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Solo sailor rescued off Raglan


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Alan, sor sorry to read your story. :( You are a real sailor who handled the situation very well :!: Unfortunately 60nm of sea room wasn't enough for this particular storm, and there was no way of knowing that. The NZ coast can be tough.

 

When you have had some time, I'm sure we'd all be interested in what you learned from this experience, and with hindsight, if there was anything else you could have done, or gear you could have had, that might have made any difference to the outcome.

 

Best wishes

Matt

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Guest Rocket

Good explanation

 

I guess what I take from this is a reinforcement of the added dangers of shorthanded sailing.

 

A fully crewed boat would have been able to rotate helmsmen and try and get moving out to sea - but I know from experience that 1.5 hours is all any one man can do without losing concentration. So a crewed boat could have had a go whereas for him he rightly calculated that he would not be able to make an appreciable difference to his predicament before he was wiped out physically and incapable of pursuing that strategy (and perhaps doing what he needed to do to be rescued so efficiently). So he had no choice.

 

Also reinforces that the RNZ fleet were lucky that low went through to the north otherwise they may not have had enough searoom. From memory the really damaging quadrants of a Southern hemisphere low went right over this guy - so hard luck.

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I would add that in a 32 ft boat in those conditions you would be bloody lucky to go to weather or even maintain a beam reach. More realistic would be maybe 20 deg from flat running during the worst of it.

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I was on the same marina as Alan & Frolic III for more than a year & had several chats with him during that time. I can confirm he did everything possible to prepare his yacht before leaving, I was impressed by his attitude & approach. The Wright 32 is a solid design & when the first one was being built Alan Wright was told, "Don't bother with the planking, just caulk the stringers." Frolic III was a particularly well built example.

IMO the situation was one of those Acts of God - wrong time, wrong place & no blame can be attached to the skipper.

 

To Alan, I hope you had insurance & if so that they play ball. Hopefully we'll see you on the water again soon.

Best regards

John

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Come on guys, crewed or uncrewed, in 70knts + gusts, 10m seas and breaking crests,no yacht I've ever had experience of will make any way to weather. He did what was possible with his boat and his gear.

 

Island Time has been in the same place (a bit further out, and a bit further south) in similar weather in Sept 2003. We chose a parachute anchor to help to heave to, rather than a drougue and to run. Port Taranaki was closed - the waves came over the breakwaters. Island Time moved 20 Miles (up and down the coast) in two days, and less than 5 miles to leeward. Less than 0.5 knt drift.

 

PERHAPS a parachute may have helped in this case, perhaps not. I was not there. The currents may have been different closer in etc.

 

I'd like to hear Allans thought processes as the storm progressed. The Series drogue seems from what we know so far to have been depolyed over the stern as is normal, and kept him under control. I'd like to know if the boat surfed at all, how steerable was it etc.

 

We can probably all learn something from his experience.

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Thanks also for the Story Alan. Wow, what a story and it's heart renching to see the boat in bits. It is so easy to make assumptions based on little information when you are an armchair admiral and I certainly apologise if anything I had written came across in any such way.

Something I have learn't from the story is something I had never considerd. That is working out rate of drift and thus sea room.

So glad you made it safely.

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Guest Rocket

Agree on the angles Ogre

 

We had a bit of fun coming into Suva one day - it was reading over 50 windspeed and had gone all grey - you know when the boundary between sea and sky is not defined clearly anymore. We were flat running and could just get above flat running (we had Astrolab Reef 1km to leeward and didn't want to have to put our shoes on to run across the reef...)

 

One on handle bars, one riding shotgun and you could just get above flat running and even then every now and then you had to run by the lee down a wave to keep the boat under the rig. That was a 50 footer weighing 17 tons. So a 32 footer in that sea with maybe 20% more wind hmmm maybe a full crew could have gauged slowly offshore, maybe....

 

No chance for a guy alone and no boat would have gone even broad reaching - would have been rolled down a wave. You have to keep your arse into it and hope you don't pitchpole. Keen to have run the motor in reverse with a drogue out I reckon but at least he knows he tried everything.

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This incident (and I hasten to add my admiration of the owner's cool conduct and intelligent consultation with rescue services, as well as my condolences at the loss of his vessel) will, inevitably, feature in any future studies or discussions of drogues vs heaving-to.

Its an issue over which the jury has been out for some years and is very subjective (i.e. yacht design related).

 

I once hove-to for 2 days in a Chico 30 (a not dissimilar hull form IMHO) some 200 mile north of NZ in 60+ knots and big seas and made surprisingly little leeway, but then I was in deep water with no worry about lee shores etc etc.

 

One of the problems in this case is that, even 60 nm offshore, the NZ west coast is starting to shelve so, in theory at least, running is taking one into increasingly bigger and shorter seas.

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Very interesting reading the facts, changes your view somewhat!

 

would be very interesting to sit down with allan after he has had a chance to recoup and see if he would do anything differently

 

P.S. Love the grand-daughters pocket money offer :thumbup:

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Excellent words Allan and so soon after the event. From the comfort of my armchair in the tropics I can't think of anything you could have done better. I'm often somewhat critical of people who bail out without trying everything in the book but reading your email was humbling for me.

It was also wonderful to see the maritime responses to your predicament and once again, I cannot fault them (for once in my life). I have a fair bit of experience of this part of NZ waters and their advice against Manakau was spot on. The decisions by you and them were all the right ones IMHO.

A devastating loss for you and I hope you bounce back.

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Thank you to Alan for sharing and as others have said good luck getting back on the water. For me as a newbie keel boat owner to learn from this and the RNZ thread and the experiences shared is why I joined up here.

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condolences on the loss of your beautiful boat Alan.

Huge respect for your seamanship, and the considered decision making involved in your tough situation.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

fair winds brother. You certainly deserve a few after that trip!

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So that this story is knot lost in the front page roll over, I have copied it to the thread, perhaps someone else can copy the photos over?

 

Well done Alan, you made the correct calls and stayed calm and in control of your situation. :clap:

 

 

Frolic 111 rescue

 

5 March 2012

 

I have just received this email from Alan Brown, the sailor who was rescued off the west coast in last weekend's storm. Many thanks Alan for putting this down for the rest of us.

 

 

 

 

 

Hi, I decided I should post some comments on the tread about the rescue of the solo sailor, so that others’ comments could be based on a better assessment of the situation, and also so that I could pay tribute to the work of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

 

 

 

I was on a long-planned and well-prepared for solo voyage around the North Island. When I sailed from North Cape for Nelson on Monday, I expected to encounter a low, possibly a gale, so prudently stayed well offshore. When the gale arrived on Wednesday I was north west of New Plymouth, 60 miles offshore. I deployed the series drogue, and we rode out the gale with no problems. The sea state was probably a little worse than normal for a gale, as there was an underlying 4 metre swell, but it was no concern.

 

 

 

When it had become clear that another nasty developing low was on its way, my initial plan was to head for New Plymouth after the first gale and wait for the next system to pass, but on Thursday it became clear that I would not have time to safely reach New Plymouth before the system arrived, so was better to stay where I was and ride it out. I was still over 40 miles offshore, and on my calculations of drift rate on the drogue (around 1.5 to 2 knots) and forecast wind directions and durations, I still had plenty of sea room. As the forecasts kept getting worse for this ‘weather bomb’ system, I spent some time ensuring that everything was well secured on the boat – extra lashings on mainsail and around halyards etc. lashings across chain and anchor in the anchor well, dorades plugged and covers on below, shackles on the drogue moused with seizing wire, all the tie-downs in place throughout the cabin etc. etc.

 

 

 

The northerly sector part of the storm hit early on Friday night. For that portion of the storm the marine forecasts were noting wind strength of 50 to 55 knots, and sea state of ‘very high’. (The marine forecasts use the Beaufort scale to describe sea state) The boat handled the storm without any problems. The series drogue worked like a charm, and while conditions in the boat were far from comfortable, we were fine. During the night the wind then shifted to the west for the next phase of the storm. The marine forecasts for Raglan were now noting wind speeds of 70 knots, and sea state in the area we were as being at times ‘phenomenal’. By 0200 I was becoming concerned about sea room, even though we were still 30 miles off the coast, as the drift rate on the drogue had now increased up to around 3.5 knots average as the wind speed increased. I contacted Taranaki Maritime and asked if they could get the very latest forecast information. This began an ongoing contact with Taranaki and then Auckland Maritime, initially at one hour and later at 20 minute intervals, to update my position. The latest forecast information was unfortunately bad – the westerly quarter winds earlier predicted to abate and veer to south east by Saturday evening were now going to continue through until Sunday morning. I tried slowing the drift rate by running the engine in reverse for several hours, but it made no appreciable difference. I canvassed with Auckland Maritime the option of cutting the drogue and making obliquely across the sea under bare poles for the Manukau Harbour. They advised that I should not attempt this under any circumstances. By first light it was clear that the option of cutting the drogue and trying to make way or hold position into the sea would be sucidal. These were fairly awesome breaking seas, and it would have taken only one wave driving the bow off the wind to put us beam-on and we would have been rolled. (I was asked to estimate the wave height by Auckland Maritime, and not wanting to exaggerate, tried to gauge it by looking over the stern of the boat in a trough and comparing the wall of water behind us with the mast height. I estimated 8 – 9 metres, but the Westpac guys later said they thought that was a bit conservative. Footage of seas looking down from a helicopter always make the seas look smaller than they are, because of the perspective)

 

 

 

By around 0900 when it was clear that it was inevitable we were going to hit the coast later in the day, I advised Auckland Maritime that I would have to abandon ship, although was not in any immediate danger. At that stage we were I think still around 15 miles off the coast. I noted that I knew any rescue was going to be a difficult mission in view of the conditions, so wanted to give the rescue service the opportunity to decide where and when they though the best chance of success would be over the next few hours. (Although my contact was with Auckland Maritime, they were by now in direct liaison with the Rescue Coordination Centre. They were plotting my course also, so knew exactly what the situation was.) I was advised earlier that there was some doubt as to whether any helicopters would be able to fly in the conditions, but was advised around now that the Westpac guys were prepared to come out and have a look at my situation. I knew in my heart that if these guys came out they wouldn’t go again without trying to get me, and that’s exactly what they did. Real heroes. I think it was around 1000 when they arrived. (The second helicopter was filming for a documentary about their operation, which I will incidentally be only too happy to contribute to). The rescue went perfectly. They asked me to deploy my liferaft, and abandon ship into the liferaft. Once I was clear of the yacht it all happened very quickly. Russell arrived in the water right next to the door of the liferaft, hauled himself in, helped me on with my harness, we both flopped back out into the water , and ‘wham’ we were on the way up to the helicopter. So, a rescue right on the edge of what was possible, and these guys put their own lives on the line and handled it perfectly. Thank you, to true heroes.

 

 

 

On Sunday morning the police were advised that the yacht had been found on an inaccessible part of the coast south of Port Waikato, exactly in the area we predicted she would go ashore. The landowner, whose house is 3km back from the coast, noted that on Saturday the waves were breaking half a k off shore. You will see from the photos that my beloved yacht has been smashed to smithereens. If I had not got off the yacht my chances of surviving were zero.

 

 

 

Frolic III was a strong, well-built Wright 32. I had put a lot of my heart and soul into improving and upgrading the boat. All the stuff I had done like fitting drogue chainplates, polycarbonate storm windows, extensive tiedowns, extra cockpit drains, along with ensuring all rigging was renewed, new engine would provide reliable back-up etc. etc. was not wasted, in that she looked after me well during the extreme conditions. I am devastated to have lost her, but if she has gone I would rather it be this way, where she has been smashed to pieces and claimed by the elements, rather than coming ashore as a partial wreck to be pored over by others.

 

 

 

Likewise I am grateful that I had done all the courses, and the life-raft drills in the wave pool, so that all that stuff became instinctive when I needed it. This trip was to have been the qualifying voyage as the final step in getting my ocean yachtmaster qualification. It’s too early and too raw to decide where I go from here. Right now I’ve got all the practical things to attend to, like replacing computer and phones etc., but I can be very thankful that I’m alive to do so.

 

 

 

When I got ashore on Sunday we spent some time on Sunday evening having a family get-together. I explained to my 4-year old grand-daughter that I had lost the boat. ‘Poppa’ she said, ‘I loved your boat too.” She disappeared and then came back in with a handful of coins from her money box. “This is for you to buy a new boat, Poppa.” Kind of puts family and boats in perspective.

 

 

 

I still maintain that a well-found and prepared yacht should be able to handle extreme conditions at sea – the problem is land, and the further offshore you can be, the better. Even so, as sailors we need to remember that in the end, no matter how much we do, the sea and the elements can still catch us out.

post-971-141887197058.jpg

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Thanks from me also Alan,

Motoring in reverse?? The quick snip I saw on TV suggests to me yacht had the sea anchor streamed from the stern. That would explain!!

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Funny I used motoring in reverse as a quick way to bleed off some speed on Sunday when I suddenly found myself sailing at 6-7 kts with 3 kawhai on the lines at the same moment..... using about 50% engine power in reverse it roughly halved the boatspeed. But I noticed that trying to rev any harder simply generated cavitation and the boat didn't slow much more. But then I know my folding prop is highly inefficient in reverse, a fixed or feathering prop would have done better.

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Thanks for the extremely well written report Alan, and I'm really sorry to hear about the loss of Frolic.

Heart wrenching.

I defy anyone to fault you on your preperation or actions during the storm. Who would have thought that 60nm sea room was not enough??

Thanks for sharing that with us. It answered a lot of questions everyone had. Best of luck with your sailing future mate. I hope you carry on.

 

Smithy.

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