Monday, November 26, 2012

Last sail of the season.....

It was a balmy 30 degrees with NW winds at about 10 – 15 when we left the dock on what would be the last “Shackleton” sail of the season. Being that it was the 25th of November in Minnesota, one should not be surprised by the conditions. We sailed Clay & Pia’s Blue J, the First 260, southwest out of Wayzata Bay towards Excelsior Bay to dock at Maynard’s for a little warm up and then the plan was to sail back to Wayzata Yacht Club and haul Blue J for the season. Wayzata Yacht Club has their Shackleton cup which starts at the end of October and whoever makes the most runs to Maynard’s and back wins. Obviously this cup is named for Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer. For more information on him and his exploits, you can find that here. Something fun to do when you are at 45 degrees North Latitude.

The three of us in Blue J and another club member Pontus, was sailing what we think is a Flying Dutchman but I have not been able to confirm that. Needless to say, he was sailing in a dinghy but a fast dinghy. We all had our PFD’s on and were wearing multiple layers as of course it was a bit chilly. The sail down to Maynard’s was pretty nice, not very eventful though there were a few gusts that hit near 20. Pontus kept up nicely with us and we never lost sight of him.
We got in to a slip at Maynard’s and headed inside. The Vikings were playing the Bears so the place was pretty crowded but, we found a table relatively quickly. I always find it amusing to enter that place from dockside in November. People look at you as if you just stepped off of the Space Shuttle or something. You over hear a few comments about us coming over via sailboat and you get a bit of a sense of “Damn right we did.” Anyway, we had some apps and we headed back out to the boats as the sun sets kinda early this time of year.

Pontus heading out of Excelsior Bay on Shambles.

We left pretty much at the same time with us ahead. As we got out of the bay and in to the main part of the lake, Pia looked back and said “Pontus is over.” Clay and I looked and his dinghy was turtled. We quickly furled the head sail and Clay got the diesel started. We dropped the main and headed back to assist. It only took us about 2-3 minutes, I think, to get to Pontus and his dinghy from the time we saw him over. When we got there he was climbing up on to his centerboard to try and right the boat. That did not work, so we grabbed a line and after two attempts got it over to him.
He wrapped the line around the center board and we slowly motored away to try and right his boat. I think I heard a small cracking sound but I am not sure, we knew quickly that this was not going to work. I am not really sure how but after we dropped the pull with the line idea, Pontus was able to get his boat on it’s side, but that was it. It was not going to right itself and I think Pontus had to be getting pretty cold even with all the layers, as his layers were now wet and the water temp was at a refreshing 45 degrees. He had probably been in and out and back in the water for about 10 minutes. As he was back in the water the decision was made to get Pontus on to Blue J and then deal with his boat later.
As we pulled Blue J around Clay told me to grab the small rope ladder from the starboard setee and clip it to the padeye at the stern. The First 260 has a partially open transom, enough room to slide a ladder or lines through but no way could a person fit. We got to Pontus very quickly; I would think that by now he would have been in the water about 10-15 minutes. As we got to him, Clay and I were at the transom and Clay told him to get a leg in the ladder and then we would pull him in. He struggled to get his leg in and as he was doing so all he said was “I am getting cold guys. I am pretty cold”. All he could do is pull himself  to the transom of the boat as his strength was going quickly as his body was going in to survival mode and pulling blood from his arms and legs to keep his core warm. We got him to the transom and I had his left arm pulled up as high as I could. Clay then came over and grabbed that arm as I slid over and reached down and grabbed his right. Clay said “OK I am going to just stand up as we pull.” Which I thought was a good idea as I was crouched over as well. We counted to 3, I think, and we pulled him up and on to the transom. I reached back and grabbed the bottom of his PFD and we hauled him in to the cockpit.
Pontus went below and I think Pia went with…. So many things happen in these situations you aren’t sure after the fact. Pontus got his boots off and said he was a little cold but OK and wanted to see if we could right his boat and then we would tow it back. We circled his boat a couple of times, even got the rudders hung up on the rigging but we were able to back off. At this point we were pretty much ready to just deal with the boat later and head back. I looked down in the cabin and noticed Pontus was shivering, I told Clay and it was decided then that we would head back to Maynard’s and get him someplace warm as quickly as possible.
Pia’s phone then rang and it was a friend of theirs that lives very close and I think had saw what happened. Clay made the smart call and called 911 to let them know that yes, there is a small sailboat on it’s side in Excelsior Bay but, no one was still in the water. So we headed for the Excelsior city docks which were actually a little closer than the docks at Maynard’s. Clay went below and stripped off a layer of his foulies and had Pontus remove some of his wet layers and put those on. Sean was waiting for us and helped us tie up at the city dock. There also was an Excelsior policeman at the dock and we let him know what was going on as I think someone may have called them or our call to 911 had him dispatched just to make sure all was well.
So Sean took Pontus to his place to get warmed up and we headed back over to his boat to see what it was doing. It was on its side and the mast head was touching bottom and probably a little dug in so it wasn’t going anywhere. This time of year it was not a hazard to navigation either. As we were motoring out to head back up the lake we saw the sheriff boat approaching. Clay tried to raise him on the VHF but that did not seem to work. We hung around for a while as the sheriff looked over Pontus’ boat and then we headed back.

Sailing back, the sun even came out for a bit.

We got the sails up and had a nice leisurely sail back to Wayzata, even the sun came out for a bit. As we came in to the basin where the gallows and crane are, there was a bit of ice floating about and it was moved and broken up a bit by us. So I guess for 15 seconds we were an icebreaker too.

Pulling in to the marina.

Andy was waiting for us with hot chocolate to help with getting Blue J hauled. I had a family engagement to get to so I could not help as much as I wanted too but we got the sails off and some other things. I really enjoyed sailing the last three Sundays on Blue J with Clay and Pia and want to thank them again for having me aboard. Hopefully there will be more next year and some racing.
This has also caused me to think about what gear to have on a boat and what I don’t have on mine. Extra blankets and some clothing for cold weather sailing I think is a must. Knowing where everything is and having what you need is extremely important as well. We all stayed very calm, which is also key. I wouldn’t even say “organized chaos” as it was not really chaotic at all. One other thing that was key, was that only one person was giving “orders” for lack of a better term, there was one clear voice and no one was talking over each other. Made communication much easier and things went a lot smoother because of it.
So that is how the season ended, a little more exciting than I think any of us wanted but, we did what we had to and everything turned out OK. Thankfully, not a news story and everyone is OK.
Here is some information in regards to water temperature and hypothermia.

I will add a pic or two later.....


  1. Dan,
    Nice recap. I started my chronograph when we saw Shambles go over. I wanted to give him a chance to get the boat up so we could tow it, but planed to have him on BlueJ at 10 minutes as long as he looked OK and was mostly out of the water during that time. It was between 10-11 when we pulled him.

    Thanks for coming!

  2. Dan,

    10+ minutes in 45-ish water is a substantial injury mechanism for many segments of the population.

    Additional suggestions for boat stuff:

    A cheap set of dry fleece pants and a sweatshirt can do wonders in a protected cabin. Some webbing loops as a sling clipped to a halyard will make getting the incapacitated person (another 5 minutes immersed) possible if you were alone.

    A great sequence of decisions. Really well done.

    Regards, csmcg

  3. Crazy Swede! going it alone. Good thing he was still within sight. The previous weekend, you left us in the dust! Thanks for waiting at the bar ;~)
    Doesn't the Shackelton have a rule - If a boat gets too far ahead, it is to sail backwards until the others catch up.
    Read the S.I.s !!
    Glad everything's okay.
    So is "Social Distortion" still in the water??

    1. Hey B! Well you were in no danger at all on Endurance.... and we had a spin up so it would have been hard to hook back. You should have come with us! Of course we will always wait with drinks..
      DC and SD still in. Ice forming around the hull for sure. BlueJ needed the crane to get out and that is fully iced in. I'm glad she's out!