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The day I almost died

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    The day I almost died

    This story is from 2003 when I as a baby boater with two seasons of boating under my keel brought our new to us 3488 Avanti Bayliner from Seattle to Whittier Alaska

    several people have asked for the story, so here it is.

    THE DAY I ALMOST DIED
    Occasionally you will hear someone say “I almost died that day”, almost like a rite of passage, or a way to describe something adventurous. When an airplane pilot, or a boater says they almost died, my ears perk up. This is the story about the day I almost died.

    We pulled in Late to Prince Rupert Yacht club on our way to Whitter Alaska having left Beautiful Seattle just a few short days before. My 3488 Bayliner was running perfectly. The Weather had been for the most part calm, and except for a crew member that jumped ship, my friend Dave and I were having a great trip. At 27 knots all day long the miles just fly by. One port starts to look like the next, and it’s easy to take the calm seas for granted.

    We had a great evening in Prince Rupert. A great meal, a couple of beers and we were ready to hit the rack and put another 250 miles behind tomorrow. I remember waking up, having a cup of good Guatemalan coffee and coffee cup in hand heading up to the Yacht Club office to pay for our nights moorage.

    I remember listening to the weather radio like I did every morning. Seas 3-5 winds out of the south. Since we were heading north, to America I thought what a great day for boating. 3-5 footers, following seas, it doesn’t get any better. I remember talking to a old boy on the dock. Another American heading home. He said he was staying in port. I asked what kind of boat he had and he said a 26’ skipjack, or something like that. I remember thinking that 3-5’s in a 26’ boat might be a decent reason to stay in port. So off we went, Dave and I ready for another day. Coffee’d up, ready to go.

    Leaving Prince Rupert we headed south around Digby Island. We had a bigger head sea than we thought we should have but the forecast called for 3-5’s and Ketchikan was just a short 80 miles away. We would clear customs and hope to make Juneau a bit after dark.

    When we rounded Digby Island heading North the seas started to grow. The wind picked up, and we quickly found ourselves in a situation where we could not turn around and go back to safety.
    As the waves continued to grow I found myself using all 630 horsepower in our 3488 Bayliner to climb the next wave. I actually had to climb the waves or be overtaken. Then on the downhill side our speed increased and I was forced to go to idle and hit the back of the wave exactly head on, or risk broaching.

    Dave was holding on, just to stay seated. I was braced with my feet against the bulkhead in front of me. I remember asking how big the waves were and Dave wide eyed told me he wouldn’t tell me until we were safe. Up one wave and down another we went, the waves growing as the morning went by. The problem was we were running out of ocean. Whales Island was coming up quick and I could not turn left to head towards Ketchikan, and I couldn’t turn right and head goodness knows where.

    Dave started saying things like “you gotta turn Kevin” and I would try, only to fail. The waves were just too big. Stuff was flying out of the cabinets, the fridge door was open, and the boat was a mess.
    Dave kept telling me to turn, and the rocks just kept getting closer and closer. We were almost out of room. I had to turn or hit the rocks and die.

    Then I saw on the chartplotter a way. A way to escape. I remember telling Dave that I would pull behind what looked like a lighthouse, and get into the lee of the rocks where we would be safe. Dave told me that lighthouses don’t get put on rocks and that I was going to get us killed. He said to go for it, I was the captain. In some ways I think Dave was ready to die.

    With less than a half mile to death I hit the throttles and surfed us behind Proctor Islands, and into calm water.
    From there it was easy. We slipped behind the islands and into a bay. We set the anchor and slept. Hours later we cleaned up the boat, and made it to Ketchikan in the early evening thanking our lucky stars.

    It wasn’t until later that I realized that the Canadians forecast sea state in meters. The 3-5 forecast I heard on the radio was actually 10-16’ wind blown waves.


    KEVIN SANDERS
    4788 LISAS WAY
    SEWARD, ALASKA

    #2
    We did a similar thing a couple of years ago crossing from Vancouver to the Gulf Islands. It’s that whole metric thing.
    P/C Pete
    Edmonds Yacht Club (Commodore 1993)
    1988 3818 "GLAUBEN
    Hino EH700 175 Onan MDKD Genset
    1980 Encounter Sunbridge "Misty Blue" (Sold)
    MMSI 367770440
    1972 Chevrolet Nova Frame off Resto-mod in the garage
    Boating on the Salish Sea since 1948

    Comment


      #3
      Sounds like an exciting trip. I can sympathize, I came home on Lake Erie from Put in Bay in 14, to 16, following seas in my 2855. Like you I needed every bit of my 300 HP to climb up the back side of the wave only to coast down the front side. A couple of times I did not throttle back quick enough so I plowed into the back side of the next wave. When I finally got to Bolles Harbor to the marina I was flushed. I never thought that I was going to die that day but it was a challenging crossing. When I finally got to the dock I had seaweed on the foredeck and on top of my canvas. Would I do it again, probably not. For one I don,t think the Carver could handle that rough of water as well as my 2855 did.
      Rick Grew

      1981 Carver 3007 Aft Cabin

      2004 Past Commodore
      West River Yacht & Cruising Club
      www.wrycc.com

      Comment


        #4
        Holy cow that is quite the experience...duly noted on the metric system for wave heights in Canada!
        2001 3788 w/ 330 Cummins
        Seattle, WA

        Comment


          #5
          Back then I was a baby boater. I had all of two seasons of ocean boating experience. The mistakes you live through make you stronger.

          After that I read several articles on rough water seamanship. Then I spent the next few seasons intentionally going out in rougher and rougher weather, and learning the skills to safely handle a boat in rough seas.

          KEVIN SANDERS
          4788 LISAS WAY
          SEWARD, ALASKA

          Comment


            #6
            Even rocket scientists make that little metric conversion error once in a while!

            http://articles.latimes.com/1999/oct/01/news/mn-17288
            Jim Gandee
            1989 3888
            Hino 175's
            Fire Escape
            Fyrflyer@ca.rr.com

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Jim_Gandee View Post
              Even rocket scientists make that little metric conversion error once in a while!

              http://articles.latimes.com/1999/oct/01/news/mn-17288
              Technically, neither that story nor this one are errors due to metric conversion. They're errors because the source of the numbers didn't include the units. In my freshman intro to engineering course, we had it drilled into our heads that (unless it was a dimensionless number - i.e. a ratio) a number without a unit was useless. In fact it was worse than useless precisely because it could cause these types of errors. We were taught that the number and the unit were one and the same, inseparable, and to never write a number without its units.

              If I did my homework or test question calculations correctly, and the number I wrote down was the right answer, but missing the units, I got zero points for it exactly as if I'd left it blank (I'm actually surprised they didn't deduct points for making that error). And if we ever encountered a number which was supposed to have units attached to it but didn't, we were taught to always go back to the source and ask what the proper units were. Never to assume what they were.

              In the case of Mars Climate Observer, even if Lockheed had presented the numbers in metric, if their numbers were in kilonewton-seconds, and JPL assumed they were newton-seconds, the probe would've been lost just the same. It's the missing units which caused the loss, not the fact that one was in metric and the other English. Likewise in Kevin's story, the radio broadcast erred by presented the forecast wave heights without mentioning the units. That's what led him to assume what the units were.
              1994 2556, 350 MAG MPI Horizon, Bravo 2

              Comment


                #8
                Sounds like my trip from Ballard locks in Seattle to Blaine. Small craft advisory, I didn’t think that applied to a 32xx. I asked the lock attendants what the word was on how bad it was out there. They said no one came thru yet...it was around noon! It was 3-5’ swells until I hit the straight of Juan de Fuca. Then all hell broke loose. I somehow made it to Friday Harbor but my Venturi and radar and running light got knocked off.
                Esteban
                Detroit, MI
                Former Bayliners 3218, 2859, 2252, 1952

                Comment


                  #9
                  Good war story Ken. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. And wiser. There's an expression I may be able to remember as I type - Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from poor judgement.
                  R.J.(Bob) Evans
                  Cierra 2755

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by bobofthenorth View Post
                    Good war story Ken. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. And wiser. There's an expression I may be able to remember as I type - Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from poor judgement.
                    So true! We learn from our mistakes!

                    KEVIN SANDERS
                    4788 LISAS WAY
                    SEWARD, ALASKA

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by ksanders View Post
                      Back then I was a baby boater. I had all of two seasons of ocean boating experience. The mistakes you live through make you stronger.

                      After that I read several articles on rough water seamanship. Then I spent the next few seasons intentionally going out in rougher and rougher weather, and learning the skills to safely handle a boat in rough seas.
                      That is the best way to learn. Go out when it lumpy and learn how to handle the condidions.
                      Rick Grew

                      1981 Carver 3007 Aft Cabin

                      2004 Past Commodore
                      West River Yacht & Cruising Club
                      www.wrycc.com

                      Comment


                        #12
                        You might remember I offered to crew if an opening happened. After I read your story back then I was sorta glad you didn't respond.
                        I had my night of terror and it lasted 17 hours when I got caught in a weather forecast of 0 to 10, variable and clear. It changed my thinking about boats and weather.
                        Doug
                        Started boating 1955
                        Number of boats owned 32
                        Bayliners
                        2655
                        2755
                        2850
                        3870 presently owned
                        Favorite boat. Toss up. 46' Chris Craft, 3870 Bayliner

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Something else I remember from this. When you posted your plans, someone said, go for it Kevin, you have a lot of boat under you. I wanted to post you don't know how small that boat can get but didn't because I didn't want you to think I was somehow saying something against your boat. After you told us your story I wished I had said something but I knew it likely wouldn't have mattered anyway.
                          Doug
                          Started boating 1955
                          Number of boats owned 32
                          Bayliners
                          2655
                          2755
                          2850
                          3870 presently owned
                          Favorite boat. Toss up. 46' Chris Craft, 3870 Bayliner

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I do remember!

                            Oh to be young and know everything. Someone said wisdom is earned. I hear young boaters and I remember, nobody could tell me much back then either.

                            KEVIN SANDERS
                            4788 LISAS WAY
                            SEWARD, ALASKA

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by ksanders View Post
                              Oh to be young and know everything. Someone said wisdom is earned. I hear young boaters and I remember, nobody could tell me much back then either.
                              Good judgment comes from experience.

                              Experience comes from bad judgment.
                              1994 2556, 350 MAG MPI Horizon, Bravo 2

                              Comment


                              • ksanders
                                ksanders commented
                                Editing a comment
                                So True!
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