From Tradewinds Member Al Z.
Hope all is well with you all at Tradewinds. I just had a detailed and extremely informative chat with Nick by phone who very kindly suggested I write you, Matt, in case you wish to post this in a Newsletter to members. I’ve taken your wonderful 101, 103 and 104 courses and enjoyed them immensely.
In short, I wanna relay a strong recommendation to all sailors on the Bay to get a life jacket that has both crotch straps and a spray hood – the latter of which doesn’t come standard on any PFD sold at West Marine but one can be purchased from spinlock. Here’s why:
On Saturday I was sailing on a boat I’ve been racing on several times, a J125 out of Brickyard Cove Richmond, in high winds, reaching 25 knots. We were heading downwind when we raised the spinnaker and all seemed well (despite other boats in the race calling it quits due to the gusts). Then there was a super sudden bluster that came so fast there was no time to let out a sheet. I was on the main sheet and only had time to kick free the traveler before I was flying. And the skipper has said in hindsight, even if we had let the main out and made other adjustment in a non-second, it wouldn’t have offset the force of wind that pitched us on our side. It came like a fire cracker.
The racing boat pitched sideways, bodies were air-born and I was MOB. After being under the boat, I surfaced with my Mustang 70 inflated and thought all would be fine. Surprisingly, I wasn’t feeling very cold at all and was floating on the water. But I was taking in a stomach full of sea water every 10 seconds from the swells and spray, so by just ten minutes I had probably 60 stomach-fulls and was starting to weaken. No matter which way I turned or covered my mouth with my hand, I was getting hit. It took the crew over 28 minutes to get me after failed passes in the rough conditions and I didn’t think I was gonna make it in part because I didn’t have a splash hood attached to my Mustang PFD to stop the swells from hitting me. With that hood, I could’ve been fine and waiting, I think, for hours.
My PFD did an okay job keeping me afloat but it couldn’t block the heavy spray even with my hand covering my mouth. Once my crew finally got me, three sets of hands holding me sideways off the side of the boat, they couldn’t hoist me up initially due to my weight while wet and the force of water tugging at the submerged half of me. So, I was taking in white water in the face, starting to drown in a horizontal position. Eventually, of course, they pulled me aboard. But there were many lessons here.
First, you gotta get a life jacket with a spray hood and crotch straps that keep your PFD from rising so your head can stay high. Second, your crew needs to practice how to slow a boat in windy conditions to pull a MOB back on deck because it’s incredibly hard to do this quickly and it’s a critical element in the rescue procedure. Happy sailing and be safe!