No. 20 - January, 1976

A SAILING EXPERIENCE

John Stinson (573)

 

On September 11 of this year, I had an experience that some of you will find interesting. I fell overboard while sailing and spent approximately 4 1/2 hours swimming in Lake Champlain.

 

A friend Bernie Reagan, and I had decided to take the afternoon and go sailing in my Tanzer 22.It was one of those windy fall days, with gusts over 30 knots. According to the Coast Guard report, the waves on Lake Champlain were running about 6 feet high. (I think I saw some higher ones.)

 

We had a wild sail from Nalletts Bay across the Lake to Valcour Island, and were returning when I noticed that the small outboard had become loose and was "walking up" the transom each time a wave hit it. I went aft to attempt to tighten it. Next thing I knew, I was pitched into the water. (I had my life jacket on.)

 

My first reaction was how cold the water was! My second reaction was irritation because I thought I'd have to sail home in wet clothing. Bernie, whose sailing experience is limited to little boats such as Sunfish, immediately released the jib and attempted to come about. How-­ever, he simply didn't have the experience to be able to tack in six foot waves and 30 knots of wind with only a mainsail. The only choice he had was to jibe. He was able to make one close pass, which I found terrifying. (Have you ever seen a 22' sailboat coming at you from the top of a 6' wave?) He tried to throw me a rope, which was fruitless in those wave conditions. I yelled to him the combination of the padlock for the lockers that contained the gas can and anchor. Bernie spent some time trying to hook up and start the motor, only to find that it was useless because of the height of the waves. About this time he lost track of my position. Fortunately he had the presence of mind to realize that the correct thing to do was to go for help, which must have been a terribly difficult decision to make.

 

At this time, my own assessment was that my chances were very good. I was near the center of the broad lake, about ½ mile south of Valcour Island and about 1 1/2 miles away from the nearest shore. I had confidence that Bernie would keep his head and reach help. The water was rough, but I had my life jacket on and a floatation cushion Bernie had thrown out when I fell. My biggest concern was not to panic and to conserve energy because of the cold water. (I don't know the water temperature on September 11, but we had stopped water skiing by common agreement about 3 – 4 weeks earlier.) I figured that Bernie would make South Hero Island in about 30 minutes and it would take another hour for the Coastguard to arrive from Burlington. I was also aware that several people had survived five hours in the lake just a few weeks earlier and since it was only about 3:00 PM darkness was not a threat. I started gently swimming toward the Vermont shore, parallel to the waves.

 

After about 2 hours of swimming, I had made considerable progress, when the wind shifted slightly to the west, making it impossible to continue toward Vermont. I then started working to intersect Crab Island which was about 4 miles down wind near the New York shore. In general my spirits were high, mainly because I believed that I would survive only a short time if I panicked. It seemed to help to exercise a sense of humor at times. For example, at one point a herring gull hovered a few feet directly over my head. He received the appropriate detailed instructions on what he should do to help, mostly in four letter words.

 

One of the low points was after 2 1/2 hours. I was getting tired, but got chills whenever I stopped swimming. By even the most pessimistic estimates the CoastGuard should have arrived, and there was no sign of a rescue effort. The wind must have increased because every fifth wave was spilling over my head. I kept on swimming for New York.

 

Finally, about 6:00PM, I heard the helicopter, and spotted it and a

Coast Guard boat about one mile away. I admit that I was somewhat surprised that the helicopter didn't immediately spot me, but started a search grid near the spot I had fallen in, which was about 3 miles away. I had no appreciation of the difficulty of spotting a swimmer in 6' waves, even though I had a bright orange poncho on. Some of the boats were searching in my vicinity, but their chances of spotting me were slim. (Twice boats came within 100 yard of me and both times I got one brief glimpse as we went "over" waves together, and then couldn't see them again. If I couldn't spot a 25' boat, they surely weren't likely to see me.)

 

I watched the helicopter conduct an east-west search grid without coming closer to me than about one mile. Then it started a north-south pattern near Valcour Island. I was greatly excited when I realized that their course ran far enough north to eventually pass over me. I watched each north-south pass and calculated very carefully how many passes it would take to intersect my position. Like the gull, I also gave them detailed instructions during their search.

 

Finally, at about 7:00PM and with about 10 minutes of visibility left, the helicopter started on the trip north that would pass directly over my head.

 

When the helicopter came with about 1/4 mile of me, I started to signal with the bright orange poncho. To my despair, the pilot turned short and headed south. At this point I gave up hope of rescue. I was back near the center of the lake again, about 2 miles from either shore, and too far north to intersect Crab Island. There were obviously only a few minutes before dark. I was extremely fatigued and suffering from chills. I was worried about the likelihood of cramps and hypothermia, as I had been swimming about 4 1/2 hours. I thought I had a 10% - 20% chance of making New York. (That may not seem like much to YOU but, believe me, a 20% chance can seem to be quite a gift.)

 

The helicopter had gone about one mile south when it abruptly turned and came back. Apparently, one of the crew had seen my orange poncho as they made the previous turn. They dropped flares to mark my position and lowered a man down on a cable to pick me up. The helicopter trans­ported me to the base where I was picked up by an ambulance and taken to Plattsburgh hospital. Since I had severe cramps and my body temperature was 95 degrees, I was admitted overnight for "shock and exposure".

 

I called home about 9:00 PM and found a party going on. It seems that quite a few friends had gone to our house to support my family during their ordeal. They had just found out that I was rescued, and you know how some people will use anything as an excuse for a few drinks.

I learned a few things from this experience that I would like to share with other boaters:

 

1. It's easy to be thrown overboard, particularly in rough weather. Wear a safety harness at the appropriate times. Also, how many of you have been guilty of rough weather or night sailing without wearing your life jackets?

2. It is almost impossible to spot or keep track of a swimmer in high waves. Keep both day and night signalling devices handy.

3. Don't sail in rough water with an inexperienced or undermanned crew.

4. I personally think a two-way radio is a good investment.

 

I suppose some of you are wondering what happened to the boat. Bernie found a sheltered cove on South Hero and ran it aground, which was quite a story in itself. After jibing a dozen times, with the mainsail against the spreaders, in over 30 knots of wind, the Tanzer 22 had only minor damages. The jib requires some restitching and the topping lift has several broken strands. (Don't ask me to explain).

 

Physically I suffered no ill effects from the incident. Those of you who are familiar with this type of thing realize that the psychological after-effects can be difficult.

 

Although I stayed in high spirits throughout the swim, about 3 days later I went into a rather severe depression that lasted several days. I've been sailing on the broad lake since with no serious problems; but I sometimes get emotional if I see rough water in a movie, or if a helicopter flies over.

 

In closing, I would like to say that I was deeply touched by the reaction of many friends and acquaintances to this event.



COLD WATER KILLER

Extracts from an article by Harold Wright in Better Boating

 

Dr. John Hayward and his colleagues at the University of Victoria in British Columbia have made detailed, carefully controlled and documented scientific studies of hypothermia and its effect on the human body. They have also come up with methods to fight it that can be used by boaters.

 

The waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca are never above 500F and are often as low as 39F. Since these waters are relatively close to the University, this is where the experiments were carried out. Using himself and a group of male and female volunteers as test bodies Dr. Hayward kept his subjects immersed in the cold waters of the Strait for varying periods of time, monitoring and recording the essential body functions in much the same way as NASA does with its astronauts.

 

WHAT IS HYPOTHERMIA? Hypothermia is the lowering of the body temperature deep within the body. The feeling of being cold usually never progresses beyond the skin in everyday life.Cold becomes dangerous when the body loses enough heat to cause the temperature deep inside the major body cavity to drop too low.

 

When a person is immersed in cold water the skin and outer layers of tissue cool very quickly. About 10 - 15 minutes later, the temperature of the heart and brain begins to drop. The body reacts by shivering violently.If the temperature of the interior of the body drops belowabout 90 F unconsciousness results and death, usually from heart failure follows when the interior ofthe body cools to 850F or lower.

 

Hypothermia kills relatively slowly. The shock of the impact of cold water on the skin may increase the heart rate and blood pressure sufficiently to cause the rupture of small blood vessels or it may even trigger a heart attack.

 

The shock may start massive hyperventilation (over breathing) which, if continued too long, will cause changes in the blood chemistry that will lead to fainting.

 

In Dr.Hayward's tests, volunteers were under 30 and went through a medical and a fitness screening.   They wore light clothing, ankle socks and running shoes. Typical clothing a man overboard from a boat might be wearing. Beyond this they wore monitoring equipment. During the tests the subject was removed from the water as soon as rectal temperature dropped to 950F, or sooner if he was experiencing extreme discomfort.

 

On re-entering the ship, infra-red photographs of the body cavity were taken and the subject was rewarmed in a whirlpool bath that started at 77 F and was gradually raised to about 108 F.(Ed.note: subsequent studies indicate that an improved technique for rewarming is inhaling warmed oxygen.)

 

Survival time was found to be determined by a number of variables: Water temperature, body size, degree of body fat, extent of physical activity, posture in the water.      The colder the water or the smaller the body, the shorter the survival time. (Women have about a 15% faster cooling rate than men. A heavy layer of fat slows down the cooling rate a bit so a skinny person will succumb before a fat one.)

 

An average person wearing a life jacket and light clothes, if keeping still in the water, could expect to last from 2 ½ to 3 hours in 50 F water. Ten degrees warmer, he'd last twice as long; But ten degrees colder, only about 1 3/4 hours.

 

The tests ruled out SWIMMING as a means of keeping warm because it was found that the body lost heat 35% faster when swimming because more

blood circulates in the arms and legs.The average young adult in light clothes and life jacket can not swim even a full mile in 50 F water before hypothermia would finish him off. The test showed that heat loss is 34% greater while treading water. Almost as much as swimming.

 

More startling are the results on the drownproofing technique. Because this method requires that the face and most of the head are under water most of the time, the heat loss is a whopping 82% greater. In cold water drownproofing seems to be the fastest way to die from hypothermia. Dr. Hayward recommends that drownprooflng only be used in water warmer than 680F.

 

The studies showed that heat loss is greatest from the sides of the chest area and the groin area. Steps were taken to explore simple means for decreasing heat loss from these areas.

 

The first method gives a 50% increase in predicted survival time. It is a procedure for people wearing life jackets and are therefore able to remain afloat while keeping still in the water. The inner sides of the arms are held tight against the rib area and the thighs are brought up with ankles crossed to close off the groin area.

 

The second method would be used when several people found themselves in the water as the result of a boating accident. They could expect a 50% increase in survival time by using the "huddle" technique. The group - 3 is a best number - in this method, will hug each other face to face with legs intertwined. A life jacket worn in this method interferes with huddling and it was found best to tie them loosely under the arms, putting the buoyancy at the sides and backs of the huddlers. . . It is much easier to maintain a stable floating position if some large floating object is held in the hands of one of the huddlers.

 

It was found that common types of life jackets give no appreciable thermal protection. This led to the development of the UVic Thermofloat survival jacket. This gives a four times increase in survival time (10 - 12 hours compared with 2 1/2 - 3.) It is understood that the jacket is being manufactured by Ancient Mariners Industries in Vancouver. (no address given).

 

A raft or float is a big help in getting a good proportion of your body' out of the cold water, which will increase your survival time. If you can get 3/4 of your body out of the water onto some such device, your survival time will be raised by a factor of five.

 

Will a shot of whiskey help? You might die happier, but you’ll certainly die sooner. It can shorten your survival time by 20%. Alcohol re­duces the shivering, but increases blood flow to the surface of your skin, accelerating the cooling action.



YOU AND YOUR LINE

If you have trouble with kinking of 3 stranded line: Start at one end and coil counter clockwise, ignoring the kinks. Then pick up the starting end from the center and recoil clockwise. Repeat until all the kinks disappear. If you are stowng the line for future use (eg. a storm anchor rode), coil it in a figure of 8 on the deck. Tie the center and each end with a reef knot and fold up.

 

Protect your line from abrading on sharp surfaces. Don't drag it over cement piers or sandy turf. Line jerked roughly over bits and winches can melt and fuse on the working surfaces.

 

Most bleaching agents are harmful to nylon lines, though they are OK for Polyester. Wash in mild detergent and water, but avoid strong detergents and cleaning agents.

 

A line with a knot in it is greatly reduced in strength - about 40% though it varies with the type of knot. A splice reduces strength about 10 - 15%.

 

A nice, neat little self priming diaphagm hand pump, easy to stow and, good for emergencies. Lifts a gallon a stroke 15'. Edson Corp. A bit over $100.

 

 

CRUISING GUIDE

Roy Behm

 

We rejoin Roy in Nanaimo

 

We knew that the Nanaimo Bathtub Races were to held this weekend, and

I wasn't certain that we'd find moorage space. But it was early and we were lucky. Before long the docks were full with boats tied 2 and 3 deep and people all over the place. Celebrations were starting with people blowing their horns and sirens, and competitors bringing their bathtubs to the docks. The evening and night were full of noises, and we didn't get much sleep.

 

Saturday more boats and more competitors arrived, but by evening the

noise moderated as the racers and their crews had to rest up for the race. Sunday morning Nanaimo harbor was filled with hundreds, maybe thousands, of spectator’s boats. Eventually they made room for the 10:00 AM start.

 

The escort boats lined up ahead of the tubs - there were 220 tubs and a rescue boat, for each lined up across the Nanaimo channel, which is maybe ½ mile wide. When the gun went off over 4OO boats took off like crazy, making the water all rough and confused and choppy. Somehow, nearly all the boats got out of the harbor and headed for Vancouver, B.C. some 32 miles away across the Strait of Georgia. About 2 hours later, we heard on a Nanaimo radio station that the first tub had arrived. The weather was good and nearly all the boats finished without mishap. What a weekend!

 

While we were in Nanaimo we met a couple from Vancouver in a venture 222. They attempted Dodd Narrows when an 8 knot current was flowing. A log boiled up under them and knocked off their mahogany rudder, which splint­ered like a match. Together we made him a new rudder, and his next transit of the Narrows was at slack tide. As was mine - on July 23 bound for Maple Bay.

 

Maple Bay is south of Ladysmith and Chemainus on Vancouver's east side pnd has a yacht club, a nice restaurant and marina. The marina has many slips for boats up to 60' and also complete repair services. We had them replace our centerboard cable which had slipped through the guide tube and parted the swaged stop from the cable. It took about ½ an hour and cost only $1l. This is perhaps the best place for repairs in the Gulf Islands area. We left there and headed back to the US for a customs check the next day. From Roche Harbor we decided to go south into Puget Sound waters.

 

We ended up at Port Townsend after passing through about a dozen killer whales off the south end of San Juan Island. We moored at Hudson Point Resort - a nice complete marina not far from the ferry dock. The manager there is a bit officious and refuses to man the gas dock after 5PM. We didn't care, but others did. We found a small Italian restaurant a few blocks away and had a good meal there.

 

We had arranged to meet some relatives at Shilshole Marina next day, and had a beautiful 32 mile sail wing and wing making an easy 5 - 6 knots. Approaching the point known as Double Bluff on whidbey Island, a school of bottle-nose dolphin surprised us by following us for about a half hour. After being startled by their noise, we regained our wits and took some pictures of them.

 

We met our relatives at the Shilshole Marina in Seattle. These are the best facilities I know of in the Puget Sound area. Everything is there except a liquor store and a shopping center. One must go several blocks away to these places; but repairs, equipment, ramps, restaurants, Coast Guard and Police are all there.

 

In a couple of days we went on across the Sound to my old stomping grounds - Bremerton, WA. There's plenty of room to anchor, but not much to tie up. We stayed at the yacht club and visited with friends for a few days. By this time we'd heard from some friends in the Spokane area and arranged to meet them at Pleasant Harbor on Hood Canal. So, we headed northward again, stopping overnight at Poulsbo, WA and then continued on to Port Ludlow. Poulsbo has municipal docks right near the business section of town - very convenient for stocking up. This we did since we were not at all sure when we'd be able to buy liquor again.

 

Port Ludlow has a marina that is owned, built and operated by Pope & Talbot, a large wood products corporation. This development includes a restaurant, docks, fuels, condominiums - all very nice. After spending a night here we continued on down the Hood Canal.

 

We were able to pass under the east end of the fixed supports of the hood Canal floating bridge. This was lucky, as I dislike opening a bridge, especially this one which is so busy in the summer months. Sailing in light winds, we passed the US Naval Ammunition Depot at Bangor, WA and saw a nuclear submarine at a dock. Later we passed by the house we lived in when we were first married. After another hour we arrived at our destination - Pleasant Harbor. Here there is a private marina and a small, free, state owned dock. We chose the marina so we could shower and keep a slip for as long as we needed it. Hood Canal is noted for its shrimp, and we bought some in the late afternoon. We had a delicious feast. Next day we went out and got some oysters and later met our friends, who had a trailer in a nearby camp­ground. We arranged, after another day, to meet again in 2 days at our starting point, La Conner.

 

We traced our way back to Shelter Bay Marina on August ll and spent a few days before hauling on the 15th. We sailed back home to Spokane after the 700 mile cruise.

 

For those contemplating a similar cruise, the weather is best after the middle of July. In addition to up-to-date charts, you should have a­board:

 

British Columbia pilot. Vol I

The Marine Atlas, Vol l

Northwest Passages by Bruce Calhoun (Vol.l)

 

You should also carry extra water. I had an extra 18 gallons and found that just sufficient, but not excessive. An extra 6 gallon fuel tank is essential, and still another, making 18 gallon capacity, desirable. A VHF radio is handy, but must be equipped with channels 21 and 13 to be of maximum use. A dinghy is a necessity.

 

Can a sail cloth weight be determined when a sail is offered for

measurement? The simple and short answer is that it cannot. That is the official answer of Tony Watts, the official measurer of the I.Y.R.U. Even if the measurer is an experiment sail maker, even if he carries a swatch of every spinnaker, main and foresail cloth, he can at best form an opinion and that is not his duty, he has to find facts. For this reason Tony, and the I.Y.R.U. are urging all international classes to delete sail cloth weight specifications from their rules. We intend to follow this suggestion, and we will therefore ask our members, at our next AGM, to authorize us to delete sailcloth weight from our rules. If a sail is too flimsy it does not stand up and nobody is going to buy it, but if it does and if it wins races, that's the sail every one is going to buy anyway. Sail cloth specification is a "bad law" because compliance cannot be ascertained. If a class intends to limit the money a competitor would have to spend to field a competitive boat, then there are other more readily controllable items that can be regulated like limiting the number of sails one can buy or register in a year. This makes sense to me.

 

 

 

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