Bad Times in Mobile

This was just posted on another forum by the guy who posted that video:

"Sounds about right. No warning from race committee. We were on a 39' monohull in the second division fighting for what we believe was a large lead over the rest of our division with just one other similar boat. Nearing our last tac towards the finish line, another crew member was checking radar on his phone down below while the two of us were making sandwiches, and he suddenly goes "uh oh.. that doesn't look good." I went above deck to see the boat owner and my father (who was skippering) looking at a nasty black mass of clouds on the horizon and saying "TheCrapIPutUpWith, you might look that way" pointing to the southwestern sky. We started to discuss putting down the sails and that's as far as we got when it was on us... It was maybe 3 minutes from the time we realized what was on the horizon. Suddenly 40-50 knot sustained winds were blowing us sideways. We were on a close haul, so the best we could do was to let out the sails and keep the boat pointed towards open water. The owner had the main sheet and jib sheets in each hand working them like a boss, while my father was wrestling the helm with all his might to keep us angled into the surf. The rest of us were keeping our heads low and looking for life preservers. Visibility was pretty much nill... although one crew member got a brief video from his phone and we realized when viewing it later that there was actually a vessel nearby that we never saw.

My father at the helm yelled "what's the in the water?!" (I was only 5 feet from him and barely heard him.) This was during the last part of the storm when hell really broke loose. Winds accelerated to what we guessed was 60-70mph. We looked up and realized it was three guys in the drink with no life jackets sharing only one horseshoe life ring. At that point we jumped up and tried to throw them our horseshoe and other life jackets, but they were upwind of us and the effort was futile. At that point we yelled for my father to come about and start the motor, but maneuvering with the motor would be impossible with the sails up in those insane winds. At that point lightning was flashing, but not going back for those guys was not an option. Another crew member and I sprang up to lower the sales while another started the engine. This is when my fear turned to courage, as I was at that point clinging to a giant lightning rod trying to release the halyards and pull down the main while the other crewman wrangled down the Jib on the bow (we don't use the self-furler as our sail goes down to the deck and gives better lift). We wrestled the sails down and got the jib pulled through the bow porthole and below. I finally got the main doused and another crewman helped pull it on-board and tied to the boom. My father got the boat turned. At this point things started letting up a little. After a few passes we spotted the three still in rough water. It took a bit to get them in the boat as they were pretty weak from fighting.

When the storm started clearing we realized a startling reality. We had been pushed sideways basically a good mile or more to only about half a mile from the DI Bridge.

We tried motoring back up to Dog River, but even after the storm passed, the current remained too strong. We gave up after 20 mins of basically treading water and motored with the current under the bridge to the DI marina After a couple of hours of sharing stories and recovering from our adrenaline rush, we left the boat there overnight, fetching a lift to our cars.

I'm very thankful that even though we did a lot wrong (when we saw those clouds, we should have immediately all put on life vest... also we should have had the main rigged for reefing...), the experience of our crew, a team that has sailed together now for over 20 years on this boat in this race, held us upright and safe. However, I would prefer to never to be on the water during a storm like that again. God be with the families who are missing loved ones right now. I can't imagine the losses they are suffering."

 

Rasputin22

Rasputin22
14,593
4,120
Coast Guard Mobile has suspended search since 2 PM due to high winds. Wind has shifted from SW to SE here on the bayou.

 

INTER 20

Member
477
20
I raced the Dauphin Island Regatta back in 1982 on a NACRA 5.8. As I remember, the beachcats raced across the bay to Fairhope and back. Is that still the course or do they actually now go out to Dauphin Island?

 
From one North East sailing family to the Gulf sailing community, please accept our condolences and know that all the affected families and sailors are very much in our thoughts and prayers this week.

This is such a sad tragedy.

Races like this are the bedrock and grass roots of our game. This reads like a 20 mile recreational coastal race hosted by four local friendly clubs encouraging folks to get out on the water. The kind of recreational race that goes on all around our coastline. If this race was in our neighborhood, it would be my father out there racing....and my brother and his wife and their kids and I would be out there on my boat with my son. Our family is going to be thinking of your families tonight.

 
How had the weather conditions been for this event in recent years?

My reason for asking, the '79 Fastnet tragedy followed several years

of light conditions, prompting more and more smaller boats with crews

less and less prepared for what happened.

Could something similar have happened in Mobile? Just asking.

Forty years of sailing small keel boats on Midwest lakes has taught me

that waiting until you need life jacket is too late to reach for it.

The only good that can come out of losing crew in a regatta is the lessons

the rest of us can learn from it.

 

sanjuan28

New member
4
0
We were 3 miles west of the finish line (Dauphin Island Bridge) when the wind hit at about 3:15pm on a Cape Dory 36. For those of you who were not there and are offering advice on the weather, you can stop now. You are simply speculating and have the advantage of knowing what actually happened after the fact. When we did hear the reports that there was severe wether 100 miles to the west and it was moving north east, we were about 16 miles into a 21 mile race- heading south. Our plan was to finish the race and find a "safe" place to anchor in the lee of the western shore. We were close hauled with one reef in the main and a 125% head sail in about 18-20knts, at one point we watched a cell pass behind us as the weather bulletin forecast. At 3pm a new weather advisory/ warning was made for north Mobile Bay and we watched the western sky darken and made the decision to reduce sail. By the time we were "comfortable" with the new sail plan we were hit with what I would call 60mph winds (I've been in 50mph and this was noticeably more). We quickly dumped the main sheet & rolled up the remaining headsail, fired up the diesel, dropped the main etc. Over the next 10-15 min the winds built to an unreal level (the wind instruments were blown off of the masthead) and the wave hight jumped to about 8ft. I'm guessing that our wave hight was greater than the ones in the video due to the fetch of the Mississippi Sound (?). While attempting to motor to the west (into the wind and waves) we saw two capsized beach cats with no crew or swimmers in sight. We ended up spending the night on the hook about a mile or so due north of the finish line in the lee of the land/ causeway. The Coast Guard immediately began the search and rescue (C-130, helicopter, numerous boats) pulling roughly 40 people from the local water with another estimated 15 saved by fellow Sailors. It was surreal to watch the constant search and rescue efforts through out the night... For anyone questioning why we would sail with a forecast of bad weather, we didn't. The forecast was for 30-40% chance of rain in the morning and passing through by noon with a westerly shift and max wind of18-20 knts. Prayers go out to all of the families of the lost, next time I see a Costie I'll give him a hug.

 

Rasputin22

Rasputin22
14,593
4,120
Just watched an interview on Mobile local news with the owner of a J-24 that got swept across the oyster beds and under the Dauphin Island bridge. I had seen photos of the boat anchored very close to the bridge earlier and some new details were revealed. Rudder and outboard got knocked off and the owner said the keel had gotten pounded up into the floors. He said there were over $10,000 of damage to a $5,000 boat. Name of the boat was '99 PROBLEMS'. Guess he is over the century mark now. The best part of the story was that the new young news correspondent (from Nigeria) at our NBC station made the statement that the crew 'lowered the sails to keep from hitting the overhead power lines next to the bridge'.

Calm as a millpond now.

 

Snore

Super Anarchist
3,183
397
DTSP and on OPB
I do not believe previous weather is a relevant issue.

Just looking at the cloud formation should have been enough of a warning to prepare for a wooping. One video shows a boat under full main sail during the height of the storm. While no one can know the entire story, looking at the videos conditions do not seem to appear to be of the level to result in loss of life.

IMHO, if you sail, you should know how to read weather, without a radar. Big fronts like that are impressive in size and should create instant "pucker". They are often announced by a cold wind that is coming off the top of the clouds.

 

nolatom

Super Anarchist
3,779
793
New Orleans
We were 3 miles west of the finish line (Dauphin Island Bridge) when the wind hit at about 3:15pm on a Cape Dory 36. For those of you who were not there and are offering advice on the weather, you can stop now. You are simply speculating and have the advantage of knowing what actually happened after the fact. When we did hear the reports that there was severe wether 100 miles to the west and it was moving north east, we were about 16 miles into a 21 mile race- heading south. Our plan was to finish the race and find a "safe" place to anchor in the lee of the western shore. We were close hauled with one reef in the main and a 125% head sail in about 18-20knts, at one point we watched a cell pass behind us as the weather bulletin forecast. At 3pm a new weather advisory/ warning was made for north Mobile Bay and we watched the western sky darken and made the decision to reduce sail. By the time we were "comfortable" with the new sail plan we were hit with what I would call 60mph winds (I've been in 50mph and this was noticeably more). We quickly dumped the main sheet & rolled up the remaining headsail, fired up the diesel, dropped the main etc. Over the next 10-15 min the winds built to an unreal level (the wind instruments were blown off of the masthead) and the wave hight jumped to about 8ft. I'm guessing that our wave hight was greater than the ones in the video due to the fetch of the Mississippi Sound (?). While attempting to motor to the west (into the wind and waves) we saw two capsized beach cats with no crew or swimmers in sight. We ended up spending the night on the hook about a mile or so due north of the finish line in the lee of the land/ causeway. The Coast Guard immediately began the search and rescue (C-130, helicopter, numerous boats) pulling roughly 40 people from the local water with another estimated 15 saved by fellow Sailors. It was surreal to watch the constant search and rescue efforts through out the night... For anyone questioning why we would sail with a forecast of bad weather, we didn't. The forecast was for 30-40% chance of rain in the morning and passing through by noon with a westerly shift and max wind of18-20 knts. Prayers go out to all of the families of the lost, next time I see a Costie I'll give him a hug.
Thanks for giving us some depth about the weather prediction and expected progress. Glad you're okay. Condolences to the families. And I wouldn't know the race chairs from Adam, but I would bet they're good folks and feel just awful about how this turned out, they never could have intended this..

 

RKoch

Super Anarchist
14,865
350
da 'burg
Just watched an interview on Mobile local news with the owner of a J-24 that got swept across the oyster beds and under the Dauphin Island bridge. I had seen photos of the boat anchored very close to the bridge earlier and some new details were revealed. Rudder and outboard got knocked off and the owner said the keel had gotten pounded up into the floors. He said there were over $10,000 of damage to a $5,000 boat. Name of the boat was '99 PROBLEMS'. Guess he is over the century mark now. The best part of the story was that the new young news correspondent (from Nigeria) at our NBC station made the statement that the crew 'lowered the sails to keep from hitting the overhead power lines next to the bridge'.

Calm as a millpond now.
I know that guy. A mutual friend told me they intentionally heeled the boat over to get under the power lines, knowing that they would end up hitting the bridge. Sacrificing boat to avoid electrocution. Pretty cool headed, he's very experienced.
 
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Cement_Shoes

Super Anarchist
6,239
18
A to Z
We were 3 miles west of the finish line (Dauphin Island Bridge) when the wind hit at about 3:15pm on a Cape Dory 36. For those of you who were not there and are offering advice on the weather, you can stop now. You are simply speculating and have the advantage of knowing what actually happened after the fact...
While we can learn from the accounts and video from the race, I agree that it is not fair to those who went through the storm to judge their actions and inactions as something we would never do. Nor is it wise for us to pretend that we are above such mistakes. That is the haughty attitude that leads to the lack of diligence that in turn leads to the exact "mistakes" that were made by those in the storm.
The truth is that we don't often face conditions like that and that when faced with them if we do not use a rigid mental check list we can miss important steps. I remember a quick moving summer thunderstorm that was bearing down on our dinghy fleet in Biscayne Bay. While I was busy getting compass bearings of where I wanted to go and also where I didn't want to go in case we lost visibility my friend in the boat next to us yelled over a nicer version of "Hey moron put on your lifejackets"

 
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vibroman

Super Anarchist
I do not believe previous weather is a relevant issue.

Just looking at the cloud formation should have been enough of a warning to prepare for a wooping. One video shows a boat under full main sail during the height of the storm. While no one can know the entire story, looking at the videos conditions do not seem to appear to be of the level to result in loss of life.

IMHO, if you sail, you should know how to read weather, without a radar. Big fronts like that are impressive in size and should create instant "pucker". They are often announced by a cold wind that is coming off the top of the clouds.
As far as I can tell there was no cloud formation visible that would warn people just an increasing darkening overcast. The cold wind off the tops approached at 65 knots! most boats were towards the SW part of the bay so by the time the squall line hit the water and became visible out of the gloom it was too late.

VM

 

Rasputin22

Rasputin22
14,593
4,120
So tragic! I know Lee and built one of his designs in Mobile ages ago. Creekmore 22 which cashed in (we wish!) on the success of the Harmony 22 daggerboarder from the year before. He is as or more capable on a sailboat as anyone and this story is heartbreaking. RIP Kris

 

lakepee

Member
267
4
New Orleans
If you doubt the potency of Gulf Coast thunderstorms...This was earlier this morning. Train blown off elevated tracks: ABC13 New Orleans at 10:30 this morning. Holy $hit

http://abc13.com/news/video-storm-blows-train-off-elevated-tracks-in-new-orleans/683899/
Holy phuquoly! Seriously? That's windy and puffy but train cars?
My office is about 1 mile away from where the train cars were blown off the bridge. I was not at this years DI race, but I have sailed it about 6 times. The frontal line that swept over New Orleans this morning generated winds clocked at 111 mph, and blew 11 train cars off an elevated bridge. From the vantage of my office window at 10:30 the weather outside got darker and darker until it was absolutely pitch black. Like midnight. There was no doubt the shit was about to hit the fan long before it did.

 

i550sailor

Member
260
0
Colorado
This was posted on the U20 forum

"I am sorry to report that Erik Schmitz Lost #99 in the storm. Erik and crew were rescued and are safe with out serious injury. During the knockdown a large wave broke over the boat causing it it go turtle. The mast broke off and Erik and crew stayed with the boat. Eventually the pounding made the keel bolts give and sent the keel back through the boat to the top of the cabin. Eventually she righted herself and slowly sank as in the flotation tanks leaked due to the damage to the scotty bolts".

I have stood on the bottom of a turtled U20 on a Colorado lake with shore not far away,,,,, I would not want to do it out there in the waves they were in.... Glad everyone on board was recovered.

 


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