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Old 12-29-2008, 05:44 PM   #1
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Just returned from an ill-fated delivery assisting the owner in getting his boat from Fla. to Puerto Rico.

18-Dec: Flew to Florida and met the owner in Key Largo. Discussed the trip and both our qualifications.

19-Dec: Met Bob, the other crew member, who has lived aboard his Catalina 27 for 15 yrs. (no motor, head or boom). Left Rock Harbor at 14:37 local time. Winds were < 5 knts, motor sailed NNE.

20-Dec: Reached the entrance to Northwest Providence Channel about 08:00. Seas calm, still no wind, only indication we were in the gulfstream was the northward curve of our track on the plotter as we steered east. The owner wanted to conserve fuel so he shut the engine down while he tried to fix the light for the binnacle mounted compass which we found was not working the night before. I had just come on watch and was assisting by handing him tools as needed. Bob comes up from down below and asks why we aren't motoring. Owner replies that we are "drifting in the right direction". Bob starts to lose his temper and demands to be taken back to land. The owner agrees to return him to Miami even though we are on the opposite side of the gulfstream. I suggest to the owner that perhaps he can agree with Bob to a minimum speed that we will maintain. This works and Bob apologises for his outburst.

Next 2 days see no wind and we continue to motor thorugh NW & NE Providence Channel. Fast forward to 04:00 22, Dec. We are off the NE of the tip of Eleuthria Island.

I come on watch relieving the owner. He is concerned about the fuel we are burning and decides to shut the engine down. The absolute lack of wind was evident by the lack of even small ripples on the water and the wind vane spinning around in circles atop the mast. I go below to get a flashlight from my kit (the one mounted to the bulkhead adjacent to the compainionway was not working) to illuminate the sails since traffic was approaching from astern. Bob hears me rummageing around and wakes up to ask how fast we are doing. I tell him we are stopped and that the owner is topping up the fuel with jerry cans. Bob goes above and again demands that he be taken ashore immediatly, he tells me to steer a course of 220, however I hold the course of 150 as directed by the owner. Bob grabs the VHF mike and tries to call the Coast Gaurd saying that he is being kidnapped. Since (unbeknownst to us) the radio isn't working he gets no response. We alter our course with the intention of rounding the south end of Elutheria to get to the Port of Entry. At about 08:35, Bob comes up from down below in a mad rage, eyes and veins popping out screaming uncontrollably and demands to be put ashore immedeatly. The owner tries to tell him we have to get to a port of entry, but Bob tells him "I don't want to go to jail for murder, but I will murder you right now if you don't put me to shore." We finally anchor amongst coral and the owner is able to get the authorities on his cell phone. Customs and Immigration meet us at the beach and we claer in there. They suggested pressing charges against Bob but the owner was happy just to be rid of him. We haul anchor and head for Cat Island (24 hrs in a near gale, not really sure of the wind speeds because we didn't have anyway to get a weather forecast) where I left the boat and owner (10th crew member to do so) and made my way home for Christmas.

Not really sure what caused Bob's outburst unless he was a heavy drinker and we were running a dry boat. It may have been that he also saw the boat and skipper were not ready for the open ocean. He had never been out beyond the gulfstream and I dread to think what might have transpired if the storm hit before he disembarked.
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Old 12-29-2008, 08:47 PM   #2
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I am pleased you made it ok Sammy but your experience just goes to show that the most difficult thing to get right is the skipper's choice of crew and, conversly, the crew's choice of skipper. This is never an easy one and there is no foolproof method but asking for references from previous skippers respective crews can be a step in the right direction.

Better luck next time!

Aye // Stephen
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Old 12-29-2008, 09:19 PM   #3
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I am pleased you made it ok Sammy but your experience just goes to show that the most difficult thing to get right is the skipper's choice of crew and, conversly, the crew's choice of skipper. This is never an easy one and there is no foolproof method but asking for references from previous skippers respective crews can be a step in the right direction.

Better luck next time!

Aye // Stephen
Agreed.

You also mention that the boat seemed ill-prepared (and I assume it was NOT the 27 ft boat you mention which belonged to Bob...) but you know, sometimes everything just doesn't quite work. For example, VHF radios--many sailors have learned the hard way that VHF can only transmit and receive a relatively short distance and one must be pretty nearby another boat (or somewhat farther from a tall USCG tower, of course).

We recently spent 36 hours drifting, with no wind, through a US to Mexico passage that should have taken, umm...8 to 12 hours. We didn't have the Gulf Stream to help, darn! But, luckily, everyone aboard was in good spirits and didn't really care how long the trip took. It would be hard for an antsy person to take all the drifting "backwards" we did, for sure.

Both my husband and I are very safety cautious--but if you were on our boat at the wrong time--you'd probably think we were ill-prepared lunatics. Of course, that's one reason we don't take unknown-to-us crew--we'll keep the lunacy "in the family" for now

Equipment failures are frustrating and it sounds like you had several little ones. I could tell you horror stories about our experiences with light bulbs, flashlights, and batteries. We have taken to carrying way too many extra bulbs "just in case" as the navigation lights are critically important as are the steaming light and an ability to flash something up onto the sails as you did when approached at night. The compass in a binnacle at the steering station of our last boat was unlighted by design and you couldn't really see the wind indicator up on the mast either... We'd flash a little light on the compass from time to time and steer relative to stars as we went from tack to tack. Every once in a while we'd flash the light up to the wind indicator and onto the sails to confirm trim.

I suppose each crew member has their own level of comfort with different behaviors and styles of sailing and I do imagine that you can't get a handle on those things unless you're very, very direct with questions to the potential shipmate OR you know someone else whose judgment you trust that you can ask.

Best of luck in your future passages!
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Old 12-29-2008, 09:51 PM   #4
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The two of you had far more patience than I would have.
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Old 12-30-2008, 01:16 AM   #5
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The two of you had far more patience than I would have.
Ah, suppose you mean the 36 hour drift...

It was one of the best times we've had when sailing, believe it or not. We were with another couple that we didn't know very well and really had the chance to get to know better on the trip. We all were having fun in a very laid-back way. We saw more whales and sea life than usual when sailing. It was a lovely trip.

Sailing is about getting there--not the destination, right? Well, the getting there was wonderful.
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Old 01-13-2009, 02:28 AM   #6
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Bob....You displayed great tolerance. Sounds to me like Bob was exhibiting psychotic behaviour. I think he was off his medication or unable to satisfy an addiction of one sort or another. I need to check, but I think heaving an objectionable person overboard is still illegal.
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Old 01-13-2009, 06:03 AM   #7
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I need to check, but I think heaving an objectionable person overboard is still illegal.
Fortunately it is, otherwise you could walk from Europe to America on the backs of politicians swimming
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Old 01-14-2009, 01:06 AM   #8
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Fortunately it is, otherwise you could walk from Europe to America on the backs of politicians swimming
Swimming? not floating face down in the water? damn...
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Old 02-17-2009, 02:37 PM   #9
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One thing I have learned is that during the crew interview process it is important to mention this mentallity... "I'm not on a time-line, and as far as I'm concerned the engine is just a generator.. If we get becalmed we'll wait it out... " of course everyone says they understand this but with todays "i wanna go fast" mentallity it's hard to know if they won't get pouty about it when it actually happens... fortunately i've never had anyone react like this...

As for Bob... the boat may not have been bristol but sounds like the owner has a good head on his shoulders... I doubt I would have been as tollerant.. for some reason the old batman sound effects come to mind "KA-POW! BIF! CRAACK!"
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Old 03-01-2012, 02:11 AM   #10
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Wow. What an experience Sammy had. It is hard when somebody has it in their head to get somewhere fast. Better to be able to let things happen in their own time.
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Old 03-01-2012, 08:58 AM   #11
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Addict of some sort. Used the trip to detox. Result - irrational, short wick. Heard similar stories before.
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Old 03-25-2012, 01:15 AM   #12
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Scariest tale I ever heard was from a solo sailor outof Alaska sailing his boat "Eskimo" from Mexico to the Maraquesas. He picked up a inexperienced crewmember in Ziauatnejo. After a week into the passage he kept hearing voices in the cockpit while the crewmember was on watch. Figured out his crewmember had a split personality disorder. There were a number of altercations as the passage progressed. He woke up one night and sensed somone was standing next to his bunk. The crewmember said "Richard says he dosn't like you anymore" He slept with a flare gun the rest of the trip and with the cooperation of the Genadarmes got the guy off the boat in Hiva Oa. Upon notifying and talking to his family stateside the crewmwmber's father said. "We wondered where he went to, hope he took his meds"
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