2014 Chesapeake Cruise
Comments and Reactions

From: Al Schonborn <uncle-al3854@cogeco.ca>
To: Jeff Kirk 
Sent: Thursday, June 5, 2014 2:03 PM
Subject: man overboard.

...  Am putting in an extra Weekly Whiffle on Monday where we'll discuss getting back aboard for the not so young/nimble. Good stuff from Ken Jensen there - so don't fall in til you read his stuff which involves tying a loop in your jib sheet.
Best regards,
Uncle Al (W3854)

From: Jeff Kirk
Sent: Thursday, June 05, 2014 2:59 PM

Excellent! I've been researching MOB techniques a bit myself and there are a few things I'd like to try now that I'm back on home waters. I'll let you know if I come up with anything. Also, turns out the CL folks have a very nice looking, folding boarding ladder that attaches to the transom but it might involve climbing into the lazarette to mount it...not something for the faint of heart or fat of ass!!!


Subject: lessons cheaply learned during this year's Chesapeake Cruise - Dick's assessment
Sent: Wednesday, June 04, 2014 1:52 PM
Subject: Cruising Safety - Call for Action

To:  USWA Officers & others:

Jane didn't accompany me on this year's Chesapeake cruise because I decided it was no longer safe for the two of us sailing together.  Jane's sailing skills are limited and I'm getting too old to adequately assure her safety should a mishap occur.  Also, she doesn't enjoy rough water.  On the other hand, with Tom Goldsmith who is a competent sailor as my partner I felt very comfortable and we both enjoyed the cruise immensely.  We were safe.  Please keep this thought in mind as you read the following account.

I Promised the Harbor Patrol It Would Not Happen Again!

 "We found them!  They were at the marina on Smith Island."  It was a 'Man Overboard', they said.  "The man was still soaking wet and pretty exhausted.  They had just gotten in."  We were at Tangier Island and the time was about eight PM, Monday, May 26.  Those of us still on the dock were greatly relieved.  The Harbor Patrol had only then returned from a search and rescue for one of our boats.  Without those three patrolmen, and their big Zodiac, we would have been hard pressed to know whether our friends were safe or in serious trouble.

Our seven Wayfarers - 14 people - departed Smith Island Marina for Tangier Island shortly before 11:00 AM.  The day was bright and sunny, with a SW wind of 15 to 17 knots, and waves two to three feet.  Tangier Is. was a beat of 11 NM due south.  Last to leave were Jeff & Fran, followed by Al & Hans.  We were sailing the west shore of Smith Island which faces the big part of the Bay.  Four Wayfarers had put in reefs, while the remaining three were with full sail.  There was sufficient spray that after about an hour I was pretty wet and chilled, so I decided to pull on my foul weather gear. 

About this time the formation of the fleet was:  a) Kit & Mark about 1/2 to 1 NM out front.  b) A clump of 5 Wayfarers were grouped in the middle.  c)  Jeff & Fran barely visible way back.  Al & Hans had worked their way up from behind to join the middle group.

By 4:00 PM six of the group were tied up in slips at Parks' Marina, on Tangier Island,  All arriving within 30 to 40 minutes of Kit & Mark.  No one had seen Jeff & Fran for quite a while - I think at least a couple of hours.  At five o'clock everyone met at the Fishermen's Corner for dinner.  The restaurant which normally closes at 4:00 was staying open for us.  At that point I was still hoping Jeff & Fran would show up.  In the past they have shown a pattern of being slow sailors and arriving late.  At the 2012 cruise they had arrived three hours late at Slaughter Creek Marina on the Little Choptank River.  On that occasion I was on the phone with the Coast Guard when they finally showed up..  

During dinner several of the group with cell phones tried unsuccessfully to reach Pauli at Smith Island to see if the Kirks had turned back.  Cell coverage on Tangier Is.is very poor.  Tom Goldsmith then went over to Milton Parks house to see if he could phone Smith Island Marina.  That didn't work either.  Finally, I asked the restaurant manager if she could call the Harbor Police for me.  They had assisted a couple of our boats coming into the marina.  That worked.  

I informed the police desk we had an over due boat, giving them as much detailed information as I could.  Could they notify the Coast Guard?  The man replied that they would issue an alert, but would also send out their patrol boat.  I'm not sure they have complete confidence in the Coast Guard.  Finally, something was about to happen.  Within 20 minutes the big Zodiac was headed north on its way.

Not until much later did Carolyn Tate receive Pauli's email saying that Jeff & Fran were safely in at Smith Island.  The next day, Tuesday, four of our Wayfarers returned to Smith Is.

What Happened?  Piecing together bits of conversation with Jeff and Fran the is what I believe happened.  Jeff missed a tack when his PFD caught on the boom.  The boom came back and hit his head at the same time the lee rail dipped under.  Being on the leeward side Jeff then fell backwards and out of the boat.  Fortunately, Jeff managed to grab a trailing line, enabling him to get two hands on the transom.  Fran lowered the sails.  This happened around 3:00 PM when they were better than half way from Smith Is. to Tangier Is.

The problem is Jeff is a large man and over weight who has had several joint replacements.  He has limited noble.  Even with Fran's help Jeff was unable to get back into the boat.  But luck was with them:  a) The water temperature was not real cold.  b) They were relatively close to shore when the accident happened.  c) The western side of Smith Island at this location is shallow and all sandy.  d) The SW wind was pushing them towards shore.  

After about an hour and a half - they said Jeff was in the water that long! - Jeff was finally able to stand up and get back into the boat.  At that point they were exhausted and Fran was afraid Jeff was suffering from hypothermia.  So they decided to go back Ewell on Smith Is., arriving only minutes before the Harbor Patrol showed up

I don't know if Fran is capable of sailing the boat.  If Jeff had gotten separated from the boat that would have been crucial.  I do know that she attempted to contact the rest of the fleet via channel 68, but without any luck.  We would have been way out of VHF range  I don't know If she put out a distress call on channel 16.  I don't think she fired any flares.  Under the circumstance she should have done both as soon as Jeff was secured to the boat.

Tuesday, after visiting Watts Is. Kit & Mark returned to Crisfield.  Wednesday, the Kirks returned to Crisfield along with the Tates and Ken Butler & grandson Jordan.  Also, the same day splitting off from the others Tom Goldsmith & me, Al & Hans, and Annmarie & Allen sailed for Weona on Deal Is.  We returned to Crisfield Thursday.

Cruise Participants:
  1. Jeff & Fran Kirk
  2. Jesse & Carolyn Tate
  3. Ken Butler & grandson Jordan
  4. AnnMarie Covington & Allen Harris
  5. Kit & Mark Wallace
  6. Al Shonborn & Hans Gottschling
  7. Dick Harrington & Tom Goldsmith
Discussion.  As certainly would be expected, there was a lot of discussion about this incident and concern expressed for Jeff and Fran.  This was a close call for them.  In cold, rocky waters, with strong tidal currents, such as found in Maine waters, Jeff may not have survived.  The group felt that procedures need to be implemented so that no one is ever left behind again.  Two recommendations were made:

1)  There should always be a designated sweep boat - an experienced last boat that keeps the fleet in front of them.
2)  An alternative to this would be making sure all slower or less experienced boats are paired with an experienced buddy.

To this I would add:

3)  There should be a designated lead boat which maintains effective communications with the sweep boat.

4)  How to address the problem of a slow boat needs to be addressed.  Any boat that is unable to sail - within reasonable bounds - of keep up with the general fleet can significantly retard progress.  This poses a safety problem to themselves and others.  I feel that as a group Wayfarer cruises have done very well teaching newcomers the ropes regarding honing sailing skills and how to tune their boats to obtain good sailing performance.  What we haven't done and need to is recognize those who may have a limiting physical conditions.  We need to find ways to keep them included in events without putting them or others at risk.           

I would like the above points to become a discussion.  I would also like to reach some kind of agreement on implementing improvements before the Hermit Island rally in August.   
For your information I've included (below) the safety DECLARATION everyone participating on this cruise agreed to.



Skippers, please send me a reply affirming your DECLARATION to the statement which is below.  Your name and hull number is all I require.  Crew member may strike out sections not related to them as they are not the owner/skipper of the boat.

I offer the following clarification(s) regarding item no. 1:  a) You may substitute Al Schonborn's language if you wish.  b) The term "keeping the hull a float" is intended to mean sufficient residual buoyancy to keep the gunwales above water for an extended period of time.  c) The aft flotation compartment must not flood causing the boat to sink stern down.

Chesapeake Bay Cruise - 2014 
1. I am satisfied that the buoyancy within my boat is sufficient for keeping the hull afloat when capsized. 
2. I have checked, and am satisfied that the boat and all its fittings, including the rigging, are seaworthy.
3. I have the capability of reducing sail quickly and efficiently while on the water. 
4. My crew and I will be sailing with adequate weatherproof clothing and personal buoyancy. 
5. I will meet all USCG requirements with respect to small boat safety equipment. 
6. I will be fully insured to cover damage to other craft and personal liability.
7. I have read the Boat Checklist (below) and will comply with the requirements.   
Further more, while I appreciate that every effort will be made to ensure everyone’s safety, I understand that ultimately, I alone am responsible for deciding whether or not my abilities are sufficient to allow me to go or stay out on the water at any given time during this event.  In matters of safety, I will err on the side of caution, and I recognize that I will be sailing entirely at my own risk.
Boat description/Sail Number: _____________________________________________________
Owner/skipper: ______________________________________________ Date: _____________
Address: _____________________________________________________________________
Name of crew: _________________________________________________________________
Phone number(s): _______________________________________________________________
List any limitations (boat or crew): __________________________________________________
Boat Checklist 
  • Proper number of USCG approved PFD’s
  • Throw line (man overboard) 
  • Reefing capability (jiffy reefing preferred)
  • VHF radio
  • Fire extinguisher 
  • Bailing/pumping devices 
  • Distress flares
  • Sound device
  • Paddles or oars (in addition to a motor) 
  • Good anchor (w/chain and approx. 100' of rode)
  • Cockpit tent 
  • Chart(s) 
  • Good marine compass 
  • Tow line and long mooring lines (for big boat slips) 
  • Hi-power flash light (for emergency night sailing) 
  • Water and emergency food supply
  • First Aid kit

Jeff responds:
From: Jeff Kirk
Sent: Wednesday, June 04, 2014 4:44 PM

Hello All,

Thank you, Dick , for that succinct and generally accurate account of the problems we encountered during this years Chessie cruise. Also, thank you, one and all, for your support and concern over our well being. Fran and I would like to apologize for any distress we may have caused anyone. It is my hope that any ensuing discussion regarding this incident will help alleviate any future issues.

I would like to weigh in on the subject of whether or not we should have sent out a distress call. It has always been my philosophy that when we venture out off the beaten track that we should be, as much as possible, responsible for ourselves and not inconvenience, or perhaps even put someone else at risk due to our own misfortune. Once the initial shock of being in the water wore off, it was clear that neither I nor Fran were in any real danger. As Dick points out, we were very lucky, but let me repeat, at NO time did I feel we were in any danger. It was simply a matter of waiting until the wind carried us enough into the shallows so I could stand up and climb back in. Once back in the boat there seemed very little point in calling a Mayday or Pan-Pan. As Dick noted, however, doing so might have alerted the rest of the fleet as to what was going on much sooner and for that I do apologize. Our plan at that point was to sail back to Smith Is. and call Parks Marina from there. I did not realize there would be no phone, cell or radio service between the two islands and am grateful to the Tangier harbor patrol for relaying the message that we were ok back to the fleet.

I suppose all's well that ends well but luck did play a large part in our misadventure. This could have happened to anyone and I suspect quite a few of us would be hard pressed to climb back into a fully buoyant boat. Trust me, it's much harder than it looks. I had a rope ladder that I thought would be of assistance but it turned out to be of little use as your feet tend to push under the hull when you try to stand. I suspect a boarding ladder is in my future :-)

I would like to thank you, Dick, once again, for organizing these trips. We had a fabulous time in a beautiful area and the weather was gorgeous. I sincerely hope that our misfortune didn't spoil what was otherwise a lovely cruise.

Fair Winds,