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Old 08-15-2009, 10:46 PM   #1
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Join Date: May 2008
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We met up with a delightful couple a few days back in an anchorage in New Cal. They are on their way to Fiji and like us, this is their first blue water.

We offered to keep skeds with them on the HF - 7am & 7pm each day. After three days, all is going well and we take their position, heading, speed and changing ETA - basically just keeping an eye on them. They seem to feel a lot safer and I know we do as well when someone has done this for us.

So a question?

If you have set up a regular sked such as this, what would be the next steps to take if they didn't reply?

I know sometimes its very easy to miss a sked - changing sails or a whole host of events on board, but how long would you normally give them before starting to sound the warning bells?

When we left Brisbane in company with a yacht rally, the organiser decided arbitrarily to change the sked times and the channel. We spent 10 days trying to raise the other vessels and felt pretty alone I can tell you. We ended up contacting a Sydney based rescue station who were more than happy to keep skeds with us.

When we did finally meet up with the other yachts in Vanuatua, one of the other vessels were so worried about us that they contacted Australian customs to enquire if we had turned back. They had a heck of a time trying to keep Customs from calling a major alert and had to continually stress that they were just making enquires not reporting a sinking.

So what's the procedure?

You don't want to cause unnecessary panic but you also don't want to think about someone bobbing about in a liferaft forever either.

Perhaps there is no real answer but I'm Just curious to see what others think.

Fair winds,

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Old 08-16-2009, 01:47 PM   #2
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Ten days without hearing from you and nobody raised an alarm? *Assume anything, and you make an *** out of U and ME. *Shame.

I'm not sure this is an answer, but I do have something to say! We have never lost contact with a boat that we had established a radio schedule with, and never been in a regatta or rally where a boat "fell off" the radio sched.

In reasonable weather, probably 2 days before an alarm was raised, provided more rigorous efforts had been made to reestablish radio contact with the boat. *But this problem should never have happened in this case.

First, I have serious criticism of the rally organizer who arbitrarily changed time and frequency: *IF the original frequency was untenable I can understand a subsequent change, but all the boats must be apprised of the change - and the organizer should have a note that each and every boat has checked in and acknowledged the change. *Since that wasn't done, the organizer shirked his responsibility and deserves to be chastised. *

Secondly, when a boat is not making the scheduled check-in, the organizer, or one of the other boats, should immediately start taking note of the fact, NOT assume that a boat had turned back without notifying anybody. *Since there was an earlier-agreed upon time and frequency, the organizer should have been monitoring that frequency as well as the new one, until he either heard from the boat or somebody else heard from the boat - on VHF even, and asked other boats to try to raise the boat on VHF or another frequency. *Whoever this organizer was, he owes all the boats a huge apology for what happened. *He wasn't much of an organizer, it seems.

Every boat in that rally should have been very, very concerned that a boat disappeared off the radio sched., and a greater effort should have been made to find the boat, by everybody. *Of course, this isn't easy, but it is possible, especially within 12 hours of the last contact. *Was the frequency an SSB ship-to-ship frequency or was it another frequency not found on the preprogrammed SSB channels? *If it was an established frequency/channel, one of the radios should have had the ability to scan the frequencies to listen for your call, and somebody should have been listening non-stop until contact was made.

Finally, a radio contingency plan should have been established before all the boats left. *All the boats should have been aware of other maritime frequencies and time scheds where contact can be made, provided to the boats in writing before the rally started. *

Then, with everyone operating with the same information and schedules, IMO an alarm should probably have been raised within two or three days of losing contact with the boat. *True, the boat could have lost electronics, but I'm not sure I'd wait 10 days to start thinking about worrying.*

The radio schedule was meaningless since nobody took any measures to find the lost boat. *The boats in the rally should have recognized that if no effort was made to find the one boat lost to the radio sched., they could all have been lost and nobody was going to do anything for them. *



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Old 08-16-2009, 05:28 PM   #3
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The need to follow thru if someone falls off the sked makes it a huge responsibility to maintain the radio sked if one has made a commitment to do so.

After reading the original post, David and I discussed it and we both agreed that while it is nice to keep track in this manner, we weren't sure that we'd feel comfortable having someone HAVE to come looking for us if we didn't check in. Conversely, we'd have no problems seeking out another cruiser that didn't check in. Go figure. Both of us have the same stance that you took regarding the rally -- the organizers really did need to follow thru with that one and they didn't--shame on them. This summer we've been active members of a race committee and have thus been involved in 34 events (half of them the Wednesday night beer cans...) this season--NONE of these are overnight rallies--all are simple one or two day events.

However, during one (inside the harbor) race, two of our race boats ended up dropping out to assist two sinking PWC (not one, but two of them as the PWC had collided with each other) with injured people in the water and no personal flotation For some reason, neither race boat hailed us to let us know what was going on and we ended up hailing the other boats and their marina to try and locate them to no avail. As they were stragglers in the race, we figured that they had dropped out and were drinking a beer commiserating somewhere 'round the bay so finally, after the finish, in the twilight, with binoculars, in the committee boat, we were hailing them on the race channel as well as channel 16 and wandering the harbor to locate them. We did find them as they came out of a yacht basin where they'd towed the PWC and owners to. Kindly, they'd taken the people to the marina that the PWC owners belonged to upon request... Both race boats had had unexpected radio problems that day and neither boat thought that they wouldn't be back before the race was over!...Lots of things can go wrong! The point being--if you organize something, you've got to make sure that everyone is accounted for.

What David and I got out of our discussion is that we'd take the responsibility very seriously if we were asked to keep in touch with another cruiser going our way...and yes...we'd raise an alarm, keep monitoring round the clock and/or go looking for them if they didn't check in because that's the whole purpose of doing these things! But we'd never be likely to ask anyone else to keep track of our position...we'd hate to have someone come looking for us when it was not needed and further, we have VHF and HF radios, and back up radios, antennas installed and back up antennas ready to be installed and do expect to travel bluewater with epirb and sat phone in case of emergency...if all that fails, well, there is the lifeboat...

Tough question and tough call.
"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

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Old 08-17-2009, 08:37 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by redbopeep View Post
Tough question and tough call.
It's a bit 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' I guess.

We agreed with the couple sailing to Fiji that should they miss more than three skeds we'd start putting the word out that they were overdue. As it is they are due to arrive tomorrow morning so all is well. We don't have any definite answers - it's a big ocean out there and personally I'd rather have someone know we were overdue - even if it was a few days before an alarm is raised.

It strikes me that this is the unavoidable nature of blue water sailing - no matter what contingencies, back-up systems and hi tech communications we have under our belt, they are no absolute guarantees and there will always be some element of risk - if they wasn't - where would the adventure be?

Simple mistakes seem to have the ability to compound themselves and pretty soon you have a disaster on your hands. A week ago we were sailing into a small atoll anchorage and found a dinghy and outboard floating mid channel. No sign of crew.

We took it in tow and proceeded to the anchorage. Sure enough, sitting on the beach were a red faced crew who had found themselves marooned ashore with too long a swim back to their yacht. Crap happens although we automatically drop an 'away bag' into our dinghy before leaving Mico. Hand held VHF, torch, flares and extra fuel - you plan for the worst and leave the rest to the gods.

Fair winds
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Old 08-17-2009, 09:51 AM   #5
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Hello Mico,

Understand that we are looking at two separate HF communications issues.

The 1st :- a few days before the 16th August - Mico set up a time and HF frequency to contact a boat on its way from New Caledonia to Fiji . (700NMs) understand that for the first 3 days contact with boat was achieved at 7am and 7 pm.

Questions :- what HF frequencies were used on the 1st successful 3 days and thereafter ??

What radio and antenna does Mico have? Is the other boat's radio and antenna known?

What alternative frequencies were agreed on; in the event of one or more not working?

Was there an agreement to utilise a relay station if communication proved difficult or non-existent?


The 2nd :- The Yacht Rally's Scheduled times and frequencies changed without notifying the participants .

Question :- Not sure if only yourselves were unaware of the changes made or did the organizers fail to advise all participants ?

On the assumption that they failed to to advise anyone - then a full report should be made to the Australian authority H E R E

Again what arrangements were made for the rally participants to communicate with each other on set times and frequencies? Were Marine net controllers in Australia and/or NZ aware of the Rally's scheds ?


P.S. 700NM on a beam reach, wind out of 135 degrees averaging 14 knots - if the hull speed of the boat was say 6.5 knots - it would have taken them only some 4 1/2 days.
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