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Old 01-06-2016, 06:28 PM   #21
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And yet another sailboat today. The Bridge of Lions seems to me aptly named!
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Old 01-06-2016, 06:56 PM   #22
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Thanks for relating your experience, glad it worked out, largely due the thought and planning you invested before letting go.
We have been on a mooring ball in high winds, ball pulled from/lying parallel to the water. Scary,wondering how good the mooring apparatus is, but it only lasted until the front passed.
When we pick up a mooring, we follow a similar procedure. Our moorings typically have a single pennant, to get a fair run I remove the anchor and bring the pennant in over the anchor bow roller(often adding a strop to extend it),while standing the anchor vertically nearby on a mat.
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Old 01-06-2016, 07:32 PM   #23
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Glad it worked out for you. Could have turned out much worse. My recommendation would be to get your wife some helm time so that she does not feel uncomfortable driving the boat. If you had gone overboard, who would have come to pick you up? My wife and I have been boating since we were going together in high school. She never wanted to drive the boat. When we joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary and got into the boat crew program, she was forced to start driving the boat. We were boating at Lake Powell and I fell down a cliff and broke my foot. Sandy was able to handle the boat back down the lake about 100 miles and get me back to the marina. She still would rather that I drive, I think she just likes to enjoy the ride, but she is able to drive in an emergency. She fell this last summer and had to have a shoulder replacement and is still quite limited in range of motion with the right arm. We are bringing our boat home to Michigan from Virginia this spring. I may have to do the line handling and she may have to be at the helm. It just makes sense that everyone can run the boat if necessary.
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Old 01-06-2016, 08:14 PM   #24
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Thanks everyone for your comments. Everyoneís comment is appreciated and I take no offense to anyone questioning my judgment. If I or someone else learns something from this discussion then we all benefit.

I do want to answer all questions posed as I thought of everyone except one during the long night before with little sleep. The one point mentioned that I did not consider is why I didnít wear a normal life jacket over the inflatable one I had on. I just didnít think of it. The only reason I can give is I probably thought the inflatable was enough (it probably isnít in this situation). We always have 2 off shore life jackets readily available at the helm so it would have been easy to don before leaving the safety of the sundeck. But in looking back, off shore life jackets are bulky and it may have hindered my movement on deck. I am going to give this more thought. Also it would probably be prudent to remove the inflatable life jacket. Having it inflate inside the off shore jacket may have made it difficult to breath.

Tie a life jacket on the end of a 100 ft line in case I fell overboard. Debbie actually mentioned this though we donít have 100 ft of readily available rope. What she was considering was to tie one of our 25í dock lines to a life jacket. 25í would not be enough but we could have made up 75í tying several dock lines together. But I would not have been able to get aboard even if I was able to pull myself to the boat. Our dinghy stored on the swim platform on Weaver davits makes it impossible to board from the water without deploying it. I would not want to risk Debbie falling in the water attempting to deploy the dinghy. She does not know how to swim. But perhaps the prudent thing to do would have been to deploy the dinghy before starting this maneuver. Iím going to think more about this.

If I fell in the water my thinking went like this. I probably would not have gotten a life jacket thrown from the boat so I would be relying totally on the inflatable I had on. The water temp is in the low 60ís, cold but survivable for 20 minutes, I think. The wind was blowing toward the Bridge of Lions and in our position would blow me toward the marina floating docks right past the bridge. I would have been in the water maybe 15 minutes. But now that I think about this, that thinking may have been flawed. The current would probably have a greater effect on a floating body than the wind and I donít know which direction the current was flowing at the time we decided to attempt this. It may have well taken be out toward the inlet.

Al mentioned why not lower the anchor a few feet with the mooring bridle outside and forward of the anchor chain. We did just that a few days earlier on the mooring ball in Fernandina Beach and with the current reversing the boat 4 times a day around the mooring ball, the bridle got hopelessly twisted on the anchor chain. With light winds it was not easy to untangle but possible. It would have been impossible with the winds at St. Augustine.

Also as Iíve learned I did not properly tie the mooring pendant to the boat. The proper way is to use 2 lines each tied to the mooring pendant eye, then one line to the port bow cleat, the other to the starboard cleat. I used one 7/8Ē line, one end tied to the port cleat the other end tied to the starboard cleat with the line running through the pendant eye. This allows the pendant eye to chafe the bridle line which I had considered but I did check the line twice through the evening. There was no indication of chafing on the bridle line.

But I think the 2 biggest questions are this:
1. If we were safe why did we attempt such a maneuver? Debbie actually mentioned this. In my mind we were going no matter what. We did not get much sleep and most importantly the forecast was for conditions to remain the same for the next 24 hrs. I also knew that my decision making skills and judgement would only get worse under these conditions. Though we werenít throwing up sick we were both quezzie and tied and this would only get worse. Not good when clear thinking and as much agility and strength as I could muster were needed to go out on a pitching deck.
Also as mentioned in my initial post I was worried about the anchor coming loose and damaging the boat. Itís possible it could have been thrown overboard by the rough seas and holed the hull, but I donít think the chain was long enough for it to reach below the water line. I was also worried about the bridle, but as mentioned no chafing was noted.



2. Why did I put Debbie and I in this position in the first place. Well in my defense when we picked up the mooring ball 2 days earlier I had no idea the sea condition could get so bad this close to land on an inland water way. Also the forecast wind was for 17 kts, way below the 25-30 we actually experienced. Now that Iíve had this experience it almost seems obvious. High winds coming from a clear opening to the sea only a mile away!

One thing I did do that the couple whose boat crashed into the Bridge of Lions may not have done was to set an anchor alarm. I used Drag Queen and had it right next to me while sleeping on the salon floor. I figured it would give us about 3 minutes warning before we hit the bridge. Donít know if that would have been enough, probably not. I did have the keys in the ignition and the helm light on all night.

I am curious why the couple whose boat crashed into the bridge stayed on the mooring ball. I think they were there before us. I would think they would have moved to the south field, but perhaps they considered it too dangerous to release from the mooring ball.
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Old 01-06-2016, 08:25 PM   #25
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My recommendation would be to get your wife some helm time so that she does not feel uncomfortable driving the boat.
It's not going to happen. She doesn't want to and no matter of negotiation is going to change that.

I'm just happy she has spent the last 3 months on the boat with me and 5 months last year. Our boating experiences are coming to a close and we've had a hell of a ride. She's enjoyed this too, but this is my thing not her's, she's done this to please me.

How many wife's would spend that much time on a boat?
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Old 01-06-2016, 09:08 PM   #26
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How many wife's would spend that much time on a boat?
I am a lucky one I guess. This April we will be livaboard for 2 years and she is loving it!!! So far
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Old 01-06-2016, 09:40 PM   #27
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How many wife's would spend that much time on a boat?
Wifey B: Me, me, me.

But if she doesn't enjoy it then that is a lot to spend on the boat. It's hard for me to understand anyone who doesn't love boats, but the reality is lot's of people don't and there are things others love that i don't enjoy. It's whatever works for you.
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Old 01-06-2016, 10:41 PM   #28
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Actually you were better off with just the inflatable life vest. Inflatables have more flotation (35 lb for a good one) than the off shore life vests (22.5 lbs) and the flotation in an inflatable is better oriented to float you face up. Given your situation you were better off with a single line going from cleat to cleat rather than two lines tied to the ring on the buoy. With two lines tied to the buoy you would certainly have had to abandon them.

It could have been worse. Imagine picking the mooring up in those conditions. Practice will improve your technique. The only change I would suggest is that you arrange hand signals with your wife so she could put the boat in gear at idle to move closer to the mooring then at your signal go back to neutral so you could disengage and retrieve the line.

My comments are based on keeping my boat on a mooring for 24 years.
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Old 01-06-2016, 10:41 PM   #29
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Pilots of necessity have to be good at analyzing dangerous situations. This was an example of that training. In St. Augustine, I think the harbor master should warn the boaters of what would be likely to happen with a northeasterly wind. It's not like it hasn't happened before. They constructed a break water to protect the marina from just such a situation. I have seen waves breaking over the floating docks there.Before the mooring field many a boat dragged anchor to wind up on the bridge.
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Old 01-06-2016, 11:52 PM   #30
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Thanks to Tim for recounting the events. A good job dealing with the situation.

The biggest learning from Tim's story for me is to always check forecasts and modify plans if required. I do not enjoy bouncing around at night when I want to sleep and if it was surprisingly rough on returning to the boat I would check the forecast and move, yes even at night, if it was predicted to worsen.

When on the hook, and a mooring ball is really a permanent anchor, one of the first things I do in the morning is check forecasts for the next 24 and 48 hours. Then there is plenty of time to move somewhere else if the forecast is iffy. I also recheck in the evening. Fronts & changes can arrive earlier than forecast.

I am assuming reliable forecasts are available, but if not then try something like PredictWind Wind Forecast | Marine Wind Forecast | PredictWind They had a special recently so I took a 12 month pro subscription, and so far I am quite impressed. Twice in the last few weeks I have returned to my marina a day earlier than originally planned due to 25 kn SW fronts arriving faster than initially predicted.
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Old 01-07-2016, 12:43 AM   #31
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Good job, Tim. As soon as I saw it was trouble at a Mooring, I figured either St. Aug or Fernandina. Good cooperation from the wife.
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Old 01-07-2016, 08:04 AM   #32
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First let me clarify, Debbie does enjoy the boat, 4-5 days at a time, just not 4-5 months.

Checking forecast winds may not be enough. I, as I'm sure many of you have been at anchor or on a mooring ball with high winds. Last November we were anchored in Broad Ck, VA having arrived there after dealing with 3-5 ft seas in the North River. Forecast was for 2 ft. Broad Ck is surrounded by low grass so this location did not block the wind but it did completely block the waves. A windy but comfortable night.
So in my opinion the sea state is more important than the wind.

I wish the dock master had warned us of the impending conditions. But to be fair we had been on the mooring for 2 previous nights which were comfortable and when I made the reservation I specifically requested the north field because it is much closer to the dinghy dock.

TDunn is exactly right, if I had tied to the mooring with 2 lines as described above I would have had to abandon the lines, it would have been impossible to retrieve them if tied to the pendant. But... I still think tying two lines to the pendant as I described above is the right way. The security of 2 lines can't be overstated and dock lines are cheap.

Going forward I will be more conscientious about checking forecast winds and asking the dockmaster if mooring balls are anticipated. Also just checking the relationship of the mooring field and any open areas where wind and thus waves can build that can affect the field would be well advised.

I will be very interested in finding out what happened that caused the couple on the sailboat to end up on the bridge. Under those wave conditions they were very lucky to come out unharmed.
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Old 01-07-2016, 08:35 AM   #33
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I have noticed that marine forecast winds are usually higher, and so are wind map sources such as passageweather...etc..if you read between the lines.

Any place winds can be funneled, such as though that stretch of water coming off the ocean and being turned through the bridge area in the face of the fort/city's buildings...especially so.

Even in marsh areas where you may think trees will block the wind, it can turn down that stretch and be funneled to an unexpected velocity. Though usually without major open areas, friction has a pretty major effect as seen by the difference in the city forecast versus the marine forecast for the same areas.

As far as all the safety precautions...completely normal. Being in this situation more than once a decade for the average cruiser would be rare unless for a couple reasons. So even the experience wouldn't have taken them all before or even during the moment.

Comparing offshore safety equipment and procedures on an offshore sailboat to a part time coastal cruiser isn't exactly normal...even professionals write up safety packages that are divided into classes of use.

Sure some good tips...but Monday morning stuff...think about it and add to your arsenal as you think through what went well and what didn't.
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Old 01-07-2016, 09:24 AM   #34
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Wind direction and fetch are the factors that matter when you are moored or on the hook. Our harbor is open to the east, so easterlys always mean rough weather. We are protected from all other directions. A couple of years ago we were on the fringes of a hurricane that passed west of us so the winds were from the south. Despite the winds being in the 60 knot range my boat was riding easy because of the limited fetch to the south.
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Old 01-07-2016, 10:38 AM   #35
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Open areas can have high wind but be limited in the ability to produce wave action due to depth of water... then I have seen marshes turn into a frenzy when the N'oreasterly winds drive unusually high tides over them.

Other much smaller areas can produce pretty good sized waves due to wind and opposing current speed.

Unfortunately nothing is simple and thus even the most experienced can get caught off guard.

My rule of thumb because my boat is my home and all my possessions of significance....forecast marine winds above 20 knots have me seeking a sheltered marina or a deep, blind end, secluded anchorage with plenty of solid protection around. I have a low risk threshold in this case.

Not always easy...but I have in mind plenty of places that I see and keep in the back of my mind.
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Old 01-07-2016, 10:42 AM   #36
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How many wife's would spend that much time on a boat?
In a heartbeat!
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Old 01-07-2016, 11:01 AM   #37
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Very excellent review of all points. And I agree with Tdunn. Your inflatable PFD would have done just fine.

To give y'all an idea of where Tim's perspective comes from...

As airline pilots, when we screw up or simply face a situation that could have had consequences, we fill out an ASAP(Aviation Safety Action Program) report. It is basically a report of what happened...how it happened...why it happened...and how would you prevent it from happening in the future. It gives the company and FAA a database to predict trends(it also uses other programs to complete the safety infrastructure). It does relieve/protect us from punitive action in most scenarios.

That is why you see his thoughts and decisions so well thought out. This ain't his first rodeo!!!

It is also one of the reasons I enjoy boating so much. It does allow for the things I learn at the airline level to trickle down into my boating experiences. IOW, I love the challenge of operating a large piece of equipment in a competent and professional manner.
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Old 01-07-2016, 11:25 AM   #38
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Thanks for sharing your story and I'm sure as you know in forums there will be criticism, but not meant in a hurtful way. Few things from my 30+ years on the water:
1)Conditions are bad, don't leave, no matter how good you think you are or how strong the boat is.
2) if you think life jacket, then just put it on (regular one, not inflatable).
Safe travels!
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Old 01-07-2016, 11:56 AM   #39
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For those suggesting non-inflatable life jackets....

Which type?

Hurried actions in a life jacket with as much flotation as an inflatable is a joke.

Work vests were created for that situation and their life saving capability is near the bottom.

Inflatables were designed for the better of both worlds..work and flotation....

In my wildest dreams I would never use a regular jacket over an inflatable except when abandoning ship....even then it might depend.
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Old 01-07-2016, 12:21 PM   #40
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Tim, when we bought our boat my wife, like Debbie, didn't want to have any helm time. I had argued that if something should happen to me I would have to rely on her to get the boat back to a dock. She wasn't having it.


One day when we were cruising and both of us up on the fly bridge, I turned to her and said "I need to go below for a minute" and indicated she needed to take over the helm. She didn't want to until I told her to just keep it in the middle of the river and watch the plotter screen.


I went below, got a bottle of water, sat around for a few minutes then went back up. She wasn't really enjoying the driving but I sat down next to her and just let her keep at it.


She asked me what I went below for and I told her I had to hit the head. Since that initial time she's become more accustomed to it and twice has backed it into the slip (with me standing right next to her).


She still never asks to take the helm but will if I ask her to. And yes, she could get it to a dock if necessary, knows hot to call the USCG on VHF16, knows where to look for the lat/long numbers, etc.
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