Motor Sailing is not Sailing

This is an amazing video of a Coast Guard rescue off the south end of Lopez Island of a 36 ft Pearson sailboat. Here is the offical Coast Guard press release which I think is a pretty clinical description of this event.


SEATTLE - The Coast Guard assisted four people on a sailing vessel that ran aground at the south end of Lopez Island, Wash., today.

Coast Guard Group Port Angeles received a call at approximately 5:10 p.m. from the 36-foot sailing vessel, Shekinech, that they had run aground and needed assistance.

A Coast Guard HH-65C Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles and a Coast Guard 33-foot small response boat crew from Coast Guard Station Bellingham were launched to assist.

Upon arrival the 33-foot small response boat crew pulled the Shekinech off of the rocks while the helicopter hovered in case of further complications.

A commercial assistance vessel arrived at the scene and established a tow to Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Wash.

No injuries were reported.

The commercial assistance was skippered by Capt. Richard J. Rodriguez and he expressed a bit more in his remarks.

I towed this boat just after the Coast Guard did a masterful job of pulling them off the rocks, see the video above. We are typically first on scene, but that was not the case on this one.

The family of four had lost power due to a line fouled in the prop (also referred to as a wheel.) When I asked why didn't they sail, they indicated that the sails were stuck (hum, all three?)

To make matters worse, these folks had their VHF and Nav instruments below at a traditional nav station, not at the helm, where they can be used in an emergency.

Capt. Richard J. Rodriguez also sent these comments to the Waggonerguide.

I've posted some amazing CG footage of a case I was involved in on Sunday. A 35.5' Pearson was blown onto a lee shore at Alec Bay, Lopez Island, after wrapping their sheets in the wheel. They couldn't get their sails up or anchor set. There were small craft advisories in effect at the time.

Always a plan A, B, and C. Make a game out of it.

I completely agree with Capt. Rodriguez about having plan A, B and C. And in a situation like this plan D and F wouldn't be bad. All to often I read about all of the safety equipment that "must" be carried on board to be prudent but I rarely hear about training or experience or judgment. Now a days all you need to do is swing by the West Marine fire her up and go and we are all left paying the bill for expensive Coast Guard rescues.

This rescue happen at the end of May in the San Juan Islands. Not a particularly stormy time of year. Perhaps there was a small craft warning but this Pearson ketch with a storm sail and its Mizzen could have sailed through that easily. But with that masthead roller furled headsail, probably a 150 or something, and the cover on the Mizzen she wasn't sailing anywhere. So this family of four put their lives and boat at the mercy of their engine. This could have turned out a lot worse.