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Old 02-13-2012, 01:58 PM   #1
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war stories

My son sent me the following story; we've all been in conditions that went TU in a hurry and hopefully learned from the experience. Sounds like this guy did; he was in a 38 footer. It's a little long but I didn't want to edit anything except ID.
Will,
We had a crazy situation this weekend. Check this out.*
*

I left Grand Isle,LA Friday morning for an easy day trolling for wahoo approx 50 miles offshore. Forecasts were reasonably good-10 knt winds with 50% chance of light rain, then a cold front moving through Friday night--not to worry though, we'd be back 6-8 hours before the front was forecast to come through.

The day was uneventful with just a few Amberjack to show for our efforts we turned north about 2:30 to run home. It was raining lightly, and had been for a few hours. Seas were light (1-3). Roughly 1/2 way home the rain got heavier and heavier, but oddly enough the winds were getting calmer and the seas were slick. As the rain continued to get heavier, with visibility down to less than 1/4 mile, and the radar totally whited out with rain we came across an oil rig to take cover behind and ride out the rain.

As we're idling on the lee side of the rig the winds suddenly increase to 15, then 25, the 35, and within 3 or 4 minutes we're being hammered by winds in excess of 60mph steady, with gusts that were deafening. I'm doing my best to keep the boat behind the rig, as it knocks the wave height almost in half. No more than 5 minutes later, the seas have built to an extremely angry 6-8' BEHIND the rig and I'm really struggling to keep the*(boat name)*tucked in.

In literally the blink of an eye, a huge gust(maybe 70+) picks up the bow of the boat and throws me from behind the rig out into open water----broadside! Before I can move we are crushed with a 10' wall of breaking water on the starboard side rolling the boat virtually 90 degrees. I can see nothing...

At this point, I'm commited to the fact that the boat is rolling over and my only thought are to grab the ditch bag and decide which side of the boat I heading out of. Miraculously, the boat rights itself, and I pull myself and (name withheld) off the floor in time for the next wave---again right over the starboard side. This one didn't roll us, but broke into the boat, which is now calf deep in water, broadside to yet another 10' beaking wave.

I gather my wits, give a huge WTF to Artie and hit the throttles. Somehow, both engines sprung to life and popped us on plan instantly, shedding the majority of the water. For this 30 seconds or so I'm running beam seas in 8-10s with the wind continuing to build, we're in full panick mode. There's another rig(a really big rig) 1/4 mile away in the direction we're turned, but I know I can't sustain 1/4 mile in that beam sea, so I point the bow into the wind and spear the very first wave---again we're calf deep in water. Throttle up and brace myself for the next one, they're coming every few seconds.

I'm yelling at Artie to call the CG with our position, and let them know we are in dire straights. 3, 4 , 5 calls go unanswered. Then we try a radio check---no answer. We fight 60mph winds head on, taking every third wave over the bow. the winds would blow us nearly vertical off the top of each wave, I just know the right wave and wind gust is coming and we're going over.

As a last resort,*(name withheld)*digs out the hand held VHF in the ditchbag and hails the coast gaurd. After 4 or five tries I hear the best thing I think I've ever heard--CG New Orleans. We relay our position and the nature of our situation, let them know that we are currently making 10 mph, but didn't think we could sustain any increase in the conditions, which for the last 15 minutes have only gotten worse. At no point in this ordeal could I see more than 100' in front of me---total white out. CG says to maintain radio contact, which we were able to do for approx 2 min. then we lost them.

5-10 minutes later, we hear them hailing us on the handheld and again realy our position. They monitor us every 3-4 minutes for the next 1/2 hour---conditions still the same. An all out battle to keep the boat going into the waves, slamming down the backs of 12 footers only to have the next one break over the bow, bilge pumps working overtime. Every wave I'd throttle up and by some miracle the engines were there every time. After a while, with no improvement in our situation, the CG asks if they can realease us as safe, b/c there is a capsized vessel in our area with men in the water. I surely didn't feel safe, but I wasn't in the water and realized they needed the radio channel for the rescue operation. After over an hour, the rain stopped and the winds "died" to a mere 30-35knts and left us with a seemingly more managable 6-8' sea state. At this point we tuck tail, and beat our way back at 15-20 mph for the remaining 15 miles.

We hit the pass--call the CG as they instructed to let them know we made it in. My wife and kids were standing at the dock waiting on us, knowing we came through a terrible storm, but the don't know and will never know how close we were to not returning. We were inches from rolling the boat into 55 degree water and 50 degree air temps. I've never been so tired in my life.

I'm not telling this story for sympathy or being dramatic, but to tell you what we did right and what we did wrong...

Lesson 1. there's no way to prepare for the speed in which bad stuff happens. Despite the fact that the ditch bag and liferaft was on the leaning post, I could not have grabbed it when we rolling. There's no way.

Lesson 2. never go with out an epirb---I mailed mine out last week to get the battery replaced(it expires this month) and haven't received it back yet. I was dead without it. The only time I've left the dock without it in the last 8 years--think about that for a second!

Lesson 3. MUTIPLE VHFs!!

Lesson 4. Boats can't be too big So a I am officially in the market for one of your big Sport fish pronto. *

I'd like to say we should have called the CG earlier, but it literally went from dead calm to nearly upside down in 5 minutes or less.

I should've had my kill switch on--I never leave it off, but for whatever reason I didn't put it on this time.

respect the weather--this was the most innocent looking storm I've come across.

Know that you can't survive if you're in the water in the winter--plan accordingly.


*

Bill Noftsinger

Amazing Grace
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Old 02-13-2012, 02:03 PM   #2
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war stories

Probably had no clue how strong the front was and only allowing 6 or so hours was idiotic....

Mariners need to learn a LOT more about weather than the average guy...befriend a pilot and learn a few things...especially an old timer, USCG/Navy pilot.

War stories?* The really good boaters have few and far between for a good reason...though we do have a few I suspect!


-- Edited by psneeld on Monday 13th of February 2012 03:04:46 PM
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Old 02-13-2012, 02:30 PM   #3
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RE: war stories

Wow!
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Old 02-13-2012, 04:55 PM   #4
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RE: war stories

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psneeld wrote:
Probably had no clue how strong the front was and only allowing 6 or so hours was idiotic....
*We've found that the weather forecasting in our area is quite good as to what is going to happen.* Where things can fall apart a bit is in the when it's supposed to happen.

The one time we came closest to losing the boat (so far) was in a lee-shore situation when high winds arrived about six or eight hours before the forecast--- including the most up-to-date forecast--- said they were due to arrive.

Since that incident we have tried to get a better handle on the when part of the forecast by comparing the US forecast to the BC forecast for the same general area and looking at other data as well.* But over the years of*both boating and float flying*out here we have learned to take the "when" part of the forecast with a bit of a grain of salt.* They can be off as much on the late side as on the early side, so sometimes their error works in your favor and sometimes it doesn't.

I've met a number of the local meteorologists over the years both in assocation with aviation and boating, and they have all talked about the difficulty of making accurate predictions in this area-- by which I mean from Puget Sound on up through the BC raincoast and SE Alaska---*due in large part to the geography.* But all in all, I think they do a pretty good job.
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:12 PM   #5
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RE: war stories

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Marin wrote:psneeld wrote:
Probably had no clue how strong the front was and only allowing 6 or so hours was idiotic....
*We've found that the weather forecasting in our area is quite good as to what is going to happen.* Where things can fall apart a bit is in the when it's supposed to happen.

The one time we came closest to losing the boat (so far) was in a lee-shore situation when high winds arrived about six or eight hours before the forecast--- including the most up-to-date forecast--- said they were due to arrive.

Since that incident we have tried to get a better handle on the when part of the forecast by comparing the US forecast to the BC forecast for the same general area and looking at other data as well.* But over the years of*both boating and float flying*out here we have learned to take the "when" part of the forecast with a bit of a grain of salt.* They can be off as much on the late side as on the early side, so sometimes their error works in your favor and sometimes it doesn't.

I've met a number of the local meteorologists over the years both in assocation with aviation and boating, and they have all talked about the difficulty of making accurate predictions in this area-- by which I mean from Puget Sound on up through the BC raincoast and SE Alaska---*due in large part to the geography.* But all in all, I think they do a pretty good job.

*A famous SAR case due to 2 deaths in a "T" boat sinking on the Chesapeake*sticks in my mind like a 1000 watt lightbulb.*

*Fortunately The aircrew and I as Operations officer were exonerated /no lawsuit because the entire fleet of Charter and T boats all left the fishing grounds in plenty of time to avaoid the frontal passage.* They were in contact with the weather service/friends up the Potomac in Wash, DC and left the grounds when the storm was*70 miles away in Wash.,DC

The knuckleheaded captain that stayed, despite the warnings and the entire fleet*leaving, wound up in 10-15 foot seas and popped a plank on his boat...the cold water did the rest.* Fortunately something like 50 people were rescued by other boats, the USCG helo and a Navy helo.

The moral of the story...THERE IS VERY LITTLE UNFORECAST WEATHER IN THE US and even that is easily backed up by paying attention to whats going on right around you as well as off in the direction most bad weather approaches.** The only real exception is those parts of Alaska and the PNW that have no or few reporting stations out to their west...sorry guys...sorta on your own

But for us east and gulf coast guys...shame on you if ever caught in anything but a local area thunderstorm.
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:24 PM   #6
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RE: war stories

The calm before the storm is a real phenoninum. *I was anchored in Rattan Bay off the Neuse River one day when it got earily calm. *Not a ripple anywhere, and it was hot. *All of a sudden the wind hit at about 50 mph with a vengance. *I had to put power on to hold anchor. *It stopped as suddenly as it came.

While fishing off the NC coast a charter boat skipper said that in his area it was raining solid, but not too bad because there was no wind. *He came on a little later, and said check that. *His front hatch and radio antannae were blown away. *Sudden storms on the Chesapeake are legendary. *It can be very hard to tell when you are going to get a bad local storm.
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:26 PM   #7
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RE: war stories

Happy you made it back ok.... I can tell you from experience on the Gulf that things happen fast, and NOAA is the last to know.... I don't think my adventure was as much fun as yours, or maybe it was...but I can tell you this...we have a bigger boat now, with TWO engines and watch the weather much closer... We always carry an EPIRB, and have 4 VHF's on board with redundant GPS....and a large battery bank. You gave a lot of good advice....hopefully the less experienced will heed it!!
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:37 PM   #8
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RE: war stories

If you guys think bad weather majically happens...watch some storm chaser shows...they have a very good idea of what days and when they (tornados) *are gonna happen...tornado watches and warnings are sent all the time. Seeing, feeling and smelling the air often gives at least 15 minutes to 1/2 hour before the squall line hits...the real storm is way behind it but that first gust can be just as strong.

Either way...days like that you KNOW there's a chance of one of those kinds of storms...so be prepared...if you get hit "unexpectedly" by a cold front...you are either clueless or just didn't allow that it sped up or slowed down from the last NOAA broadcast.

*
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:46 PM   #9
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RE: war stories

Quote:
psneeld wrote:
If you guys think bad weather majically happens...watch some storm chaser shows...they have a very good idea of what days and when they (tornados) *are gonna happen...tornado watches and warnings are sent all the time. Seeing, feeling and smelling the air often gives at least 15 minutes to 1/2 hour before the squall line hits...the real storm is way behind it but that first gust can be just as strong.

*
*In the days before the 24 hr weather channels, doppler radar, and maybe a forecast of possible afternoon thunder showers, there was not much to go on but observation. *We did have the NOAA weather channel that was updated infrequently. *In the summer when it got very still I got really nervous. *In all likelyhood something was about to happen. *We just had to batten down and take what would come.*
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:58 PM   #10
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war stories

Quote:
Moonstruck wrote:psneeld wrote:
If you guys think bad weather majically happens...watch some storm chaser shows...they have a very good idea of what days and when they (tornados) *are gonna happen...tornado watches and warnings are sent all the time. Seeing, feeling and smelling the air often gives at least 15 minutes to 1/2 hour before the squall line hits...the real storm is way behind it but that first gust can be just as strong.

*
*In the days before the 24 hr weather channels, doppler radar, and maybe a forecast of possible afternoon thunder showers, there was not much to go on but observation. *We did have the NOAA weather channel that was updated infrequently. *In the summer when it got very still I got really nervous. *In all likelyhood something was about to happen. *We just had to batten down and take what would come.*

*

i know...Ive been boaing since the 60's

*nowadays it's completely different if you want to put ALL the available data together...

*


-- Edited by psneeld on Monday 13th of February 2012 07:05:24 PM
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Old 02-13-2012, 06:11 PM   #11
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RE: war stories

Quote:
psneeld wrote:The only real exception is those parts of Alaska and the PNW that have no or few reporting stations out to their west...sorry guys...sorta on your own
One recent improvement that has helped in this respect is the establishment of a third weather radar station on the northwest Washington Pacific coast.* The area out to the west*had been hidden from the other radar stations by the Olympic mountains.* So there*was a huge blind spot precisely in the direction where much of our weather comes from.* The new radar station covers that bind spot now.* Granted, radar provides relatively short range information but the ability to see out to sea west of the Olympics should improve the forecasting, particularly in terms of when stuff is going to arrive.
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Old 02-13-2012, 06:49 PM   #12
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RE: war stories

Quote:
Marin wrote:psneeld wrote:The only real exception is those parts of Alaska and the PNW that have no or few reporting stations out to their west...sorry guys...sorta on your own
One recent improvement that has helped in this respect is the establishment of a third weather radar station on the northwest Washington Pacific coast.* The area out to the west*had been hidden from the other radar stations by the Olympic mountains.* So there*was a huge blind spot precisely in the direction where much of our weather comes from.* The new radar station covers that bind spot now.* Granted, radar provides relatively short range information but the ability to see out to sea west of the Olympics should improve the forecasting, particularly in terms of when stuff is going to arrive.

*That's good...even an hour is enough to mean the difference and a radar looking 100 miles can certainly help...it does back east for sure.
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Old 02-13-2012, 07:04 PM   #13
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RE: war stories

One good thing about being in flat country is that my 75 mile range radar comes into good use finding and tracking thunderstorms. *That is a luxury I could only dream of 40 years ago. *Times have certainly changed.
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