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Shadow’s Lessons Learned

Peter Stoneberg, Shadow‘s owner, got back to us on Monday evening with a wrap-up and some lessons learned from his and his crew’s capsizing on Sunday afternoon following the YRA’s second-half opener.
"The boat sustained some damage that can be fixed and the carbon sails were destroyed, but everyone was okay. It was a pretty typical summer day on the Bay; blowing low 20’s with a moderate chop in the Circle. We were heading northwest from Treasure Island towards Angel Island. We got hit with a puff as we were bearing away, the rudders stalled, and the boat gently and slowly went over until our 68-ft mast hit the mud 35 feet down. Craig Healy gallantly swam a line out to Sue Hoeschler who had become separated from the boat. Patrick Whitmarsh gave us a bit of a fright as intitially we could not see him, but he was still warm, dry and safe 20 feet in the air, perched on the upper hull. We were crewed by a group of experienced and talented sailors who were well-prepared. The crew included Healy, Whitmarsh, Hoeschler, Andy McCormick, Lowell Freeman, and Laurie Dennis. Everyone was wearing PFDs, and most of us had knives, whistles and handheld VHFs in our pockets.  
"Fortunately we were in a fairly busy part of the Bay, so boats were quickly on us to stand by and lend support. Two 40-plus-ft power boats were there within five minutes, followed closely by the Encinal YC race committee boat, the Sydney 36 Encore, the Coast Guard, the Marin Sheriff and an S.F. Police boat. Everyone was safe and calm; we knew how to right the boat, we just needed two big anchors — ours were underwater or otherwise inaccessible — and a Protector to pull us upright. Some helpful soul called the StFYC Race Office, where John Craig, Race Manager, jumped into action. Race Coordinator Melanie Roberts and their Protector were dispatched to the scene. She arrived at the same time as Steve Stroub’s Tiburon Protector and the Shadow Protector coming from Paradise Cay. We borrowed a couple of anchors, tied a righting line to the main beam, goosed the Protector engines and, after a couple of tries, Shadow came upright as gently as she went over.
"It gave us great comfort to know that there are so many capable people and assets ready, willing and able to be deployed to assist boats and crews in need. Specifically the Encinal YC mark-set boat operated by Charles Hodgkins was very helpful, taking a couple of our sailors off the catamaran, and lending assistance and assets where possible. Encore owners Wayne and Susie Cody and their crew, North Sails’ Pete McCormick, Will, Nick, and several others were very, very helpful providing lines, anchors and skilled personnel. Stroub did a masterful job positioning and driving his Protector to bring the boat upright. Most of the Encore sailing team stayed with us, helping sort all the issues until the boat was safely tied up at SFYC. The Coast Guard and S.F. Police all stood by dutifully until we righted the boat and were under tow. There were probably 50 people and 10 vessels that helped or were available to help, and to them we are exceedingly grateful.
"Ours was a pretty benign incident, but from a safety standpoint we learned or re-learned some important lessons. The life you save might be your own.
  • First, always, always, always wear a PFD. The water is cold, waves that look small when on a boat are huge when in the water, and even the strongest swimmers find it nearly impossible to swim for very long in foul weather gear.
  • Carry a waterproof handheld VHF in your foulie pocket. Communications are key to safety and the wind makes it impossible to hear voices and very hard to see swimmers from more than 20-feet away.  
  • Stay with the boat. Swimmers and boats move at dramatically different speeds, so catching a boat once you’re separated from it is very difficult. Hang on "for your life."
  • Don’t wear cotton. One of our strongest guys went hypothermic very quickly because he had jeans and a cotton T-shirt under his foulies. Quality, high-tech synthetic gear is worth its weight in gold when wet and cold.
  • Carry a fixed blade knife, whistle and light where it can be easily reached. A line wrapped around my foot, and I never could have gotten my Leatherman open to cut away if the boat had gone under. Strap a fixed blade knife several places around the boat where they can be easily reached.
  • Carry an EPIRB and consider the new personal EPIRBs for all crew. They are cheap life insurance.
  • Next time you see the Coast Guard, the police boats or a volunteer race committee boat, give them a friendly wave. Some people may not like their policies prohibiting assistance to try to save personal property, but they are a MOST welcome sight when needed, and they are more than willing to risk their lives to save yours. I’d rather lose my boat than have the Coasties busy saving my replaceable boat while someone else’s irreplaceable life was in danger.  
"Thanks again to everyone involved. If we ever meet in a yacht club or on the waterfront please tap me on the shoulder so I can shake your hand and buy you a beer. We hope we did not inconvenience anyone too much on a Sunday afternoon — we look forward to seeing you back on the water again very soon!"

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