Friday, February 03, 2012


There but for the grace of the Flying Spaghetti Monster go I.

Good news - but a sobering reminder - from England.

On Friday 27 January a lone dinghy sailor was plucked from the sea west of Hurst Castle as he was being swept out through the Needles Channel. The Yarmouth RNLI lifeboat had been called by the coastguard following a radio call from a passing yacht.

The dinghy had been dismasted off the Starting Platform at the entrance to the Lymington River about an hour earlier... By the time the RNLI lifeboat found him he was half a mile west of Hurst Castle in failing light and a strong westgoing tide.

As someone who likes to go sailing my Laser on my own this is my nightmare scenario. I am sailing somewhere that seems relatively safe and familiar (in this case the entrance to a river), I suffer some kind of breakdown like a dismasting (as here), and without any way to sail the boat I am swept out by currents into more dangerous and unprotected waters.

According to the report on the RNLI website, this particular sailor was "carrying no form of communication" and "was very fortunate to have been spotted before dark." Would he have ever been found if not for that radio call from a passing yacht?

I must admit I have been guilty of the same sin myself, as I have regularly been sailing the bays around Rhode Island on my own without carrying any form of communication. I continued to do that even after writing that mammoth post last April on safety for a solo Laser sailor which recommended that I should be carrying a "portable, floating, waterproof VHF radio."

Thankfully Santa (in the form of son #1) was reading that post and he gave me for Xmas a Standard Horizon HX290 floating handheld VHF radio.

I feel much better now about sailing on my own, knowing that if something really bad does happen I do have a way to call for assistance. Given the mild weather we have been having lately I'm even tempted to go for a bit of a solo yot someday soon.

By the way, can anybody identify what kind of dinghy that is in the picture of the rescue?


Nik said...

Looks very much like a foiling moth...

Tillerman said...

I think you are right Nik. You can see the horizontal foil even more clearly in this article.

Jos said...

Despite the fact that it isn't dark grey - it's a Moth

Joe said...

Even if you're just going for a quick dash around the harbor, it's always good bring a sound horn or whistle, signal mirror (can be an old dvd) and a cell phone (in a dry bag). If you have more money then consider bringing a radio and an EPRIB...Always tell someone where and when you are going, and when you should be back.

bonnie said...

Nice work, Santa!

my2fish said...

I usually always carry a whistle on my life jacket. never really considered a radio, but I mostly sail on smaller inland lakes in Michigan.

I probably should think about something more serious for when I sail the Great Lakes, though.

Gordon said...

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
in the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
the islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
with the Gales of November remembered.

Tillerman said...

The captain wired in he had water comin' in
And the good ship and crew was in peril.

I guess there are times when even having a radio won't save you.

Chris said...

Fancy dress. Medals chest.
It's all in here for all the gigs.
Gas mask. Bullet-proof vest.
All the usual rigs.

There'll be things they missed
They didn't mention.
You've even got a whistle in there
For attracting attention.

Tillerman said...

Hmmm. I like Mark Knopfler but hadn't heard that one before.

By the way ... useless piece of trivia coming up... did you know that Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) once played guitar with Knopfler when they were both in college? Knopfler had to tell Adams to "let me do the fiddly bits."

I learned that from reading Adams' official biography last week.

Bursledon Blogger said...

Radio, sat phone, flares, flaming tar barrel or whatever, you have to think that a moth really isn't a boat to be going out solo in mid winter

Tillerman said...

Oh, that's harsh Bursledon Blogger. I think that with the right gear (drysuit, PFD) and with the right precautions (location, float plan, means of communication etc.) there's absolutely no reason why someone shouldn't sail a Moth on his own in the winter.

Apart from the news reports on the web to which I linked I haven't heard any more about the incident. My guess is that this was a very experienced and capable sailor who got unlucky, but I don't really know.

Post a Comment