Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Savannah Cup and why we wear life jackets.

This past weekend we raced from Charleston to Savannah in the Charleston Ocean Racing Savannah Cup. The race was both fun and challenging and we were enjoying some great competition. Over the course of the weekend we experienced a wide variety of conditions ranging from dead calm (we actually drifted around in circles) to 25 knot winds and waves around 5-6 feet as we approached Charleston harbor in the pre-dawn hours. We were a crew of five; two Sea Scouts, one younger co-worker and two of us older guys; all are good to strong swimmers.

My life jacket rules are as follows; when on deck a PFD will be worn AT ALL TIMES when underway. I sometimes relax that rule for adults in the cockpit on calm days in protected waters. PFDs may be taken off when in the cabin. Jacklines are run whenever we go outside the harbor. A tether will be worn while offshore and clipped on at night and in rough conditions. The standard is fairly strictly enforced, to the occasional frustration of some of my teenage crew members.

Several times during the race I commented to the crew on the importance of using a tether when we looked off the stern of the boat into the darkness of the white-caps and six foot seas. With the boat sailing at 8-9 knots someone falling from the boat would be gone in seconds. I also spot checked the crew's tether's to ensure that they were properly connected through both of the harness rings not just one side of the vest.

As we were approaching the dock after nearly forty hours of straight sailing we were looking forward to breakfast once we were tied up. The winds were about 12 knots from the North East, there was an ebb current running about 1.5 knots. We had furled the sails, placed fenders and everyone was in their docking positions.

About 150 feet from the marina entrance one of our crewmen lost consciousness and toppled off of the boat into the water. For a brief moment I couldn't believe what I was seeing,  I saw the crewman fall from the boat and yelled Man Overboard! The crew responded smoothly one watching the man overboard (MOB) while another got the boat hook. At first we tried to instruct the MOB to swim to the nearby dock but quickly realized he was unresponsive. We executed our man-overboard  drill; since we were motoring the approach was much less complicated than if we'd been under sail. Once we re-connected with the MOB a crewman hooked his vest strap with the boat-hook and positioned him at the transom near the ladder for recovery. Two of our crew used his tether and harness to slide him up the sloped transom and into the cockpit. Once aboard we treated our MOB for shock, he was conscious but confused. As we returned to our dock the crewman regained awareness putting a happy ending on the too exciting experience.

What we did right:
  • All crew were wearing their PFDs; his PFD absolutely saved this young sailors life.
  • The built in harness in offshore inflatable PFDs makes a huge difference in when trying to recover a MOB
  • Enough of the crew members had discussed or practiced MOB procedures to efficiently recover the MOB.
What we need to fix:
  • Use two legged tethers so that you can be continuously tethered as you move about the boat.
  • The captain needs to be aware of any relevant medical conditions of his crew. 
  • We need to actually practice MOB recovery more often including during poor conditions.
  • Be more consistent and thorough in the pre-sail briefing of MOB procedures.
What we learned:
  • The first (very brief) thought of most of the crew was disbelief that someone had actually gone overboard.
  • Inflatable PFDs work great if they are well maintained and properly worn (most of the crew commented that they'd always wondered about that).
  • The hardest part of the recovery can be getting the person back on the boat.
  • PFD crotch straps matter; we observed that inflatable PFDs ride up around the persons face if they are unconscious.
  • Good health and swimming ability are no substitute for a PFD.
  • God is good; prayers for a safe event were answered in many ways during the weekend. There were many more ways this could have turned out much worse.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer sailing Charleston and the Leukemia Cup!

We've had incredible sailing weather this July, only one Wednesday night race was cancelled due to lack of wind; and most of the fleet raced informally anyway. Last year there were several races where we actually could have gone faster if we'd jumped in the water and pushed.

For the second summer series CORA split the non-spinnaker class into two fleets, D and N. The N fleet are the non-spinnaker boats that rate less than 200 phrf. This made for a lot more close racing for us and for a change we weren't the lowest rated boat in the fleet. As the season shaped up our arch rivals this year have been "Fate" and "The Usual Suspects" who we owe 5 seconds and 33 seconds a mile respectively. Unfortunately I was out of town for the first two races so we didn't have enough finishes to be scored in the series, but race 6 was our most successful race, although we finished fourth we finally beat Fate! For more frequent updates visit the S/V Peregrine facebook page.

One of the highlights for me during the second half of the season was the addition of a GoPro camera (birthday present from my adoring children) to the ship's equipment list. I'm still working on the best place to mount it to capture both crew activities and some of the close sailing we're experiencing.

Peregrine's new light air spinnaker
We've recovered from our spinnaker disaster in the Sheriff's Cup to Bohicket race where we completely blew out our only spinnaker shortly after turning South outside of the jetty. Our replacements include a light weight symmetrical from Bacon Sails and a Gennaker picked up on eBay.

Our next race will be an ocean race, the Savannah Cup and we'll be back in C Class. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we'll have an incredible night sail down the coast.

We've also started fund raising for the Leukemia Cup; this is a two day regatta that takes place in September. As a ship our goal is to raise $10,000 for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, in addition to funding research they also provide financial support to patients. If you are able to support our team send me a note or go to our fund raising page at:  http://www.leukemiacup.org/pages/sc/char14/TVienneau

Your contributions of any amount are greatly appreciated!!