SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
After reading “The Last Wave” (August/september 2018), Jim and Joy Carey’s account of a rogue wave hitting their boat off the Washington coast on June 17, 2018, I had to tell you my story. On June 16, 2018, my only brother who is not a sailor and I were going into our second week aboard Trilogy, my 1988 Sabre, and we had just spent the night in the marina at Gibsons, British Columbia.
The forecast for the day was 15- to 20-knot northwest winds. That was music to my ears. We reached about 2 miles into the Strait of Georgia before I decided to turn left and go with the waves, which now were 6 feet, in 20 to 25 knots of wind. We enjoyed fast surfing off the waves, hitting 9 to 10 knots, but the wind was pushing us toward shore.
We reached the city of Vancouver, and now the winds were 25 to 30 knots. We had to go around Sturgeon Bank, which is the delta for the Fraser River and extends out from shore 1½ to 2 miles. Since we approached about the time of high tide, I was still in water 15 to 20 feet deep. But the water shallowed, and the waves were now 10- to 12-foot breakers, pounding our starboard side.
My brother, who is a big man, was sitting on the port side, and I asked him to move to windward to help keep the boat from heeling. No sooner had he moved than a rogue wave — my guess is 16 feet tall —approached us. I saw it before it hit us and said to my brother, “Holy mother of pearl, brace yourself.”
The wave totally engulfed the boat and slammed us into the trough, onto the rudder, before it heeled us over 45 to 50 degrees. The stern line washed overboard and, within a minute or two, wrapped around the propeller. The waves finished us off by pushing Trilogy aground.
We were rescued by a Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft squadron, went to Vancouver, contacted a towing service and, eight hours later, at high tide, towed the boat to Steveston to assess the damage: a bent rudder; a crack in the keel; multiple cracks along the stringers in the bilge; three bent stanchions; the capstan on the windless ripped off the deck due to an attempted tow; and a lost CQR anchor and chain. Upon returning to the boat, I attempted to start the motor and broke the linkage due to the bound-up propeller shaft.
My lesson that I learned was to always tie off dock lines. I am still waiting for the repair work to be finished. As any good cowboy will tell you, when you get bucked off, you need to get back on to ride again.
Thomas Stanton S/V Trilogy