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Author Topic:   Unsinkable is nice, but...
elaelap posted 08-26-2004 10:26 AM ET (US)   Profile for elaelap   Send Email to elaelap  
One death and four injuries in two separate incidents at Bodega Bay yesterday have me again posting the following:

While it's great that Boston Whalers are unsinkable, most deaths and serious injuries at sea are caused by accidents not related to vessels foundering.

Yesterday a fisherman was knocked overboard and drowned when a 'sleeper' wave hit his 25-ft boat, apparently--from first newspaper (Santa Rosa Press Democrat) reports--while he and his three companions were trolling for salmon near Bodega Head. In a separate incident yesterday (also reported in today's Press Democrat), four fishermen on the Bodega Bay charter boat 'Moku' were injured when another fishing boat slammed into Moku in the fog. At least one of the fishermen was seriously injured and was transported to hospital.

Being in a Whaler wouldn't have prevented the death or the injuries. Be careful out there, guys/gals.


PeteB88 posted 08-26-2004 12:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
Man, you are right on. I grew up fishing and running boats my whole life in the Great Lakes states. Mostly inland. I knew about accidents that only happened to other guys who were usually drunked up. We also had these pain in the axx laws that required lifejackets on boats that just got in the way. At least one got hooked inadvertently on every fishing trip. What a pain! Of course, most people bought the cheapest junk PFD or just used those cushions. I thought I knew it all.

However, when I moved to the Pacific NW those guys INSISTED that you wear PFDs in most cases or "you don't go..." and it didn't take me too long to understand why on white water or off shore. One mistake out there and you are dead. I once saw a sign erected by the State that said "Beyond This Point Your Life Might Depend on Your Good Judgement". Even the locals who knew better paid the price. If any of you have heard of Jim Teeny, well known fly fisherman from Oregon, years ago he lost his dad when he stepped into a hole wading on the Sandy River and was swept downstream, floating by in the current and telling his fishing pals on the bank he would be fine. They found him by helicopter hung up on a snag the next day.

We don't get it back here. Not long ago I went out with a friend on Lake MI to troll for salmon Reports were 0-1 ft and when we got there 5 am there was a stiff S breeze - by the time we got out to the lake 0-1 were actually 3 -5 ft. When I asked "where are the PFDs?" one of our group called me a pussy. The pfds were stuffed under the bow, stuffed under the v-berth and impossible to get to. Was I scared or worried? No. But I had developed a massive respect for what is likely to never happen. I got the captain to "dig out" one of his junk, K Mart PFDs for me, thank-you, I took the helm and let the Cap set the riggers and lines.

From now on I take my own PFD with me, fishing vest type.

My wild ass friend with his 21 Outrage now has one of those inflatable vest deals he wears when he is full throttle jumping chop and waves on Lake Mi. He got the message when his friend fell out of a canoe paddling with his two kids and drowned in a small calm water lake .

I don't fear the reaper - but I just DO NOT want to meet the sucker because I did something stupid.

Royboy posted 08-26-2004 01:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for Royboy  Send Email to Royboy     
Call me what you like, but when I'm alone in my boat I wear my PFD and the kill lanyard, even when it's calm. If it's rough I wear them regardless of who is with me. I've had several people tell me what strong swimmers they are, and I ask them how strong a swimmer are you if you bang your elbow or head really hard on the way out of the boat? It usually shuts them up. I'm a strong swimmer too, and a certified diver, I'm just not willing to gamble on my skills with my life. I carry a couple of ski-vest type PFD's (class III) for those who don't want to wear a Mae West (just about everybody, until it gets rough). It's not the perfect solution, but it's better than a throwable, or worse yet, nothing.


JMARTIN posted 08-26-2004 02:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for JMARTIN  Send Email to JMARTIN     
I have also started wearing an automatic inflate sospender when I am by myself. The kill lanyard is on in nasty conditions. I should use it more, but I always forget it is attatched and have shut off the engine a couple of times while preparing to dock. When I take out other people, I always ask if they are a strong swimmer. If not, PFD goes on. I also give a brief lesson in running the boat, where the safety equipment is, radio, flares, cell phone, fire extinguisher. Then a "what to do" if someone goes over. I also tell them that if something really bad happens, stay with the boat, it will not sink. Even with all these precautions, the danger that I see if things really go bad is not drowning, it is hypothermia. John
HuronBob posted 08-26-2004 02:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for HuronBob    
The kill lanyard is a problem... with the 13 footer , low rails, my higher center of gravity, it is the first boat I've had that I really felt I could fall out of... but, as was mentioned, when I wear on of those, I end up pulling it out accidently when I stand to see farther down the river, or move around about for some reason...

my suggestion...make them wireless with a range just as long as the boat... if i fall out, the boat shuts down in 13 feet...... I could live with that...

Chuck Tribolet posted 08-26-2004 03:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Nothing wussy about it. I wear the SOSpenders over my
drysuit (which floats like a cork) on the longer runs. I try
to ALWAYS wear the ignition lanyard.

I've seen BOTH guys go flying out of a twenty-something
foot RIB (and the boat kept going, though fortunately not
very fast). It was a VERY flat day, and they hit a wake or


Freeport Alan posted 08-26-2004 04:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for Freeport Alan    
There was a guy who fell out of a 13 Sport last yr. in my area of S. Shore Long Island & died { Reynolds channel for you locals }, he wasnt wearing a vest. I wear my PFD vest while on my 13 sport always & also did it with my 15 sport, it's that combo of low gunnels & fishing that makes it easy to fall out, you have to really keep your wit's about yourself standing in these boats while fishing. With my other boats I would only put the vest on while in the ocean . Whalers are known for saftey & the bigger ones are but the 13's & 15's can be dangerous as far as falling out of goes.
Marlin posted 08-26-2004 05:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for Marlin  Send Email to Marlin     
Simple rules on my boat- no drugs, no alcohol, and the PFDs must be on whenever the engine's running, and on all the time for non-swimmers.

About 10 years ago I very nearly lost my youngest daughter anchored in a sheltered cove on a beautiful day on the Chesapeake. I jumped off our 26-foot sailboat for a swim, which rocked the boat and toppled my daughter, then about 3 years old, into the water. As we were not underway, she wasn't wearing her PFD. She instantly disappeared in the murky water. I swam back to the side of the boat, and started feeling around under the water. My hand came across some hair, which I grabbed and yanked her out of the water with it.

She was down maybe 10 seconds, the longest 10 seconds of my life.


17 bodega posted 08-26-2004 05:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for 17 bodega  Send Email to 17 bodega     
These kind of stories scare the s*** out of me. I've on occasion tethered myslef to the boat with a long line too. Is this advisable?

Didn't hear about the Moku, Tony. That's nasty stuff. I've heard George ask some fisherman to slow their vessels down in the fog before on the radio. Travelling 20 knots in thick fog is stupid. People tend to crowd out the party boats to try to get in on the fishing action. Lately I've been hearing about I-80 style traffic jams on the water out there. Add the fog and you've got a serious accident waiting to happen.

Wasn't Bodega under small craft advisory yesterday? What is the actual size craft that exceeds "small craft"?

17 bodega posted 08-26-2004 07:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for 17 bodega  Send Email to 17 bodega     
One member of the Coastside fishing club was at the scene and said that the fog was thick and at times 10 foot visibility, and that the coast guard boat that recovered the vicitm reported the vessel got too close to shore, and was hit by a normal breaking wave. I know it's too early to get a conclusive report, but the details here are also very important. To plan safer trips in the future, we need complete and accurate details of where the vessel was exactly when the wave hit. Also the CG said that all passengers were wearing lifejackets.

The reason I think the devil is in the details is that several conflicting facts that could affect the safety of other vessels and boaters were reported. I was at Doran one day and heard a mayday call from a guy in thick fog that got too close to shore and was hit by a breaker. He freaked and called the CG because his windows shattered, but then canceled his vessel assistance call because he got his pumps going and his boat into deeper water.

I am pretty new to ocean boating, and tend to play it safe in fog and rough water. I am also very paranoid about rouge waves. I'm not convinced this was an *actual* rouge wave. The swell was measured at about 7 feet that day and with virtually zero visibility, it's hard to draw early conclusions about the cause of the accident.

At times when fishing close to shore, I have occasional waves bounce my small boat much more than the normal swell. I don't think these are rouge waves either, but they do catch me by surprise.

fishgutz posted 08-26-2004 09:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for fishgutz  Send Email to fishgutz     
Here in Wisconsin I've heard of many cases where a boat is found floating with no one in it. Sometimes the motor is running, sometimes it is underway with no driver. After searching the body of water they find a dead guy with his privates hanging out. Falls in while peeing over the side and drowns. I never pee off the side of a boat. If I really have to go I use a medical urinal, looks like an orange juice pitcher. Works nice.
On a similar note, did you know they have cadaver sniffing dogs that can smell a dead body through the water. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself.
JOHN W MAYO posted 08-26-2004 10:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for JOHN W MAYO  Send Email to JOHN W MAYO     
The SOSpenders are great. I highly recommend them because they are confortable to wear,..and you do wear it..Basspro often put them on sale.
jimh posted 08-26-2004 11:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Re operating in fog:

The Canadian Coast Guard Cutter GRIFFON ran down the fishing vessel CAPTAIN K in a fog on 18 March 1991 in Long Point Bay, Lake Erie. Three crewmen died on the fishing vessel. The GRIFFON was operating at full speed at the time of collision.

Very interesting reading at:

The Canadian Coast Guard is not operated as a military service like the United States Coast Guard, but rather is operated as a civil service.

Royce posted 08-26-2004 11:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Royce  Send Email to Royce     
The accident at Bodega happened near the island just outside the jetty--a known danger zone. The boat was a 25' Skipjack-a fairly large and heavy craft. Apparently the wave was large enough to stand the boat on its stern and dump the father (71 yrs. old) into the water. Both the son and the nephew are firemen in Forestville and were trained in underwater rescue--their training didn't help. This is a real tragedy and touches us all. Another danger zone is the mouth of Tomales bay. Twice I have been in very calm water drifting for halibut and out of the blue comes a 6 or 7 ft. breaker--the last incident was close enough that I now chose too fish other spots.
Just yesterday I decided to add radar to my Raymarine system on my Outrage 25 because of the heavy fog in our area. Today I bought a complete new Raymarine system with a 12+" screen so I can see all information without reading glasses. Fred Fritz ( the electonics dealer) told me that the man who died yesterday was a customer of his. I am also going to follow Tony's advise and buy a portable submersable VHF radio.

My heart goes out to the victims family.


17 bodega posted 08-27-2004 12:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for 17 bodega  Send Email to 17 bodega     

That link in Jimh's post has a huge amount of information. That is the kind of report we recreational boaters need to educate us in order to avoid such tragedies in the future. The amount of tragic incidents on the water is certainly an argument in favor of a boating licence, at least on certain waterways with inherent dangers.

Radar and marine electronics are great, but IMO should not give the skipper any false sense of safety or insulation from disaster. Vessels with radar should still drive very slow, etc, and still not rely on the electronics alone. Just because you have a 5k radar setup, doesn't mean some drunk guy running WOT isn't going to slam into you. I usually see more beer bottles in the dumpster at the fish cleaning station than I do fish.

Hoosier posted 08-27-2004 07:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
All very good points. I have a healthy respect for the sea since I was a merchant seaman and oceanographer in my misspent youth. A 60 foot wave in the North Pacific really gets your attention. Today the thing that scares me is someone falling overboard while trolling, the down rigger wires and "super lines" would cut them in half.
Hoosier posted 08-27-2004 07:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
Oh, all you guys that fish near shore or a breakwater during rough weather: remember waves obey Snell's Law and reflect off of objects they hit. That's why you can get a 12 foot wave when only 6 footers are running. It the reflected wave becomes in phase with the incoming wave and momentarily doubles in amplitude. I suspect that's also what happens when there are rouge waves in the open ocean.
andygere posted 08-27-2004 11:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
Both of these accidents are tragic, and in the case of the folks in the Skipjack, it sounds as though they were experienced watermen. A long time shore fisherman was washed off the rocks and lost in north Santa Cruz County on the same day. The media reports all mentioned rougue waves and the like, but the reality is that there is a long period groundswell runnning, and in both cases these were probably just a large set waves. I've been surfing long enough to know that on a decent groundswell, a substantially bigger "bomb" set will come through about once an hour or so. If you watch long enough, you'll see a pattern, and it repeats itself. When surfing a swell like this, the better surfers recognise the pattern, and will paddle a little further outside to "trohpy hunt" these larger sets.

The lesson here is that during swells like this, areas that appear safe may not be. There may be no breaking waves, and swells may roll harmlessly under your hull for half an hour or more. Glassy, wind-free conditions can lull a mariner into a false sense of security, and fast moving waves can seem to appear out of nowhere. Shallow water is dangerous, and if there is any substantial swell activity, it is best avoided.

Keep one eyeball on the horizon anytime you are close to the ocean's edge, and wear that PFD.

alkar posted 08-27-2004 09:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for alkar  Send Email to alkar     
Thanks for the reminder Tony.

I've been scared plenty - and it's probably helped to drive home some safety lessons that I needed to learn and remember.

It's been just over a year since my buddy and I were caught by a "freak wave" set that was many times larger than the little rollers the Coast Guard was reporting on the bar. We fell off the back of a breaking wave that was variously estimated at between fifteen and eighteen feet. The impact from the fall was enough to break my buddy's back, seriously injure me, and sheer the transducer plate off of my whaler's transom, severing all the new stainless mounting screws in the process. Neither of us will ever forget that fall.

That was my third major scare on the ocean, and there have been lots of less severe reminders in between. Preparation is essential, but the ocean throws us a curve once in a while - just to keep us humble.

I don't leave the harbor without my PFD on, and neither do the other people in my boat. I also keep a submersible radio in the arm pocket of my float-coat.

Our next purchase is a radar reflector. I want to make sure I am seen by the larger boats who are blasting around in the fog.

chopbuster posted 08-27-2004 10:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for chopbuster  Send Email to chopbuster     
Published by: Department of Homeland security/U.S. Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety: Well worth the reading.
chopbuster posted 08-27-2004 10:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for chopbuster  Send Email to chopbuster     
Let's try that again: Published by the Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Coast Guard office of Boating Safety
erik selis posted 08-28-2004 03:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for erik selis  Send Email to erik selis     

Getting into an accident will always be a risk you take when getting into a boat and head out on the water. It makes no difference if it's in a Whaler or whatever boat you are in. You can minimize the risk for yourself by making sure you take all the safety precautions possible. You can't however make sure that someone else is not a danger to you. That's why I am in favour of some kind of boat training and or license for everyone. As I have mentioned before, it is mandatory in Europe since 1997. I'm not saying that having this training and getting your license will eliminate all accidents. No, but at least you know that others should also know the rules.

The basic course is 64 hours and includes the following subjects:

-rules of the road (both inland and international)
-first aid
-fire prevention and extinguishing
-VHF communications (a separate examination is required for the separate license)
-tide calculations
-manual route plotting
-basic meteorology
-man overboard procedures
-docking procedures

You also have to produce a certificate of health provided by your doctor and have an eye test done.

Now this all may seem like a lot of BS for many but it is well worth it. You can learn a great deal in a short period of time and you have to learn it because of the examination.

Jerks will be jerks, all over the world, but I think most boaters over here are very well disciplined and abide by the rules which reduces the risk of an accident IMO.

Safe boating,


PS: I wonder how many boaters would know what to do (without having to look it up) if one should encounter a dangerous man-over-board situation. Taking into account the wind-speed, wind-direction and current. (not on a flat lake)

P55 posted 08-28-2004 10:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for P55  Send Email to P55     
My father passed along a saying that sums up the discussion. "The sea is totally unforgiving of human error"
I wear my PFD and always have.
ryanwhaler posted 08-28-2004 11:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for ryanwhaler  Send Email to ryanwhaler     
Just a few weeks ago a guy was killed on the charls river, which is a "no wake" river.

I bleave he was a passenger on a boat, going under a low brige he hit his head and was killed.

HuronBob posted 08-29-2004 06:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for HuronBob    
Ryan, that was Darwin at work!

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