a real tragedy to our follow cruiser

Fr J Hackett

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We can all be wise after the event but things I take from the account are:

A boat that requires 3 people to reef the main and use of engine is not fit for the purpose.

The crew were over reliant on the skipper and left reefing the main too late.

They (skipper) were pushing the boat through a narrow weather window and didn't seem prepared for crossing the Gulf Stream in conditions that were not ideal.

An absolute tragedy though.
 

Sailfree

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these are people we met some years back.
Use a perventer guys .

Anatomy of a Tragedy at Sea - Blue Water Sailing
Thanks for posting that.

It's sad but we all learn from others mistakes and hopefully benefit.

I read all the UK accident investigations in leisure craft - they rarely attribute blame just lesson to be learnt.

I like to think of myself as a safe cautious skipper but I came unstuck on our Jeanneau 43DS when needing to reef down in bad conditions.

I had specified the boat to have a fully battened main and single line reefing all lead back to the cockpit. I also added a third reef but that required going to the mast to reef the luff.

Prior to the incident I had always reefed early. On this occasion we commenced a cross channel crossing knowing wind was going to get stronger and requiring reefing during passage.

The fully battened main developed such power that the friction at the mast meant it could only be lowered by motoring into the wind but basically I discovered the boat was almost impossible to reef in heavy weather and the flapping main caused the 2 of the blocks shakles on the main leach to come undone and swing dangerously in the cockpit.

The system was 14mm thick reefing lines.

After the incident i decided that on a 43 boat it was over engineered and had excessive friction. I changed all the reefing lines to 10mm including the blocks. I also changed the 3rd reef to 2 reefing lines one for the luff and one for the leech - both now lead back to the cockpit.

Lesson learnt that while reefing down had worked OK for previous 4yrs I had never had to reef down in worsening condition and a bad sea. It was only that situation that revealed the high friction of the too thick ropes and shaking of the main caused the two of the block shackles to come undone. Sail had been serviced and put on by others. I now check all block shackles myself.

I have unfortunately investigated a number of engineering errors and while hindsight is wonderful I have often concluded "there but for the grace of God go I" and I am not religious.
 
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chrishscorp

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Finally, a mainsheet that comprises just a single turn around a single block - WTF.
I will presume the picture put up by Yngmar is a stock picture. Agree I would not have that set up at all very little mechanical advantage in it, ok there is an electric winch but your working it hard for want of £400 worth of blocks which is fine till the day your winch motor busts and its down to a winch handle and grunt.

A pretty shocking account of what happened and in the space of a few seconds, very sad.
 

25931

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I will presume the picture put up by Yngmar is a stock picture. Agree I would not have that set up at all very little mechanical advantage in it, ok there is an electric winch but your working it hard for want of £400 worth of blocks which is fine till the day your winch motor busts and its down to a winch handle and grunt.

A pretty shocking account of what happened and in the space of a few seconds, very sad.
In my ninety years I have done some sailing. Nothing quite so large nor anywhere near so expensive. Looking at the picture and reading the article a word came unbidden into my mind several times - UNSEAMANLIKE.
 

sailaboutvic

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I posted this with the hope we all learn something from it ,
It was a bit of a shocked as we had met the couple once ,
I think it hits home more if you knew the person .
I sure we all heard the old saying if your thinking about reefing it probably too late.
That stand true to this day.
Two thinks need to be taken in account,
We all make mistakes what ever our X years of experience is, hopeful we live though tho mistakes and learn something.
Sadly not in this case.
Secondly the account is coming from the crew, I'm not suggesting it's not correct ,
Who to say they wasn't instructed to do one thing and it was a mistake they made that lead to the unfortunate events.
Many of us push ourself and boats to the limit me included although as we get older we push less and less these days,
Most of the time our experience, quick thinking and having partner/crew with good knowledge and seamanship get us through when mistakes are made.
Sadly this wasn't a good ended.
 

Wansworth

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Quite a few years back the editor of yachting world had a seagoing yacht built,about thirty foot,what I recall of the design was there where innumerable hand holds places to wedge your self in to cook etc.It seems this kind of thinking has changed and now we are shownboats with massive spaces almost flat like dimension .And the newish idea of baby boomers suddenly having the stamina to handle high tech boats totally reliant on electricity so they can sail yachts that only afew yars ago would need a four man crew.Maybe there needs to be an assessment of where yachting is going and a bit more respect for the sea and the elements
 

Fr J Hackett

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Quite a few years back the editor of yachting world had a seagoing yacht built,about thirty foot,what I recall of the design was there where innumerable hand holds places to wedge your self in to cook etc.It seems this kind of thinking has changed and now we are shownboats with massive spaces almost flat like dimension .And the newish idea of baby boomers suddenly having the stamina to handle high tech boats totally reliant on electricity so they can sail yachts that only afew yars ago would need a four man crew.Maybe there needs to be an assessment of where yachting is going and a bit more respect for the sea and the elements
I see where you are coming from and the boats like the one in question fill me with horror and seem totally inappropriate for sever weather. However there are plenty of boats in the 50 to 60 foot region that can be handled in all conditions by a crew of two. As examples I would give you two which I was seriously contemplating but the problems of a looming Brexit and importing an American boat into Europe or the UK eventually put me off the idea, the boats were a Hylas 56 or an older Valient 50. in fact the Valient had no electrical winches save the anchor windlass. It's all down to sail plan and how you handle it.
 

Wansworth

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I see where you are coming from and the boats like the one in question fill me with horror and seem totally inappropriate for sever weather. However there are plenty of boats in the 50 to 60 foot region that can be handled in all conditions by a crew of two. As examples I would give you two which I was seriously contemplating but the problems of a looming Brexit and importing an American boat into Europe or the UK eventually put me off the idea, the boats were a Hylas 56 or an older Valient 50. in fact the Valient had no electrical winches save the anchor windlass. It's all down to sail plan and how you handle it.
Yes your right but your to choices are quite old proper yachts
 

Wansworth

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I think it was Hiscock stated 400 square feet wasthe biggest a man could handle.obviously out dated but say manhandling two anchours in advance of approching bad weather is still a possibility that could sap the strength of a baby boomer 😳? Anyway we are now in the age of electronic tech whatever solving all these problems .It’s what the customer wants
 

Fr J Hackett

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I think it was Hiscock stated 400 square feet wasthe biggest a man could handle.obviously out dated but say manhandling two anchours in advance of approching bad weather is still a possibility that could sap the strength of a baby boomer 😳? Anyway we are now in the age of electronic tech whatever solving all these problems .It’s what the customer wants
Yes sail material, winches electrical or not ( 3 speed manual ones available) modern materials for blocks all make for easier sail handling and lighter loads, no wresting on the foredeck with armfuls of flapping sail and waves engulfing you any more ( been there got that T shirt) Better forecasting and routing available and better anchors and lighter gear all make it possible. Look forward not backward.
 

Sailfree

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Ref Wandsworth quote " maybe there needs to be a reassessment of sailing and where its going"

I can't ever see international agreement on legislation for what is a safe boat for certain distance from shore - too many National and Commercial interests.

Hence sailing boats will continue to head towards what sells and most will go for comfortable good weather cruisers as they never intend to cross oceans or sail in storms.

It was ever thus! In 1998 when I bought our first boat a new 36' production cruiser many still advocated buying smaller older boats to learn to sail first and many were horrified at the thought of a lightweight GRP boat with fin keel and spade rudder 36' long as our first boat. A lot felt that only long keel heavy displacement boats should be bought!

I prefer not to comment on the sad situation that resulted in 2 deaths but again like you prefer to reflect on what we are told and hopefully be better informed when making our own decisions.
 

Gerry

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We were heading from the Georgia coast out across the Atlantic to Falmouth UK. Possibly via the Azores but really intending to do a single run. We are two reasonably experienced blue water sailors on the wrong side of middle aged . Our boat is a very well founded 1991 Bowman 40 with a medium to heavy displacement hull. Over the years many tweaks have been implemented to increase safety, ease of handling and redundancy of systems. She is cutter rigged with a fully battened main with 3 reefs. All have to be done at the mast which is equipped with sturdy 'granny bars'. We have double kicking straps on the boom led down to massive pad eyes on the deck. We also have running back stays.

Yes this slows down tacking BUT it always leaves us in total control. We know where the boom is at all times. And let's face it we usually think about tacking for at least a day before we do it! So moving all the ropes around is no biggy. We learned early on to reef early and reef deep. Yes it slows us down, so what? It means less visits to the mast in serious conditions.


We were about three hundred miles out when an unexpected low developed and rapidly intensified. We put the third reef in, furled the yankee and half furled the staysail. We were still charging along as the waves built and the thunder and lightning intensified. Scary stuff for two not so young codgers. To cut a long story short we limped through five days of this weather, making little forward distance but managing to heave to for periods to catch some sleep below, eat and drink. As we sat huddled together behind the wheel on the fifth day there was a terrific bang from the top of the main and she had blown out. First time in over a decade of blue water sailing we had damaged a sail. We got it down and had a cup of tea. From that moment the weather began to abate and we re directed towards Bermuda. We estimate that the wind in that final blast was in excess of 70 knots. Our anemometer had long stopped working.

We made landfall safely in Bermuda where the local sailing community were really helpful in organising repairs both for the sails and for us. We remain so grateful to them. Our journey continued after a couple of weeks to the Azores and from there on to Falmouth.

In hindsight we are so happy that we had the kicking straps ( often the subject of mirth from other sailors). That we had reefed really really early, that we knew how to heave to. That we had a cutter rig with its ability to make a number of different sail configurations.

The story of these unfortunate sailors is sobering. There but for the grace of god go many of us.
 

Zing

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A couple of people questioned if the volunteer crew cocked up as a cause. They might have, but I don’t think that likely. Also the flat, unprotected deck layout was commented on as an issue, but I can’t see evidence that played a role. Reefing earlier could only have helped. Having trained the crew to not need the skipper ditto.

It looks to me like the key mistake was in not getting the main sheet in fully and that happened because the sheet came out of the winch jaws, was unnoticed 8n the chaos of wind and rain and noise and then it pulled out. The main sheet did pull out and I can’t think of any other explanation, so the sheet must have come out of the jaws. My main sheet does this occasionally, so I wrap it around the jaws an extra turn to prevent that happening. Also there might not have been enough turns on the winch to control the problem once it started; in high winds if there are not enough turns on the winch a sheet can be impossible to hold from slipping out when not in the jaws.
 

geem

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Have you actually used an in-boom furler? Provided you have the correct boom angle it’s easy to reef quickly. Quicker, in fact, than many other reefing systems.

Getting the boom angle correct is also relatively easy if you fit an angle indicator onto the vang. If you don’t pay attention to boom angle and do get a jam, it’s usually at the equivalent point of a 3rd reef. So not a catastrophe in all but the worst conditions.

Our boat has in-cockpit controls, so reefing by the single person on watch is perfectly doable. But no boat, including ours, will reef with the main still powered.

Having said all that, the helming positions on the CNB 66 look horrendously exposed. What’s even more difficult to understand is a £140k electric furling system that isn’t controlled from the cockpit.

Finally, a mainsheet that comprises just a single turn around a single block - WTF.
We have slab reefing. We never turn up in to the wind to reef. We reef downwind as a matter of course. You can't do that with inboom reefing.
We also reef with one person on watch but we don't have a single line led back to the cockpit. We do all reefing at the mast. Super simple with absolute minimal friction. Large granny bars, five winches on the mast and fully battened sail on Selden cars endures fast and easy reefing
 

25931

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We have slab reefing. We never turn up in to the wind to reef. We reef downwind as a matter of course. You can't do that with inboom reefing.
We also reef with one person on watch but we don't have a single line led back to the cockpit. We do all reefing at the mast. Super simple with absolute minimal friction. Large granny bars, five winches on the mast and fully battened sail on Selden cars endures fast and easy reefing
What size is your boat ?
 

Sailfree

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We have slab reefing. We never turn up in to the wind to reef. We reef downwind as a matter of course. You can't do that with inboom reefing.
We also reef with one person on watch but we don't have a single line led back to the cockpit. We do all reefing at the mast. Super simple with absolute minimal friction. Large granny bars, five winches on the mast and fully battened sail on Selden cars endures fast and easy reefing
Unfortunately with fully battened main on a 43' boat it produces such power there is thrust on mast and even with ball bearing cars so you can never reef while powered up.
 

bedouin

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I noticed it said the preventer had snapped at some point. Surely if you are hauling the boom to the centre line the preventer should be slack. I wonder if they tried to centre the main by winching against the preventer which eventually gave way
 
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