Page 70

LETTERS

COURTESY KEN BARNES

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Page 70 •

Latitude 38

• April, 2007

⇑⇓I FELT EMPATHY FOR BARNES The recent plight of Newport Beach sailor Ken Barnes, whose ketch Privateer was capsized and dismasted on his way to Cape Horn, and who was rescued from a spot 500 miles off the coast of southern Chile, struck a responsive chord in me. I was once also on a sailboat that was disabled as the result of a storm, and we crew found ourselves about the same distance from land as did Barnes. After reading about the incident on Barnes' website and in the L.A. Times, I have some observations: 1) There was no mention of his having done any previous bluewater sailing before he startBarnes made a successful 6,400-mile ed his trip. I recognize passage prior to being dismasted. Barnes' courage and commitment, but question his level of preparation. 2) His comments and reaction to the dismasting of his boat seem to point to the fact he was not prepared to make temporary repairs to get himself to port for further repairs. Of course, even if he could have jury-rigged a sail plan, he didn't seem to have an emergency rudder. 3) Based on the storm he experienced, and the one I experienced crossing the Atlantic in '86, there is no sailing in Southern California that can prepare a sailor for a real storm at sea. There just aren't any storms here. Twenty years ago, I joined the skipper of a 50-ft cutter to doublehand across the North Atlantic to Gibraltar. Our voyage was fairly normal except for the fact that the boat would not self-steer, so one of us had to be at the wheel at all times. Everything was fine until the day we heard the words 'tropical depression' over the short wave radio. It was passing over the coast of the Carolinas and traveling due east — right for us. Since we were still 1,500 miles away, we had several days to think about it. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. As the leading edge of the storm became visible to us, and looked unimaginably evil, we sat in the cockpit in awe. I recall saying to each other, “What the hell is that?” It would blow 25 knots with gusts to 35 knots, and the swells were 12 feet. An astonishing thing about the storm was the noise — the roaring of the wind and rolling seas was beyond any experience that I've had. During the storm we had to steer down the face of each wave — fortunately we were running with them. I can recall having to make a steering adjustment both at the first lift of the wave and then again at the bottom of the wave. We had some great surfing, often catching a wave that allowed us to ride down its face. After 24 hours, the winds calmed down. The constant working of everything on the boat caused some trouble, as the next day our propeller shaft coupling parted and the shaft slipped aft. So far aft that it jammed the rudder and let water flow into the boat around the displaced propeller shaft. This meant we couldn’t steer and the boat was slowly filling with water! It was low on the scale of possible

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Latitude 38 April 2007  

The April 2007 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.

Latitude 38 April 2007  

The April 2007 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.