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• December, 2012
LETTERS Bounty [ed note: see Sightings for that story], which has inspired commentary similar to what I'm reacting to. As I would have expected, Latitude hit just the right note in the September issue recap of US Sailing's Final Report on the loss of five lives and Low Speed Chase at the Farallon Islands. Two points: 1) How many of the skippers in that race knew the 1.3-times-the-wave-height figure for breaking waves? How many knew exactly how big the waves were that they were sailing in, and that two or three out of 257 would be expected to be of a much greater height? How many were checking their GPS when they rounded the island in order to steer a course that was far enough off to be safe according to these calculations? Maybe I'm naïve, but I can't believe it was very many. 2) I wonder how many sailors would claim that they've never had a moment when they said, "Whoa, that was close. We got away with one." If they made such a claim, whether they were racers or not, I wouldn't believe them. I'm shocked at the amount of self-righteousness I hear from some sailors, even prominent ones, commenting on the loss of Low Speed Chase. We are now hearing similar opinions with regard to the sinking of the Bounty. As I write this, very little in the way of facts about the Bounty incident has been revealed, yet no less a personage than Don Street has already called the captain, who lost his life, "foolish" on Scuttlebutt. This stuff is so easy to say, but we should remember that some truly great sailors have died at sea, and ask if it is logical to claim we are superior to them because we managed to stay lucky. No matter how experienced a sailor you are, it takes a lot of hubris to believe you are smarter than the ocean. Since Latitude requested the sailing experience of those commenting, I certainly wouldn't call myself a racer, but I have done a bit of racing around here. For example, the '99 Doublehanded Farallones on my Ericson 39, where there was a fatality and we got dismasted. I also have been around the Southeast Farallon in heavy weather when I was not racing, and will confirm that the waves on the windward side of the island can steepen up in a very intimidating way without warning. My other sailing experience includes a circumnavigation with my Ericson. I also hold a 50-ton Master's License. Tony Johnson Whisper, Catalina 22 San Francisco ⇑⇓HF RADIO IS A GREAT TOOL While the 180-ft replica of HMS Bounty was lost to Hurricane Sandy, it looks as if the crew used HF/SSB radio to get their distress message out. While this will be amazing to some, it is proof — again — that since HF/SSB email can routinely travel 2,000 to 5,000 miles, and has a massively redundant shore station infrastructure, when the shit hits the fan, HF/SSB email is an obvious mode to use. I have information from Winlink that the Bounty was able to connect to three shore stations to pass data, with at least two of the stations outside the "affected" area of Sandy. This is where HF/SSB excels, and is the reason government agencies, hospitals, universities and Fortune 500 companies have installed HF with modems as an alternate path to pass email. Connecting to a shore station that is high and dry 1,000 miles from the disaster is the advantage. Satellite links are cool, but there are a limited number of connections a sat can support and, in a disaster, they get used up very quickly. If any yacht clubs or other organizations would like more background on HF/SSB, sending data over SSB, and so on, please don't hesitate to contact me. I have done public speak-
The December 2012 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.