In the March issue of Latitude 38 we bring you the story of Jack van Ommen and the circumstances surrounding his third shipwreck. This one, he says, could have been prevented.
I should have listened to the advice of Herman, my Dutch brother-in-law, when he brought me to the airport in Amsterdam: “Jaap, don’t you think that you are too old to start crossing oceans?”
That was in 2004, when I was 67. I took off in spring 2005 from my homeport in Gig Harbor, Washington. On my way back from Europe in 2013, I suffered my first shipwreck off Ibiza. Some will remember the details and spectacular pictures of the remains of Fleetwood, a Naja 30 I had built myself and sailed for 33 years.
One of the members of the yacht club I had joined in Amsterdam then commented that I should quit sailing and spend time with my grandchildren. But I purchased a copy of my first boat (the Najas are plywood, triple-chined kit boats) in Puget Sound and completed my circumnavigation off Florida on April 1, 2017, a month after my 80th birthday.
Three months later, I had my second shipwreck on the Barrier Islands off the Virginia coast. Fortunately, I was able to save the boat that time. It took me a year’s hard work to repair the damage in Cape Charles, Virginia. The new friends I made there, the attractive places to sail on the Chesapeake, and the previous summer’s sail to Nantucket Sound kept me in their spell.
Just before COVID hit, I sailed from Beaufort, North Carolina, to Saint Martin. Richard and Donna Spindler treated me to my 83rd birthday dinner on St. Barth. In December, I chose to spend time in Cuba. On my way from the Hemingway Marina to Rio Dulce, Belize, I had my third and most recent shipwreck on Friday, February 4.
This one could have been prevented.
I was sailing a gorgeous reach under Monitor windvane. I had dinner after taking pictures of another beautiful sunset. Three hours later, I woke up hitting a reef. I had planned to stay awake until sunrise, which has been my routine on the first night out: Once I get some distance from shore, I set an alarm for short naps.
Continue reading at Latitude38.com.