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Author Topic:   Alabama storm
Mike Kub posted 04-27-2015 08:16 PM ET (US)   Profile for Mike Kub   Send Email to Mike Kub  
Has anyone heard why the organizers of the sailboat race Sunday did not call it off with the forecast as it was? One report I saw indicated they were not taking questions.
masbama posted 04-27-2015 10:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for masbama  Send Email to masbama     
The race was Saturday. It was originally cancelled then just postponed for an hour. No one has said why.
Jefecinco posted 04-28-2015 09:09 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     

the only answer is that very poor judgement was used. The Fairhope Yacht Club Race Committee is not alone in the blame for this fiasco. Several large yachts equipped with mast head radar were participants. How could they not see the storm approaching? Mobile Bay is a fairly large body of water and uniformly shallow. It does not take a hurricane to whip up into the sort of snotty condition shown on the network news.

Monday morning quarterbacking is easy but we have what looks like six dead people participating in what is reputed to be a fun race with a few fierce competitors. It's inexcusable.


Powergroove803 posted 04-28-2015 10:27 AM ET (US)     Profile for Powergroove803  Send Email to Powergroove803     
I have not sailed this race but I have sailed multiple long distance races on various boats and everywhere from The keys, Chesapeake, Ponchetrain(sp), and events like this have a lot of pressure for the organizers and PRO to get off a race. I believe there were 119 boats registered, so lots of people there to race and have fun. It sounds like the organizers postponed but saw a window to get in the race, which I believe is about 18 miles. 18 miles on my type of catamaran can be done in <1 hour, and on the slowest boat in the right wind in several hours. Everything I have heard from friends in the race is that the weather was blustery(steady 18-20) but certainly doable and the squall was not on the radar until it was almost on them. My friends on the cats had finished the race when the squall line hit, all of them made it safely home but some did lose their boats and were rescued close to shore.
The decision to race looks bad in hindsight but its hard for us make that call now, certainly the organizers did not expect a squall line like that to roll through or they would not have sent anyone out.
When you race in an organized regatta you sign a "waiver" basically saying you are responsible for you and your crews safety and you will not hold the organizers responsible. As a PRO I have always heard a good lawyer will tear that thing apart, so you have to make good decisions about racing. You also have to understand many people traveled a long way, spent a lot of money, and you're never going to make everyone happy but there is always going to be pressure to race.
Check out this video and you can see how quickly it rolls up on them. Lots of things to criticize in this video but the female driving did a wonderful job. Note at 230 you see a small sailboat with all its sails up, I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't the boat that people died on. It was only a matter of seconds after you see them that the full force hit, and with all that canvas up they didn't have a chance. bare pole is almost too much sail area in that kind of wind on that small of a boat.

Powergroove803 posted 04-28-2015 10:30 AM ET (US)     Profile for Powergroove803  Send Email to Powergroove803

more carnage at the docks, watch all 3 in this series

Powergroove803 posted 04-28-2015 10:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for Powergroove803  Send Email to Powergroove803     
A story from a racer;

We were 3 miles west of the finish line (Dauphin Island Bridge) when the wind hit at about 3:15pm on a Cape Dory 36. For those of you who were not there and are offering advice on the weather, you can stop now. You are simply speculating and have the advantage of knowing what actually happened after the fact. When we did hear the reports that there was severe wether 100 miles to the west and it was moving north east, we were about 16 miles into a 21 mile race- heading south. Our plan was to finish the race and find a "safe" place to anchor in the lee of the western shore. We were close hauled with one reef in the main and a 125% head sail in about 18-20knts, at one point we watched a cell pass behind us as the weather bulletin forecast. At 3pm a new weather advisory/ warning was made for north Mobile Bay and we watched the western sky darken and made the decision to reduce sail. By the time we were "comfortable" with the new sail plan we were hit with what I would call 60mph winds (I've been in 50mph and this was noticeably more). We quickly dumped the main sheet & rolled up the remaining headsail, fired up the diesel, dropped the main etc. Over the next 10-15 min the winds built to an unreal level (the wind instruments were blown off of the masthead) and the wave hight jumped to about 8ft. I'm guessing that our wave hight was greater than the ones in the video due to the fetch of the Mississippi Sound (?). While attempting to motor to the west (into the wind and waves) we saw two capsized beach cats with no crew or swimmers in sight. We ended up spending the night on the hook about a mile or so due north of the finish line in the lee of the land/ causeway. The Coast Guard immediately began the search and rescue (C-130, helicopter, numerous boats) pulling roughly 40 people from the local water with another estimated 15 saved by fellow Sailors. It was surreal to watch the constant search and rescue efforts through out the night... For anyone questioning why we would sail with a forecast of bad weather, we didn't. The forecast was for 30-40% chance of rain in the morning and passing through by noon with a westerly shift and max wind of18-20 knts. Prayers go out to all of the families of the lost, next time I see a Costie I'll give him a hug

masbama posted 04-28-2015 12:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for masbama  Send Email to masbama     
I grew up around Dauphin Island and I have seen weather events that defy description. I have been caught in a few of these type storms and I try to be as careful and proactive as I can. It was a freak storm.
Mike Kub posted 04-28-2015 12:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for Mike Kub  Send Email to Mike Kub     
I was not implying any fault. Several years ago a similar thing happened in Galveston. I recall because we got our boat on the trailer 10 min. before it hit. The quote from a guide that stuck in my mind was " when we rounded the end of the jetty wall the wind and waves were incredible. Fortunately we were in a 25' Whaler ". Numerous boats sunk. Often these areas are small but intense. There was a quote in the Whaler literature " someday your boat will be your only ally ". I find some peace of mind with this while praying I never have have to personally witness. Peace
masbama posted 04-28-2015 01:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for masbama  Send Email to masbama     
A bit of good news is that they found the people in the small sailboat in the first video alive. It is a creepy scene though.
Binkster posted 04-28-2015 01:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for Binkster  Send Email to Binkster     
Riding with a large following sea is not to smart. They should have turned the boat and rode into a head sea.
they were lucky that the boat didn't broach and roll over. Well least they finally put on their $15 Walmart life jackets.


Powergroove803 posted 04-28-2015 03:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for Powergroove803  Send Email to Powergroove803     
Bink, this was discussed on the sailing forums about whether yo head up or ride with it. On thst boat it wouldnt have mattered as much but a smaller boat in those seas you would have lost steerage was the conclusion.
Powergroove803 posted 04-28-2015 03:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for Powergroove803  Send Email to Powergroove803     
Clarify- you could haveblostxsteerage going into the waves on a smaller craft as your rudder would be out of the water in some waves. Either way i think it would have been tough to manage in a small craft, be it Whaler or sailboat.
masbama posted 04-28-2015 03:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for masbama  Send Email to masbama     
I thought the boat looks pretty steady in the following seas.
Jefecinco posted 04-28-2015 06:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
What surprises me is that those boats with radar failed to detect the storm before it was on top of them. Are participants required to wear PLBs?


tedious posted 04-30-2015 07:48 AM ET (US)     Profile for tedious  Send Email to tedious     
Butch, I'm not familiar with small boat radars. Do they pick up weather? I would not have thought so.
Jefecinco posted 04-30-2015 08:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
I'm unsure. Age of the radar may play into the answer. I'll check on it.


jcdawg83 posted 04-30-2015 08:54 AM ET (US)     Profile for jcdawg83    
Boat radar will generally pick up rain and show how intense it is. I would think one factor was that these were sailboats. Sailboats do not have the ability to really outrun weather. If a sailboat's radar picked up an incoming storm, the conversation might go something like this:

"There's a big storm showing on the radar".
"Yep, better put on our foul weather gear".

That would be about all they could do. Also, by the time the rain from a large storm showed up on radar, the cloud or clouds from that storm would be visible on the horizon and the rain itself might be visible.

boatdryver posted 04-30-2015 09:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for boatdryver  Send Email to boatdryver     
When sailing in a race most of the crew's attention will be on changing sail trim every few seconds, looking for lifts and headers in wind shifts, and studying ones opponents.
Most small sailboats 30-40 feet with radar likely do not have the display in the cockpit, and the radar is the last thing one would be concentrating on in good visibility.
I think its safe to say that in a short inshore race like this, any local sailor would have been through other squall lines for years and, and, seeing another one approaching, would be judging how long to wait before shortening sail , hoping to get more boat speed out of the first gusts.
I suspect the intensity of this one was a big and terrifying surprise to everyone.


Powergroove803 posted 04-30-2015 10:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for Powergroove803  Send Email to Powergroove803     
I have read 3 different reports of people using iPhone weather aps with radar on this day, all of them state it came in too quick to get off the water.
It seems the underlying theme is the weather was north of them and they felt they could get the race in that weather window.
If we stayed off the water every time a storm was predicted here in the South we would be couch potatoes. May-October there is a chance of an afternoon thunderstorm everyday, the "dog-days" of summer are for real here.
I use my local news channels "super 16D enhanced, modified, bonified, extra Doppler Radar" or whatever they call it these days. Its pretty good for a phone, I can imagine the race committee and sailors without real radar were using something similar.
bluewaterpirate posted 04-30-2015 10:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
This where an XM/Sirius Weather subscription pays for itself. Not only would they have seen the approaching storm before it was on them they would have seen the warning areas that were being broadcast via their VHF weather channels and displayed on their MFD's.

This is the actual storm system that caused all this to happen. The squall line had already passed Mobile Bay. MobileBayStorm.jpg~original MobileBayStorm1.jpg~original


bluewaterpirate posted 04-30-2015 10:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
The question was asked why didn't they use their phone apps to look at the weather radar (NEXRAD/NOWRAD0) the answer was it came up quickly .... that's why XM/Sirius id valuable you see it before its upon you .... you can actyally see it building.

I can't tell you how many times this service has save my backside while fishing offshore.


jcdawg83 posted 04-30-2015 02:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for jcdawg83    
Powergroove nailed it. If you don't want to risk being caught in a storm in the South between April and early November, you need to stay at the house.
Jefecinco posted 04-30-2015 05:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     

There are storms and then there are deadly storms. There is prudence and the lack of same. Six dead folks killed by sailing when they should not have been sailing fails to indicate the use of prudence.

of all my boating at least 80% is on Mobile Bay in the Summer. There are several days a year when I reschedule an outing. There are also several days when I get out early and call it a day by early afternoon.


dfmcintyre posted 04-30-2015 07:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Tom -

Is the XM/Sirius system actually have radar sites, or are they taking the NOAA NEXRAD feed and enhancing it? I've heard conflicting information regarding it.

Regards - Don

jimh posted 04-30-2015 08:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
A corollary question: is the XM or Sirius weather data in real time? If not, what is the time delay?

In this discussion there are many citations that a storm can appear in minutes. If the satellite-delivered weather data is several minutes old, it may be too old.

bluewaterpirate posted 04-30-2015 10:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
XM marine weather is provided by Barons through WXWorks using the NEXRAD weather radar network while Sirius uses WSI using the NOWRAD weather radar network. Both systems update their NEX/NOWRAD data every 5 minutes to their subscribers. Here's a display of a system passing thru the Chesapeake Bay Area.

In the upper left hand corner of the Garmin 547 display you will see a number counter that indicates the amount of animated radar is being displayed. Garmim XM use a 30 minute window with the oldest radar data showing first to the newest.

From the time I turn my systems on I am display NEXRAD data in less than 5 minutes. What is really valuable is the NOAA Warning Area displays.


bluewaterpirate posted 04-30-2015 10:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
In this video my wife and I are fishing 20 miles south of Atlantic Beach NC you can see thunderstorms to the north of location approximately 45 miles away looking at my Garmin 545 display of NEXRAD data I can see these storms a stationary possibly drifting slowly yo the SE and no threat to us.

NEXRAD - NOWRAD comparison


bluewaterpirate posted 05-01-2015 08:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
Don .....

XM/Sirius use providers for weather data all they do is pass it on to their users. XM/Sirius have no radar sites or overhead systems to view weather and collect associate data.


masbama posted 05-01-2015 01:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for masbama  Send Email to masbama     
It can be weather perfect around Dauphin Island and total hell in Mobile. The other way around also. Crazy weather around here
bluewaterpirate posted 05-01-2015 05:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
Know the weather well was stationed in Pensacola four years still have a house there. That's why I would not venture anywhere on the water without access to weather info.


andygere posted 05-03-2015 03:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
Traditional small boat radar systems are quite power hungry. It is unlikely that a sailboat in a regatta (engine off) would be running radar continuously.

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