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Posts Tagged ‘rainmaker’

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Join the 1% while paying less than 1% of her original price!  Rainmaker has hit the market for a reserve price of just $15,000, with the salvage auction closing in early September.

From Cooper Salvage:

Description: Vessel dismasted during severe weather and was abandoned. Vessel was recovered after being at sea for over a year.

Type of water damage: Salt.  No shit.

August 11th, 2016 by admin

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We learned several hours ago that the Gunboat 55 Rainmaker has indeed been found, and here’s where truth gets stranger than fiction.  The long-discussed G55, whose saga is here in all its glory, was spotted by members of Oracle Team USA while they were on a fishing trip off Bermuda!  A boat named Tenacious is slowly towing her back to base, and we’ll have more when it’s available.  Photo courtesy of Craig McFarlane and thanks to our friends for the heads up – you know who you are.

March 14th, 2016 by admin

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Takes a lickin’, and keeps on…well, floating.  Not much left on the Rainmaker, but with every hatch torn off and as much ocean inside as out, Gunboat 55 #1 has certainly proven to be unsinkable.  Here’s the note sent in by the container ship taking the snaps.

We found your Boat yesterday Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.28.36 PMon this given location. We are on the way from Charleston to Le Havre, this is is a gearless Container Vessel, so we can’t do any savings.

I did’t make any rescue manoever to check the Boat. Hull looks in good condition.  The danger is that any ship at night will crash into this hull, then I guess it will be damage.

with kind regards
mit freundlichen Gruessen

G. Reinhard Peer
Master
———————
“CMV Chicago Express”

June 17th, 2015 by admin

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IMG_3924 cropA huge thanks to Gunboat skipper Chris Bailet for spending so many hours on this interview.  Catch up on the Loss of the Rainmaker with Part 1, Part 2, and the report from Ocean Crescent and be sure to read through to the end of the story for Mr. Clean’s take.

SA: So they were 20 minutes out, and they would have 18 minutes to rescue 5 of you.

CB: Yeah, there wasn’t going to be time for grabbing your favorite pillow.  I prepared Brian and Max for what was about to happen, and walked them through the steps of evacuation. I went down into the port hull through the hatch to retrieve passports, wallets, cellphones and boat documents. I put everything into a dry bag backpack including the boat computers and the GoPro with which we’d been filming earlier. I went to the bow and set up a bridle with two long dock lines on each forward cleat and a large inflated fender tied to the ends of both.

SA: Was there any thought about making the boat watertight or setting up some way to track her long term?

CB: There was barely time to get our gear together and get the boat ready for the evac!  The helo and C130 were on site as we finished final prep for abandonment, and the helo circled the bow and hovered over our port side. The rescue swimmer gave us the thumbs up and began descending towards the water. At the first attempt, the boat surged down a wave at 6kts and we were pushed further downwind from the rescue swimmer. I started the starboard engine again and brought the boat beam to with the boards down at 90degrees. At the second attempt, the helo came over our port aft quarter and the swimmer descended.

SA: Where were the crew at this point?

CB: George was on the transom with Brian and Max, Jon was on comms with the helo, and I was at the helm. Max was the first off, then Brian. Both had help from George, who inflated their lifejackets and assisted them off the port transom towards the swimmer. George was third, then Jon, both with inflated life jackets. I had a few seconds to put the boat through a systems shutdown on the C-Zone, to put the boat into a secure mode to save battery and prevent fire. I stuffed a blanket and cushions into the port companionway to slow the ingress of water into the port hull, and finally, I lashed the EPIRB to a winch.  Because of the rescue swimmer not using a basket, I dumped the backpack and transferred the small items into two dry bags, which I clipped to my life jacket. I set off a personal locator and zipped it into my chest pocket, and prepared to abandon as the sun was going down. I jumped off the port transom and met the swimmer, Claude. Once I was in the helo, we were told we’d be landing at Dare Regional in Manteo, NC.  They would not be able to make their regular base at Elizabeth City, a few miles further.

SA: Can I get off the edge of my seat now?  What was the helicopter ride like?

CB: Long.  Freezing cold.  Really, really loud.  I’m going out on a limb to recommend folks try to avoid that flight.

SA: So now there’s a couple million worth of carbon floating around with a gangsta storm coming.  Who went looking?

CB: Quite a few guys tried to be cowboys, as you can imagine, including one fishing vessel Fine Tuna, which took Gunboat employee Michael Reardon aboard.  They were on station by Monday night Fine at the last location transmitted by the EPIRB; one media report incorrectly wrote that the CG had slapped some kind of beacon aboard, but the Tuna had only the pings up until they stopped.

SA: And it was crazy out there?

CB: They said they had 80 knots of wind and seas to 25’. And over the next three days, they managed to find some debris along with some items from Rainmaker, but no boat.

SA:  Identifiable debris?

CB: Yeah – seat cushion, a deflated fender, beanbag chair, floorboard, ditch bag, couple of other things.  Enough to know they were in the right place.

SA: Did you give up after that call?

CB: No, we tried to get up and find her on Tuesday via plane, but naval radio comms told us we were in a closed hot zone practice sector and grounded us.  We went out for two searches on Wednesday, with the first centering on the last transmitted position, where Fine Tuna was still searching.  We saw floating debris from the air.  For the second search, we researched the wind, current, and swell and focused on the probable drift location of the boat had the EPIRB come free during the nasty weather.  We had over two hours on station for each search with a pattern of east/west 40 nm, south 10/15mn, then back to the north before heading to Dare regional to refuel.

SA: Final conclusion?

CB: Debris on both searches, but no sign of the Gunboat 55 Rainmaker.

SA: Do you think she will turn up?

CB: It’s a big ocean.  Do you?

SA: Okay, you’ve had a chance to tell your whole story, and now there are a bunch of other questions I’d like to ask you to put this whole thing to bed.

CB: Shoot.  I’ve got nothing to hide.

AB: How many times have you sailed hundreds of miles offshore in the middle of winter? How many times were you the captain in those past experiences? In situations where you weren’t the captain, what type of discussions and preparation did you witness/participate in regarding “plan b” in the event of a catastrophic failure?

CB: I’ve done a handfull of deliveries out of New England as late as Christmas, a few out of FL all heading to the Caribbean.  Acted as Captain on 2 of the 5. We saw some pretty nasty stuff on Tribe one trip down in late December with 40+.  Plan B was Bermuda with the southerly, or wait it out and try to make bahamas with the NNW, or back to NC once it all cleared.

SA: How much experience/training do you have with regards to self rescue in the event of a dismasting or other catastrophic failure? Have you ever deployed a sea anchor or drogue? Have you ever had to construct a jury rig? Have you ever had to clear fouled props at sea? Have you ever had to board up windows, companionways, or other points of possible water ingress? Have you ever had to clean up a hydraulic or other slick spills? Are these things you’d thought about? Prepared for?

CB: Until last month, I’d never been on a boat where the rig came down.  I’ve deployed a drone on a monohull in a nasty storm, but that’s all. We were prepared to use the storm jib as a drogue, but felt that it would either bring the bow into the waves and bury the longeron or bring the stern up and bring water into the boat.  We never really needed to stop the boat, as it turned out.

SA: In the middle of the RM crisis, what was your thought process? Did you and the other crew members discuss your options for self rescue and weigh it against the dangers associated with assisted rescue?

CB: We all discussed it after the first damage assessment. We looked at options, spoke to the Coast Guard, and they told us to fire off the EPIRB immediately, because we’d told them out situation, and they knew what was coming.  If we were confident we could have gotten away from the coming front, maybe it would have been a tougher decision, but staying in the same spot and taking hours or a day to get everything sorted – that would have put lives in more danger, period.  And being on the very edge of helicopter range adds another reason to the ‘abandon’ column; if things get worse the next day, are you now out of range?  At some point you swallow your pride and the idea that you’re invincible and decide you’ve got a shit hand that you can’t bluff your way out of.  And you fold, before you lose all your chips.

SA: If rescue hadn’t been an option, and you ignore the weather forecast for a second, are there ways you could have improved the condition of the boat and got things going again?

CB: We didn’t have anything big enough to cover the window that could have supported wind and waves, so that is something to keep in mind.  We could have sorted out our engine trouble with enough time and maybe a little less sea state – similar to clearing the prop, which is a hate mission in big waves.  I’d like to think that the boat was still a platform for us as long as we needed it, and I don’t have much doubt that, if rescue wasn’t an option, we’d be repairing electronics, engine and window, and waiting for a lull so we could start stripping the longeron to rig it up as a jury mast. It would have definitely taken a few days.  BVI, here we come!

SA: You say weather was the biggest factor in your decision to abandon, what was your “plan b” for a catastrophic event when you set out, given the unforgiving forecast? You mentioned the Bahamas and Bermuda. Why weren’t those viable options? Was attempting to get to one these points discussed as a possible option onboard at the time?

CB:  I can’t emphasize how quickly things happened out there, it was pretty much a rush from the time we got the rig cleared to the evac, so we may have overlooked some of the options. Bermuda was still 450nm, and wasn’t going to be easy to get to with a NW, N to NE coming in the next 24 hours.  Cutting away the longeron was risky and would have taken a lot of thought to do it without dropping someone in the water or punching a hole in the boat. And until we got both engines running and the longeron on deck, we were not going anywhere.  And it was the same issue I mentioned above – go towards Bermuda, and now you don’t have a helo option.

SA: The photos from Ocean Crescent show no signs of visible damage to the port hull. Do you think it’s possible that the blow you experienced could have resulted in little/no structural damage?

CB: That photo was taken before they hit us. Look at the picture, the way its set up, was just before we collided with their starboard side.

SA: Having sailed with you before I know how competent and experienced you are, but this is obviously the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your career. What’s the biggest takeaway for you as a captain (other than “sometimes shit happens at sea”)? What have you learned? How has this experience made you wiser, stronger, better?

CB: There are plenty of small lessons to learn about handling that specific situation in that specific boat, but really, we got our asses kicked by the ocean, and thankfully, no one got hurt.  Maybe what I’ve learned best is to pick myself up, dust myself off, and put my fists back up.  I love my job, and I love the ocean, and if you spend enough time out there, you’re gonna get cold cocked sooner or later.

SA: That’s it?

CB: What else can I say?  We don’t know how much wind hit us, we don’t know what happened to the rig, and we don’t know what happened to the boat.  I’m confident Gunboat is investigating everything they can to address some of the problems we had and I’m sure you’ll hear from them at some point, but my actions were all about making sure everyone was as safe as possible, and I don’t have any regrets.  It’s better to be a live donkey than a dead lion.

SA: Thanks very much Chris.

CB: See ya in St. Martin, Clean

 

Clean Reports

Because of Gunboat’s stature as one of the sport’s most visible brands, and their long association with Sailing Anarchy (and the fact that there are thousands of cabin-fever crazy anarchists buried under the snow), there’s been a massive amount of interest in the forums in the Rainmaker saga, with a small but vocal number of you complaining that you weren’t getting ‘the whole story.’  We have some advice for you: Get over it, because 15 years ago, you wouldn’t have heard about it at all.  We’re grateful to be able to bring a factual account of the story to you, one that we’ve backed up with information from Commanders and other crew.  We’re also so glad to have quality advertisers like Gunboat who would never even consider asking us to quash this report or threaten us in any way.  Like us, they believe in transparency, and like us, they wanted the story to be told.  But it’s important that you know our stand on this interview, and our own thoughts on this incident.

First off, Bailet is a personal friend of mine, and a longtime reader of SA.  Would I lie for him?  Not in a million years.  But rather than ask him hard followups, I trusted him enough to accept him at his word.  If you want to call that a soft interview, that’s your right.  No one is making you read it.

Second off, Gunboat founder Peter Johnstone is a sponsor, advertiser, and friend of SA almost since Gunboat began.  Would we lie for him, or let him write his own version of the news? Never.  Would our feelings for PJ and Gunboat make us go a little lighter on them than another brand?  We have to admit this is possible.

Finally, this is a multi-million dollar loss that’s now a multi-million dollar check for an insurance company to write, and you know what insurance companies really do, right?  They sue people – especially when they have to eat millions of dollars.  So we’ve got a maritime incident on international waters on a private luxury yacht owned by a very wealthy man, and all the details are in the hands of a tiny number of people, none of whom are about to go against their legal advice.  Now there’s no way that Chris was running all this by a lawyer, but I have little doubt that he was advised on parts of this interview.  It was either that or nothing at all.

Finally, while almost all the gaps in the report are due to lack of information (the rig failure mode, for instance), there are definitely a few revealing gaps that bother me.  While I prefer to avoid speculating in the absense of evidence, I need to point them out so I can feel good about all the work I’ve done on this report.

Gap 1: Departure.  While I wouldn’t have hesitated to leave on the forecast Rainmaker had, it would be for the express purpose of hauling ass.  Rainmaker’s average speeds up to the dismasting don’t indicate she was in any rush at all, and if that’s the case, there was no reason for them to leave with that forecast.

Gap 2: Brian and Max.  There are a couple of references to the owner and his son being in shock, but otherwise they are barely mentioned in the story at all.  This feels more to me like Chris’s well-known loyalty to his employer than anything else, but it seems to me that Brian and Max’s condition may have played a bigger role in the decision to abandon than the interview lets on.

Gap 3: Mayday or Pan Pan. The decision to abandon was made much simpler because of the Mayday call and the USCG advice to switch on the EPIRB.  Once that happened, the crew spent all their time working on rescue-related jobs until evacuated.  I am not second-guessing their call, but I am definitely wondering whether it was another factor (see above) that kept this very experienced and resourceful crew from at least making the effort to get the boat shipshape and start to think about what it would take to self-rescue.

Gap 4: Mainsheet.  While one of the crew took the helm from the autopilot within a second of when the squall hit, because he was immediately wrestling with the wheel, he was  unable to reach the emergency mainsheet dump button about a foot in front of the helm.  The rig came down a few seconds later.  Would a mainsheet dump have saved the rig?  We weren’t there, but there’s certainly a chance it could have.  But if I was sailing along on a delivery at 10-20 knots in 35-40 knots with a storm jib and triple reefed main up, I might think one person could handle both jobs from a foot away, too.  I’d be wrong, but I didn’t know that until after this incident.

Overall, I find Chris and the crew to have done an exemplary job keeping themselves and their novice bluewater sailing owner and his son alive after a nasty dismasting in an unforecast and extreme weather event and complicated rescue.  There will be people second-guessing this one for years to come, but neither the crew nor Gunboat have anything to be ashamed about.  Chris Bailet proved that his shoreside preparation is tops and that he’s great under fire, and he’ll no doubt be working on another Gunboat before too long.  And I wouldn’t hesitate to do a delivery with him, any time, anywhere.

Don’t agree?  Go argue about it here.  We’re done.  And if you want more Gunboat action, wait til Wednesday when 5 of ’em hit the Heineken St. Martin race course.

 

March 1st, 2015 by admin

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The PR folks at Crowley’s Vessel Management department dropped a beautiful if somber photo bomb on the web last night, along with a short report of their assistance to Rainmaker last month.  Meanwhile, we’re still finishing up the crew’s own ‘lessons learned’ from the incident, which you’ll see here soon.  More from Crowley (and there’s a closer shot of Rainmaker in Crescent’s lee here).

The crew of the Crowley-managed, 393-foot, heavy lift vessel Ocean Crescent recently provided assistance to five people aboard the damaged and drifting catamaran Rainmaker during a routine transit from Progresso, Mexico, to Halifax, Canada. Following a message from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to render assistance, if possible, the Crowley crew onboard diverted the Ocean Crescent approximately 20 nautical miles to the west where they found Rainmaker stranded with two inoperable engines and a broken mast, which had penetrated the forward port window and destroyed the vessel’s navigational equipment.

First on scene, Ocean Crescent approached Rainmaker, pulled alongside and shielded the 55-foot sailboat from seas reaching six meters. The crew also relayed communications from the inbound USCG helicopter and search plane to the sailboat’s uninjured occupants, both of which arrived on scene about an hour after the Ocean Crescent. Once each of the sailboat’s occupants was loaded onto the helicopter, USCG dismissed Ocean Crescent from the scene, thanking the Crowley mariners for their assistance.

February 27th, 2015 by admin

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DCIM100GOPROWhen we left Rainmaker skipper Chris Bailet, the Gunboat 55 was being run over by a freight train of wind, and Chris had just made it to the cockpit.

CB: The boat lurches and I hit the plinth station just as we all hear a crack, followed by a louder crack. The mast hits the deck at the midship cleat, throwing the butt end of the mast off the step and into the air, though it is still held down by running rigging, wiring and hydraulics leading through the organizer.  The port forward window smashes under the mast’s impact on the deck.  I see the boom on the cabin house along the port side.

SA: How long until you were in action?

CB: Immediately, I yelled, “rig down, all hands!  Grab the rig kit!!”  I see Max and Brian ready to come through the port side companionway, and I tell them to make sure their lifejackets and shoes are on and watch for broken glass.

SA: Who’s on the helm at the time?

CB: The pilot was driving on apparent wind when the rig came down, Jon told me it was maybe 5-7 seconds between when the gust hit to when the rig was on the deck.  I took the helm from Jon, who’d grabbed the helm and cut out the pilot when the gust hit.  Meanwhile, Jon and George opened the aft daybed up to grab the rig ditch kit. Jon grabs a hacksaw to begin cutting the shrouds. The boat still has forward momentum and the swell is causing the rig to move around the deck, and the boom on the pilothouse, so I steer the boat around the mast in the water to try to get the boat pointed dead downwind. The wind has backed down to 40 kts and visibility returned.

SA: What did George and Jon tell you about the moments before the squall hit?

CB: visibility was about 5nm, overcast but there weren’t any dark clouds. Radar was on, XM weather was on, nothing notable in range. George was talking about how well the boat was handling actually.

SA: Talk us through the process of getting the rig off.

CB: We tried to be as calm as we could, but it was all a bit chaotic; I grab my ceramic knife, open the forward sliding windows, and begin cutting all the running rigging and hydraulic hoses.  I get hydraulic fluid in my eyes, and George steps in to finish cutting the hoses. I grab a set of wire cutters from the ditch kit and cut all the wiring connecting the mast. Using the ceramic blade, I cut all the halyards where they connect to the deck. George is at the headstay with a hammer, banging the pin out to release the stay from the furler. Jon has just freed the last shroud, and I begin cutting the mainsheet. As soon as the main sheet is cut, the rig is fully disconnected.

SA: And how long do you think all that took?

CB: Somewhere between 5 and 15 minutes.

SA: So everything is free, but all that heavy shit is still laying on the boat.  Now what?

CB: We attempt to push the boom off the coachroof, but we can’t move it. There is hydraulic fluid and glass on the deck. We decide the only way to get the rig away from the boat is to drive out from under it.  The butt end was cleared, and close to punching the hull with each wave. The starboard engine wouldn’t start, port engine started, and I put it into gear and drove forward, as George guides the boom off the cabin top. We motor away from the rig about two boat lengths, noticing that the storm jib is trailing behind us. I put the engine in neutral and shut it down.  Then ask Jon to get comms going with the satphone and handheld, and issue a Mayday.

SA: Okay – damage assessment?

CB: The boom and rig impacted and compressed the pilothouse port mullion above the companionway. This bent the port companionway sliding hatch frame so we can’t shut it all of the way. The port forward window is gone. We were getting rainwater and salt spray in the salon. The electronics and navigation at the helm and radio box are out. The aft enclosure tracks have blown out. Without being underway, we are getting some wave tops into the salon.  The port companionway hatch could be an issue if seas get bigger. George checks the port hull bilges for water. There is none. The longeron appears stable. It is lower without the rig but the side and whiskers are supporting it. The electrical tech space with the genset’s charger/inverters has gotten some water through the cleared away mast electrical conduit. Starboard engine still isn’t rolling over.  Comms are limited to the Sat phone which is working on its battery. The satphone charger is mounted at the navstation. It’s wet and doesn’t appear to be charging. Port prop is fouled by the storm jib sheets and the seas are too big to get in the water and free them.  George, Jon and I have a load of cuts on our hands and knees from the glass, but no major injuries.

SA: How long til Jon made good contact?

CB:  Maybe 10 minutes.  He had a full emergency contact sheet.  Then he initiates the boat’s EPIRB, as well as his personal EPIRB (going to his folks in NYC, who contact GB). Max and Brian are sitting in the settee, quiet and in a bit shock. George is at the helm, trying to get STBD engine going. I go to the port aft scoop and begin fishing the two lines that are stuck around the prop and connected to the storm jib with the boat hook. I pick up the solent halyard and sheet and pull the storm jib up into the salon and begin to cut the sheets as close to the water line as I can. Once it’s clear, I look over at Jon who’s beginning to create a muster station at the helm chair with the liferaft, first aid kit, and both ditch bags. Jon says the Coast Guard is constructing a plan, and that he will make contact with them again in thirty minutes.

SA: Did you know you were going to abandon already?

CB: We weren’t sure at that point, we were still in damage control and assessment stage.  I told the crew to get their foulies on and make sure that their lifejackets are ready. George stays at the helm, while Jon and I put on dry clothes and foulies. We compile all other safety equipment at the settee table which was pretty sheltered.

SA: So you’re ready to abandon if you need to – any thoughts of self-rescue at this point?

CB: Of course – no one wants to abandon their boat.  I try again to fire up the starboard engine. It finally catches, and I slowly start to bring the boat around so that the swell is on the beam. Heading around 110 degrees, TWS 30kts+ at 220TWD, seas around 15, and we’re making about 4kts.

SA: And meanwhile, the CG isn’t wasting time.

CB: Jon has another transmission with them on schedule, and they tell him that two cargo ships have been diverted for support, and they’d dispatched a helo and C130.  The CG was crunching numbers to see if the helicopter could make it to the scene, stay on station long enough and safely back, as we were approaching the end of their range for a helo evac. Shortly after the call, we see a tanker on the horizon. I make contact with the Ocean Crescent over the handheld.  They tell us they have no visual, so Jon shoots off three flares, and they confirm our location

SA: Right – the moment of truth.  What’s your decision making process when there is a rescuer on site?

CB: I went back to our damage assessment.  The port companionway hatch is a concern without being able to close it. If we have to motor into a seaway, the longeron could be an issue and may need to be cutaway, but would be a huge risk trying to get that thing free. Port engine is out with the lines on the prop, and starboard is still having issues. The aft enclosure tracks are blown out. The cockpit and deck have broken glass and hydraulic fluid, the nav station electronics we’re all soaked. Two of the crew were potentially in shock.  And the forecast weather coming in was looking pretty horrible.

SA: Some of that could have been sorted out though, right?

CB: Of course, but not easily and not quickly, and if there was one factor that made my decision for me, it was the forecast, combined with our location. A nasty trough was moving in fast with the certainty of continually deteriorating conditions, potential for hurricane-force winds, and huge seas for the next 3 days if we couldn’t motor out of the area.  We all discussed it, we all agreed, and radioed the Ocean Crescent.

SA: Was it a relief once you made the decision?

CB: ABSOLUTELY NOT. That fucking sucked.  Now we had to get everyone safely onto a ship!

 SA: Time for some sketchy action?

CB: Oh yeah.  The Ocean Crescent told us to hold course and they would come around our port side, around our transom, and to windward, along the starboard hull. As they were in final approached, they radioed that they would be crossing in front of our bow, then stopping to windward of us.  At this time we were going approximately 2-4kts down the waves, no engines (STBD kept cutting out) with our starboard quarter to the wind. The Ocean Crescent made this call while they were within approximately 900ft (3 of their boat lengths) of our bow, approaching at about 10 knots.  As they got close, they made an emergency turn to port to try to avoid collision.  As soon as it became obvious they were going to hit us, I try a handful of times to get starboard engine on, finally it caught and I threw it into reverse.  The starboard side started to turn, exposing our port bow and longeron to the ship, and they collided with our port bow forward of their midships.  It was a big blow, and we heard the crunching of the carbon (really getting sick of that sound now), though we didn’t know how much damage we’d sustained as we rolled off their bow wake and slid down their starboard side.  But OC was still turning to port, and as we neared their transom, the tanker went bow down on a wave, completely exposing their massive spinning propeller.  It missed our port hull by a few feet.

SA: Holy crap!

CB: Yeah, right?  Slightly terrifying.  Anyway, they radioed back.  “Let’s try that again, Captain.”  I told them we’d prefer to see if we could get into their lee on our own engine, and slowly bring our starboard side into their port side.  They agreed, and we slowly reversed toward them, but were blown away.  We made a second attempt after asking them to lower their boarding nets further down the topsides of their boat, and we slowly crept to them, leading with our starboard stern.

SA: Same sea state?

CB: Choppy seas still, maybe 15 feet, with winds still to around 40.

SA: OK.  So the second time’s the charm?

CB: Not really!  We were able to catch two heaving lines from their crew with Rainmaker standing off about 100 feet from them.  It gave us a chance to look at the boats’ relative motions, look at the cargo net, and evaluate the potential transfer. We all agreed that jumping from the cat to the ship would create some real potential for death or serious injury, and we dropped the heaving lines, motoring a couple more lengths to leeward to keep clear of the Crescent.

SA: Scary shit. So then what?

CB: Yeah, not something you can train for.  But it looked seriously bad.   Anyway, Jon called the CG again and let them know what happened – they responded that the C130 and helo were 20 minutes out, and that the helo would have very little time on station, 18 minutes max.  We discussed the options, and agreed unanimously that an air rescue was the best option. Jon radioed back to the Ocean Crescent that we planned a helo evac, and asked them to stay to for support.

Check back tomorrow for the final piece of the Rainmaker saga, including the air rescue, salvage attempts, and lessons learned.

 

February 25th, 2015 by admin

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As the first of the widely anticipated Irens-designed Gunboat 55’s, Rainmaker was always going to get a lot of attention, and owner Brian Cohen spent much of last season cruising and racing (and getting Forbes magazine press) around the New York area under the watchful eye of a guy we’ve sailed with ourselves and consider one of the best; Yachtmaster and USCG-licensed Captain Chris Bailet. At the end of the season, Rainmaker headed back to the Gunboat factory in Wanchese for winter upgrades and warranty work, and when that was done, the waiting began for a good trip to the Caribbean.

When the weather window came in on January 29th, they set off, and the next day, Rainmaker dismasted 200 miles off the Carolina coast, her crew rescued by a USCG helicopter.  We spoke to Bailet for the details.

SA: Before we even talk about the boat, let’s talk about the weather.  Tell us about your decision making leading up to the trip.

CB: We’d been monitoring weather along with Commanders for some time, and the forecast when we left it looked like high pressure across the stream into a downwind sleigh ride.  We expected up to 40 knots in squalls when the front came through, but all from behind us.

SA: So what was your routing, precisely?

CB: The plan was to cross the stream with a SW’ly while the high pressure held, then turn to the South as the wind went NW’ly and ride it quickly down to the islands.

SA: Were you sticking with it?

CB: We spoke to them on the morning after we left around 1000 – we were 5 nm North of rhumb to their Waypoint 1 for our route.

SA: And is 40+ knots in the North Atlantic in winter really Gunboat weather in your opinion?

CB: I’ve sailed about 30,000 NM on Gunboats in winds up to 65knots, and always come through.  We were extremely careful in our preparations and felt ready for anything, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take a Gunboat into that forecast again.

SA: Okay, so let’s talk about the crew.  We understand that Brian Cohen had little offshore experience, and he brought his 24-year old son Max, who had less.  Was this really the trip for them?

CB: Brian had done the maiden delivery on the boat from, NC-NY and then sailed the hell out of the boat – we went out pretty much every day last summer.  Max spent loads of time on the boat – he was comfortable too – though this was his first offshore experience. But a sleigh ride on a Gunboat with three pros wasn’t something treacherous or frightening – it was a great chance at a cool voyage.

SA: Who were the rest of the crew and what is their experience level like?

CB: George Cahusac and Jon Ollweather, who are probably the two offshore sailors I would most trust with my life or my boat. Both are impeccable seamen. Both hold multiple licenses.

SA: Ok, so we’ve done crew and weather.  Let’s talk about the boat.  Were there any majors done during the NC visit?

CB: Not really – a few small issues and the addition of a rollerfurling Solent and J1, a new spinnaker, some electronic upgrades and a prop change.

SA: And did you have time to check everything before you left?

CB: Yep – we spent a week pushing the boat pretty hard inshore and testing the new sails, electronics, and engine/generator systems.

SA: So everything’s good but the boat is taking her first major offshore trip in some shit.  What’s on the safety checklist?

CB: Jon and I made about a hundred runs to prepare the ditch bags, life raft, MREs.  Specifically, we made a rig ditch kit with a battery operated grinder with spare grinding wheels for carbon, a hacksaw with spare blades, a handful of ceramic knives, a few Leathermens, some underwater epoxy, and a set of wire cutters.

SA: Pretty comprehensive.  What about the life raft and other safety gear?

CB:We organized all the safety gear under the aft day bed, assuming this would be the easiest accessed place if the boat were to turn over or an emergency. Under the day bed was the life raft, a drybag full of MRE’s to last 5 people 4 days, complete offshore medical kit, our primary ditch bag (full of hand held flares, aerial flares, glow sticks, first aid, water bottles, heat blankets, mirrors, smoke, water dye, solar panel 12v charger, sat phone charger, hand held VHF and a hand held gps), and our rig ditch kit.

SA:So you set off in light air on the 29th.  Tell us about that day.

CB: After checking all systems, seatrial list completed and the boat loaded up, RAINMAKER departed the dock around 0130. I split watches 2 hours on, 4 off with the experienced sailors teaming with Max and Brian. Jon and Brian took the first watch until 0000, then George and Max until 0400, and I until 0600, planning for me to be the one on watch when we arrived Hatteras at sunrise. We expected to motor the entire way down, about 45nm. Before entering Pimlico sound, I conducted a safety meeting with all crew in the salon. Covering where all fire extinguishers were, safety gear location, medical, and duties in case of emergency, along with our planned route and weather conditions.

SA: So then what?

CB: Everything was chill, wind variable for a while, then coming in gradually from the SW and building through the night.  We took our first reef before nightfall and had a great sail all night long under 1st reef and solent in 15-20 TWS, running down waves to 18-20 knots of boatspeed, heading around 100-120 to keep the wind on our starboard hip.  The boat felt great and balanced.  Brian had brought a bunch of serious fishing gear aboard, and we’d nailed a monster yellowfin tuna in the stream – I mention that because we were all feeling quite lucky to be cruising so calmly at 18-20 knots that night while eating fish tacos that had been swimming a few hour earlier.

SA:When did it start to get ugly?

CB:In the morning, we knew the shit was coming, and we tucked in the third reef and set the little storm jib.  We were felling a little underpowered sailing 7-10 knots, the wind built to an average of maybe 27-35 by noon, with waves to 14 feet.

SA:Hairy?

CB: Not really. We felt very controlled, checked the rig for any pumping action and then going through a rig check after the reef was tucked. All seemed cool, the mainsail clew locks were set in to help keep the belly contained and we let the autopilot sail 100-110 AWA.

SA: You were woken up by the dismasting.  What’s the last thing you remember before you went to sleep?

CB: At noon on the 30th, Jon is on watch after a 20 minute handover. TWS is between 25-40 kts, seas are between 12-15 ft. TWD of 220. Heading is 100, autopilot is steering to an apparent wind angle of 110. The boat was feeling stable, waves were starting to slap the wingdeck and the leeward hull. George stayed topside with Jon, so I could head down to catch some sleep.

SA: So you wake up to all hell breaking loose.

CB: At 1350, I wake up to a gust hitting the side of the hull like nothing I’ve ever heard, and I spring out of my bunk.  I see nothing out the starboard porthole except for white.  I run topside and see Jon at the wheel, eyes wide. By the time, I’m topside it’s a complete white out around the boat. We couldn’t make out the orange storm sail 10ft in front of us.  It sounds like we’re being run over by a freight train.

Check back soon for Part 2 of the Loss of the Rainmaker to find out about the attempted rescue, the actual rescue, the salvage attempts, and to watch video of the conditions just prior to the dismasting.   Big thanks to Bailet, Commanders, Gunboat, and Brian and Max Cohen for bringing us the story.

 

February 23rd, 2015 by admin

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