to the waves and thereby protecting the cabin boards. First answer I see is the breaking waves pushing the bow to the side in a reverse broach - but that sounds like it was already happening with the stern to configuration. Other thoughts?

Again, no criticism intended, trying to learn in case we face this some day. Having been through a plane crash, I know you can't guess what it is like until you are truly there in the moment.

#63 Alan H

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 11:39 PM

Skip Allan is an amazing sailor....a magnificent human being, and I can not even conceive of conditions that would make this decision the right thing to do.

Let me put it this way...

Before the start of the Singlehanded TransPac this year, I had the opportunity to go aboard many of the boats. All of them have their strong points and weak points, but Wildflower stood out. She was not fancy, but within seconds you could see that everything had its place. Everything was sized correctly, everything was simple and straightforward. Nothing was hidden. Nothing was superfluous. The ergonomics.....where Skip would sit, the size of the table, where the sails were stowed... EVERYTHING was obviously well thought-out and placed. This boat stood out among the many, many TransPac boats that I have been on in terms of strength, common sense and seakindliness in design and construction. Wildflower wasn't fancy and she didn't have a lot of lovely teak. But she was RIGHT.

On deck, it was the same. Wildflower was simple and straightforward, and surely must have been a joy to sail. There weren't twenty-seven twitchy little lines to adjust, and dinky little gewgaws and gadgets everywhere. Everything was solid as a rock, easy to get to, and made sense..

ONE MAN built Wildflower, one man made that boat into what she was. The reflection of Skip Allens experience was instantly viewable in Wildflower for those who cared, or had the opportunity to look.

If Skip had to let her go, then I for one know beyond a ghost of doubt, that the conditions left him no other responsible alternative.

I am proud to say that I know Skip Allen and would consider it a privilege and an honor to sail with him ANY time.

#64 sleddog

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 11:57 PM

I am left wondering the scuttle and remove the EPIRB decision. And to a lesser extent, whether sea anchor/bow to the waves would have made a difference.


Hi RAGTIME,

In my Satphone call to Coast Guard SAR headquarters requesting assistance, the Coast Guard made one thing VERY clear. I was in NO circumstances to leave the EPIRB onboard WILDFLOWER. That was orders.

Even if I wanted to, there is no way I could financially mount a search for my boat somewhere out in thousands of square miles of ocean. The fact the CG would broadcast WILDFLOWER as "derelict" and "hazard to navigation" was only part of the equation. I had no interest in my little ship washing up on some foreign shore, or falling into someone else's hands. WILDFLOWER and I had had this discussion long ago, and we agreed I would not leave her alone on the high seas.

As for the sea anchor from the bow, it is a valid question. My answer is that I feel to "park" my boat in the face of such large steep and breaking waves would have invited disaster. Certainly if the boat had been pushed backwards by a breaking wave, the rudder would have gone by the boards. The fact I was running with the waves at about half their speed gave a cushion and measure of resiliency when one broke aboard, like a surfboard.

The hatch boards were intentionally strong, very strong. I have practiced giving them a karate kick with a booted foot and could not break them in practice. The boat was as watertight as I could make her, and the only ingress was an aerated spray around the hatchboard edges.

Thankyou for your questions.

~skip

#65 sleddog

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 12:39 AM

Hi Skip, the other "Ragtime!" here.

If you'd had a more robust electric or hydraulic autopilot, might that have influenced your decision?

As you know this proved to be the weakness in my race this year, and I'm wondering what to do about it. The rudder tube on my boat is glassed in for its full length so installing a belowdecks A/P drive unit isn't really an option. (The computer and fluxgate compass are below though.)

The cockpit-mounted electric units just don't seem to be up to the task.


Hi Bob,

You are correct that an above decks tiller pilot is vulnerable. Like you, I had a full length rudder tube, and no intention of cutting that to install a below decks unit.

Nor did I have the power to supply a more robust below decks unit. For 30 years I had always used the SAIL-O-MAT windvane in windspeeds above 10 knots and boatspeeds above 4 knots, where it was very powerful.

It was a new experience for me that the windvane would not steer well under bare poles in a breaking sea. But I did know that the windvane oar would potentially foul a drogue line.

Using my little Auto Helm 1000+ tiller pilot in these conditions was not originally intended. That it steered for three days in these conditions is a real credit to modern technology. Would the tiller pilot have continued to steer for another three days in those conditions? I don't know, and you have hit the crux or possible weakness in my setup.

I don't know the answer to your question for a small boat. POLAR BEAR and others seemed to have robust setups. Maybe someone else can offer their opinion.

It was great to share the Bay with you at Hanalei.

~skip

#66 Dorado

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 01:16 AM

My condolences for your boat. Emotional attachment to something we build with our own hands, and that served us well, is pretty strong.
You must be grieving still. I totally understand the agreement you made with her. Now she will never suffer the abuse of an uncaring owner and you will always know where she is. Other boats should be so lucky. I'm sure you can take some comfort in that.

So...

What lessons did Wildflower teach you, that you will implement on Wildflower II ?

#67 ULDBGuy

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 01:24 AM

. . . POLAR BEAR and others seemed to have robust setups.

My drive units are rated for twice the weight of my boat and I trashed two of them (plus another one in the SH Farallones). Eric's "GP" drive unit is rated for 3x the weight of Polar Bear but he still had one pack it in during the race.

Like your other decisions, it was a good call (not to depend on the A/P).

Mentioning brand names is like mentioning political parties around here, so we won't "go there."

The hydraulic units are the most robust but as you point out, they eat more electrons. I think the Mini's carry generators but then you have gasoline aboard, etc.

No easy answers.

#68 Never was

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 02:31 AM

My condolences on your loss. Kudos to Joe Buck, and respect for your decision. Thank you for sharing the story.

#69 Wash

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 02:52 AM

Thank you for the report Scott----- Thank you for sharing--- The sea takes what she wants and kudos for you in respecting that----
Glad you are safe ashore and I look forward to your future reports on how your next boat will be built and equipped -----

How interesting that the powers that be were unavailable on SSB-
How interesting that Ham Radio lives on and that Sat Phone was the connection to the CG-------- I say interesting but not surprising-----

I hope race organizers will take heed to your experience-----

With Respect

Wash

#70 Coolerking

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 03:35 AM

skip,it's mike from the goose in LB, we are very glad you are OK!!!! sad to hear of the loss of Wildflower, still we are TOTALLY STOKED YOU ARE OK!!!!
you are the man.

#71 KRC

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 04:29 AM

Very moving story. Thanks for sharing, and glad you are still with us to tell the story. As far as blue water sailing goes, I'm still just a "dreamer." But I'd like to ask:
I have read stories of skippers (also sailing SH) who decided to stick with the boat, simply trusting that boat and equipment would hold out. From what I have been reading, it seems like the Wildflower was up to the task. What was the ultimate deciding factor in your decision to abandon ship? Was there anything in particular that made you think you would not make it home had you stayed?

#72 sleddog

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 05:45 AM

What was the ultimate deciding factor in your decision to abandon ship? Was there anything in particular that made you think you would not make it home had you stayed?


Hi,

There was no ultimate deciding factor. It was a combination of growing mental and physical fatigue; knowledge that if/when things went south, they would do so in a very short time with little chance of rescue. Also, as mentioned, it was not just my life that was on the line. Our family situation back at home dictated that I not go missing at sea.

If there was one thing that tipped the scales, it was the potential for disaster that would be the result of one of the truly massive waves breaking onto WILDFLOWER in a direct hit, if she were stopped in a broached situation with a compromised tiller pilot. The result would certainly have been either 1) the boat would have been rolled, and if I was on deck, I would have either been washed off to the end of my tether, or drowned while the boat was upside down. And/or 2) the weight and force of the wave crashing onto the boat would have crushed the deck in, as happened to DAISY.

As I half seriously told my partner, the thought of drowning in cold water was not appealing at the time. Better to drown in warm, tropical seas.

~skip

#73 born2sail

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 11:43 AM

Here's some additional input on the subject of auto helms...

The beefy hydraulic units are great when they are properly calibrated for the conditions you are sailing in. But you really need to know in advance what the settings are if/when conditions change significantly. While there are certain modes that are preset, the variety of really lousy sea-states require manual adjustment of maybe a half-dozen characteristics.

It is hard to imagine a skipper sitting in front of the auto helm display holding a manual, furiously pushing buttons and checking the steering while things are going to hell in a hand basket, big time.

Back to you Skip...

#74 CruiserJim

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 04:17 PM

A very sobering and thought-provoking story. I've followed your adventures with Wildflower over the years. One likes to think that with such a well-found boat and skipper that this could not happen. OTOH, it is that experience and seamanship that enabled you to rationally make a decision that brought you back safely. Well done. I know your sharing this experience will help make the rest of us better and safer. Thank you.

#75 Duff Beer Cruising

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 08:13 PM

Fascinating story, I am glad you made it back to tell it. I am curious if or when you do it again - what would you do different? Besides things like bigger boat. Just say it was Wildflower again.

Different drougue(s)? It seems like the overriding factor is fatigue, and the only good solution is a way for the boat to handle itself in some pretty bad conditions. Perhaps the reality is that its just a bad roll of the dice and that after a few days there are not good choices other than getting pulled out if you can. How cold was the water? I realize that anything in 60s can get dangerous with long exposure - ie. waves overtop of you. Sounds like the HAM, person ashore and SAT phone were life savers.

I realize also that avoiding weather is a great option, but lets assume the same kind of thing - you end up in it with no soon end in sight, single handed.

I really appreciate you being online to share 1st hand.

#76 R Booth

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 09:14 PM

I am all at once awe-struck, a bit sad and beyond elated by your ordeal Skip. This one is going out to every sailor I know.

Thank you for sharing.

Rick

#77 kent_island_sailor

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 11:28 PM

FYI - with some engineering a hydraulic autopilot can be hooked to a tiller like a super-power Tillerpilot.

#78 PerryWinkle

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 11:30 PM

Back in the day we deployed oil bags and a bow anchor rigged for a slow beam reach. Any consideration there? Breaking waves fall apart to widward and slide under the oil. Can't find good oil bags anymore. West Marine dosnt carry them.

A. Coles.

#79 kent_island_sailor

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 11:36 PM

Don't let the EPA find out :o

Back in the day we deployed oil bags and a bow anchor rigged for a slow beam reach. Any consideration there? Breaking waves fall apart to widward and slide under the oil. Can't find good oil bags anymore. West Marine dosnt carry them.

A. Coles.



#80 R Booth

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 11:40 PM

I believe Mr. Coles was describing organic oils. So more likely it would have GreenPeace that would have been really pissed......B)

#81 sleddog

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 04:54 PM

Claudillo and Dorado,

Sailing into the area of a forecast gale certainly takes some confidence and preparation. I had previously been in many gales and storms at sea, including the '79 Fastnet Race storm as skipper of IMP.

In six previous return trips from Hawaii with WILDFLOWER, I had encountered similar gales in the same area I call "Gale Alley." Gale Alley entends approximately from Cape Blanco, Oregon to the Gulf of the Farallones, and westward 300 miles.

As professional weatherman will attest, Gale Alley has the highest incidence of summer gales in the North Pacific Ocean. Why this is so is subject to analysis beyond scope here. Basically, the pressure gradient in Gale Alley is compressed between the East Pacific High and the heat induced low pressure over Central and Southern CA. This steepened gradient can remain for days. And a "jet" of wind and wave is driven southward off the Oregon/California Coast

I felt confident enough in the boat and my abilities to again plan to cross Gale Alley on this return passage. That things were stronger than planned is just one of those things that happen when you go to sea.

The size of boat and number of skilled crew is certainly a factor in successfully weathering conditions like we encountered. A long-standing rule of thumb by those who have run tank tests is that gale generated breaking waves of a height equal to or exceeding the beam of the boat, can roll a boat positioned beam on to such seas. (WILDFLOWER's beam = 9.5 feet)

The breaking seas we encountered caused a stout Robert Perry designed 42 footer to also run off under bare poles. A bit further north, the seas holed and sunk the port ama of DEFIANCE, a well found 45 foot Norm Cross trimaran also returning from Hanalei. They were assisted by the CG and a container ship, and safely made SF.

But size of boat, and crew number and ability, does not guarantee success in weathering gale and storm conditions at sea. The '79 Fastnet Race Storm had waves of similar height and steepness that I was encountering.....In the '79 Fastnet Race, out of 303 well prepared and manned entrants, 100 boats were knocked down 90 degrees. 90 boats were rolled further than 90 degrees. 18 boats were rolled 360 degrees. And 5 boats were held inverted from 30 seconds to 5 minutes.

It was this knowledge of what WILDFLOWER and I were encountering that helped lead to my sobering and heart rending decision. My dear and loving sister would have killed me if I had died at sea.

You asked the water temperature. It was 62 degrees, plus or minus a degree. If there is a next time, I would also carry a survival suit to supplement the liferaft. WILDLFLOWER's small cabin was already filled with survival equipment, including all ISAF Safety at Sea Category 1 equipment. (4 man liferaft, flares, EPIRB, ditchbag, Iridium Satphone with 500 minutes, inflatable PFD, SSB and ham radio, etc.)

The amount of time that MSC TORONTO diverted off course, and lost during my transfer, was "insignificant," according to Capt. Hruza. We arrived in Long Beach well ahead of schedule.

Apologies for the rambling, but hope these details shed a little more light on our situation.

As an traditional Old Sailor's Prayer says:

From Rocks and Sands
And Every Ill
May God Preserve
The Sailor Still.

Best Regards,

~skip

#82 sailbad the sinner

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 05:13 PM

Thanks again Skip.
Over the years there have been so many postings here of false bravado
and inflated guestimates of wind strength and wave height.
Your report on the true strength, brutality, uncertainty and danger of contitions
is truly instructural.
Beside your bravery and cool headed analysis and action,
that's why we are so facinated and grateful to you for
sharing your ordeal with us.

#83 Geff

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 05:37 PM

Right on!

#84 solosailor

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 05:53 PM

Skip - I can only begin to share your sadness and grief and the lump in my throat wasn’t to be contained as I read your account...... You made a courageous and brave decision my friend.

Wildflower was a lovely, tough boat and will not be forgotten.

Autopilots - As you know this proved to be the weakness in my race this year, and I'm wondering what to do about it.

I have had great sucess with the ST4000, however, many have had plenty of failures. The only real choice is the NKE above deck mounted hydro ram. Very pricey but well proven from minis to the Open boats - installing one soon if you want to take a look.

#85 Dorado

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 06:29 PM

I'm thinking that Skip needs to write a book. or have one ghost written.

It's be a shame if that vault of experience dissappears without leaving behind a record.

It could be the first release from Sailing Anarchy Press. Ed, got your ears on ?

Hell, I'd buy one. Maybe 2. A guy could finance a Wildflower II that way.



But what ever you do , don't let those clowns who foistered "Wind" on the world, get the movie rights. :blink:

#86 Haji

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 10:45 PM

When I read Skip's report and imagined what it those conditions where like...and having to leave his beloved boat...wow.

Am SO GLAD that he's ok...and of course heartbroken that Wildflower is gone. Many years ago Skip gave me a job fairing his keel. I was young and he was already a legend, so I was (and still am) quite proud to have worked on the boat.

No boat could ever hope to have a better master or more fulfulling history of sailing miles. She may be gone now but other boats can only envy the great life of the Tom Wylie designed Wildflower.

#87 R Booth

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 12:40 AM

It just hit me. Please excuse my audacity.........



http://www.youtube.c...h?v=NyUmoq-PBLI

#88 Pete M

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 01:53 AM

xlnt report - xlnt thread - thx skip

#89 Garufa

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 03:45 AM

I used to climb mountains...not big ones, just 14,000 footers in the PNW-tried to climb Rainier in the winter 3 times-never made it. Turned around 3 times (really close) for the better good and always got down to try again: Once in a whiteout, led 3 folks down using reverse compass math (!?##) all the way; once halfway up when someone needed to take weaker folks down to half way point-although the main team said they were just going around the corner to 'take a look'., the weatehr broke and they went all the way! Last time really sucked. We all didn't know if we were gonna make it back or be one of those stories on the TV. Learn. Don't look back. From what I have read, you could be telling me that. If you are ever in Seattle look up the STYC.

#90 RumSquall

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 02:06 PM

Skip,

Heartbreaking story. I really hope I never have to make a decision like that, but I'm quite sure you did the right thing. I've never experienced conditions as bad as what you went though, but I've been to Bermuda a number of times and I've been in rough enough conditions to learn that preparation and anticipation (be it months, weeks, days, or hours) is far more important than reacting to the moment. So having read and thought about your ordeal for a few days now, I'm left with a question: What, if anything, would you have done differently? (more in preparation than reaction) Different/additional drogues/sea anchors? Autopilot? Sails? Anything?

Glad to hear you're safe.

#91 calbrig1

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 06:06 PM

Skip,

What else can one say, but WOW! Thanks for sharing the story. You made the right choice no matter how hard it was at the time. I’m sure Wildflower understood, too. We can all learn something from your experience. The other SA denizens are right; write a book and build another Wildflower. I’ll buy two copies.

C

#92 Salty Bob

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 09:08 PM

Skip: We were a crew of 7 in a 50' Farr design boat in the just about the same dates, storms and locations. We were heading from Tacoma to San Diego. We finally decided to head back and avoid further beatings. Glad you survived. We had our doubts for a while.
Dan (Salty Bob)

#93 gangrene

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 09:09 PM

Skip,
Read your story at Richmond YC yesterday rather belatedly, but they were passing out copies. Nearly choked while reading your story. Very sorry about Wildflower. Will miss seeing the familiar green out there in Santa Cruz. On the flip side, have you thought about making a movie?!

So true about wind vs. waves. Knowing how fast things go to shit, I'd be on that ship in a heartbeat.

BTW, met Joe once, but what concise guidance. Can I use him too?

Best to you Skip and see you in Santa Cruz...
Dan Nitake

#94 sleddog

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 09:24 PM

Skip,
Read your story at Richmond YC yesterday rather belatedly, but they were passing out copies. Nearly choked while reading your story. Very sorry about Wildflower. Will miss seeing the familiar green out there in Santa Cruz.
So true about wind vs. waves. Knowing how fast things go to shit, I'd be on that ship in a heartbeat.

Best to you Skip and see you in Santa Cruz...
Dan Nitake


For those of you who don't know Dan, he and his wife Lisa raced their Moore 24 MINNOW double-handed in the 1996 Pacific Cup Race.

The first night out, in "Gale Alley" we had 30 knots of wind and 12-18 foot breaking seas. MINNOW, with Lisa steering and Dan below decks, was knocked flat by a wave and Lisa went overboard.

Dan came on deck to find Lisa dragging astern by her tether. Due to her inflated PFD, her waterlogged gear, and her increasing hypothermia, Dan could not get her back aboard.

He finally dropped all sail, and attempted to hoist her from the water with a halyard. The halyard lengths wouldn't reach the water.

Ultimately, Dan rescued Lisa, and they returned to Santa Cruz. But it was a very near thing. Word to the wise from Dan and Lisa's experience is make sure at least one halyard is long enough to reach the water and a winch.

Dan, thank you for your kind words.

~skip

#95 deep6

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 11:21 PM

Skip,
Glad to here you made it out of the bad spot you were in, I can't imagine making that decision, and under that kind of time pressure.

I will miss you at the post tree.

Best wishes

Rich (deep6) SHTP Race Committee helper

PS, I am sure the number 222 is being saved for WF Phoenix

#96 PHM

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 12:10 AM

Word to the wise from Dan and Lisa's experience is make sure at least one halyard is long enough to reach the water and a winch.

~skip


What a simple lifesaving idea that most of us wouldn't think of (at least I didn't) when rigging a boat. I'm going to check my halyards next time I'm on the boat. Thanks, and if anything good can come from the loss of Wildflower and other misfortunes, it's discussions like this, which just may save a life in the future. This is one of the most informative threads on SA I've seen in a long time.

I agree with the others--you should write a book about your 30+ years of adventure on Wildflower. I would buy it, and that's the kind of book that inspires kids to dream and embark on their own adventures.

#97 P_Wop

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 12:41 AM

Skip:

The toughest and hardest decision to make is when to walk away. Full respect to you, maestro, for the best possible decision, despite the pain.

No matter how well you are prepped, there simply comes a time when the nastiest problem is simply the dragging time of a static storm system and the inevitable and debilitating exhaustion.

As a fellow Fastnet 79 finisher I remember having a quiet ale with you and Phil Holland at the RWYC, and discussing how we would have all been in serious trouble if that low has slowed down and parked like yours did. I owe you an ale by the way - my soggy mess of fivers recovered from Il Moro's bilge wasn't too welcome by the club barman I remember.

Also the importance of keeping modern lightweight boats moving as fast as practicable. Drogues, lying a-hull, heaving to, chains off the stern (or bow), oil bags... all very well for Coles and Hiscock and Claude Worth, 6" deck frames and 2" of pitch pine, but lethal for modern small boats when one big bastard wave with your name in it will land right on top. But if speeding forward to keep way on just keeps you in the same system, well.....

Cheers to you, thanks for sharing, and delighted you're here to battle another day.

Jeremy

#98 solosailor

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 12:42 AM

Word to the wise from Dan and Lisa's experience is make sure at least one halyard is long enough to reach the water and a winch.

Isn't it a requirement? I thought it was for some of the offshore races.

#99 sleddog

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 01:33 AM

Isn't it a requirement? I thought it was for some of the offshore races.


I am sorry to report that ISAF Offshore Special Regs totally ignores the simple and inexpensive life saving
addition of having a halyard long enough to reach the water (to hoist a MOB.) ISAF's only mention on the subject is Rule 3.25 "no less than 2 halyards each capable of hoisting a sail."

Thanks to Dan and Lisa Nitake's near tragedy, the Pacific Cup Race, in 1998, wisely added their own amendment as follows:
Halyards (OSR 3.25): "OSR 3.25 is amended to require, in addition, that each yacht shall have a halyard that may be led to a winch and still be of sufficient length to reach the yacht’s waterline. The strength of this halyard and winch shall be more than sufficient to safely hoist the heaviest crewmember in water-soaked clothing aboard the yacht."

As 99% of recreational boats never race offshore, this simple lifesaving measure is usually unknown to them. As an educational measure, I encourage spreading the word on this simple method of hoisting a MOB from the water: long enough halyard to most powerful winch.

~skip

#100 solosailor

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 03:27 AM

the Pacific Cup Race, in 1998, wisely added their own amendment as follows:
Halyards (OSR 3.25): "OSR 3.25 is amended to require, in addition, that each yacht shall have a halyard that may be led to a winch and still be of sufficient length to reach the yacht’s waterline. The strength of this halyard and winch shall be more than sufficient to safely hoist the heaviest crewmember in water-soaked clothing aboard the yacht."

I thought one of the Hawaii races had it as a requirement, thanks. See you Saturday. -g




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