What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions

What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions, What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions

Inquiring/Enquiring* minds want to know ‘what happened when they see things go wrong. When I saw the photo above, my mind immediately started assessing what must have occurred for that sailboat to end up in that situation. After an interview of over an hour with the captain; I have my answers. Plus, I can now add one more step to my own routine.

What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions, What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions

Analysis

After analyzing the photos, I knew that this sailboat had been under sail, is at least 44′ long, and landed on the SW side of the Bridge of Lions. Low tide that night was after 8:00 p.m. at the city dock – and the photos show it’s lighter out than sunset, so it was earlier, on the falling tide. So, the tide would have pinned them to the bridge.

As a 100-ton captain who operates in this area, I’m familiar with the pitfalls and dangers of this location on the ICW.

The comments on FB are always amusing, and often “instant experts” make snap judgements, so let’s cover those first, to test your logic, then I’ll give you the answer to “what happened?”

What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions, What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions

Possibilities

1) Must have come untied from the dock. Rather unlikely, as a boat this size would have at the least a bow and stern line, but more likely those plus two spring lines and an electrical line or two.

2) Must have slipped her mooring. Rather unlikely, as she is on the SW side – if she lost a mooring in the North field, she would be on the other side of the bridge. If she exited the South field, she would have landed south of the marina, or on the old Santa Maria construction site. You can tell she’s on the SW side because you can see the docks across the way on the SE side of the ICW.

3) Must have lost engine. Most logical scenario, and with the tides running hard in the area, I could see trying to sail out of danger. The alternative is to anchor, but there’s not much room for the anchor to get a bite where they were. Also, the bottom may be swept pretty clean due to the heavy tidal flow there, so it would be difficult to set anchor on a hard bottom.

4) Was trying to dock on north side of north dock. Unlikely – usually only small power boats dock there for day tie-ups. No overnight docking as it’s too exposed to wave action, which is probably why that long pier was built, to aid in breaking waves.

5) I couldn’t stand the suspense, so I called the marina. They gave me part of the information, but not all of it. They thought the boat sailed into the bridge. Someone who had been on board cleared up that misconception.

What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions, What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions

What Actually Happened

Turns out they had a fouled prop, and by the time that was sorted, the tide swept them toward the bridge. They used their bow thruster – great move – un-fouled their prop, and backed away under their own propulsion. Way to stay calm in a really tough situation!

One surprise the captain mentioned was that the helpful bystanders shouted instructions to his crew so loudly that they could not hear his commands. Something to think about. Hand signals might solve that?

No one was hurt, boat was tied to a dock waiting to go to “the yard.” Someone from the marina did say they simply couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Appearances certainly were different from reality.

I do wonder if the bridge attendant noticed and sounded the danger signal.

Or, over the years, have I desensitized the bridge tenders by sailing pretty close when the tide is rushing away from the bridge? Of course, I have a lot more things I wonder about this incident. And yes, the vessel is liable for damage they cause the DOT.

For more information on the bridge and those Medici Lions, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge_of_Lions

*While inquire means “to seek information in a formal way,” enquire means “to ask in a general way.” They can be used interchangeably. Inquire and enquire both originate from the same Latin word, meaning to seek. Both words mean to request information or examine facts.

What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions, What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions

Prop Check

The new move in my engine starting routine is to check the prop.

Just starting the engine is no longer good enough for me – now I want to test it in forward.

When dropping the sails; I will no longer simply start the engine. I’ll check it. Every time. Because one time fouled is too many for my stress level!

What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions, What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions

Set and Drift

Since a nautical mile is about 6,000 feet; the math comes out pretty easy to figure on how far you will be set by current. For every one knot of current, you will be carried 100 feet in one minute.

That means a three-knot current will carry you about 300 feet in one minute.

Or, a six-knot current may carry you about 607 feet in one minute.

Or, with 800 feet behind you, you have about two and a half minutes to react if you have a three-knot current, or a minute and a half with a six-knot current.

What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions, What Can Go Wrong on a Sailboat // Hitting the Bridge of Lions

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