in 2005 in the midst of a prolonged debate about buoyancy, I wrote
"In 2,600 posts to this forum I don't recall a single
account of anyone accidentally capsizing a CY or being swamped".
Of course from then on it was just a matter of time until someone
it was one of our most adventurous contributors to the site, Dale
Davenport, who in the following
story tells all.
is pretty hard on himself "This is a description of how
not to sail a Caledonia Yawl," he says, "It has
a bright beginning, a rough stretch in the middle and an acceptable,
even useful, end. It involves a lot of water on the wrong side
of the hull of Rebecca Ann."
truth is that Dale and his mates get out there a lot more than
most of us. Surely we have all done things at sea that we look
back on thinking, "Phew, I was lucky to get away with
that one. I wonder how many lives I've got left?" Dale
has possibly got one less now. The outcome could have been so
very much worse. But Dale got away with it. I think he's the sort
of bloke I'd like to be with in a bad spot. I'm reminded of Miles
Smeeton, (of Once is Enough fame), whose Commanding Officer in
the Army once wrote of him, "Smeeton has great talent
for getting out of very difficult situations, which of course
he should never have got into in the first place".
on. Dale tells the story with honesty and frankness. I'll publish
it over a few episodes. It's a winner.
Ann goes over - by Dale Davenport
Dale here again, this time with a cautionary tale.
Eberly and I took our fourth annual passage the third week of
May, heading out from Beaufort, North Carolina. If you look at
a map of the central U.S. east coast, you'll see where the barrier
islands that begin just south of the Chesapeake Bay, reach out
into the Atlantic in a SE direction until you reach Cape Hatteras,
Diamond Shoals and the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
of Hatteras is Ocracoke Island which can only be reached by car
ferry or boat. From here the coast makes to the South East and
Cape Lookout. This is Core Banks, a long stretch of National Seashore
where you can camp anywhere but there are no roads or human residents.
the south end of Core Banks is Cape Lookout, and that is where
the big bend in the coastline occurs. An old, tall lighthouse
is there with a keeper's house manned by volunteers during the
season. At the present time the Park Service is building some
sort of display center so there are a few construction guys around.
In good weather visitors ride over on one of several small passenger
ferries, and kayakers abound.
the Cape is a bight, a bit more than a mile in diameter. The very
end of Cape Lookout curves three-fourths of the way around to
form that circle of water, which is almost completely sheltered
from the ocean.
first island west of Core is called Shackleford Banks. Inland
from that and across some tidewater about a mile away is the town
of Beaufort. Beginning at Beaufort and on northeast toward Ocracoke
is Core Sound, maybe two to five miles across. Northeast of that
the water opens up into Pamlico Sound, where it's much wider.
This map will show you what I mean.
waters are extraordinarily shoal. The charts have a lot of "1's"
and quite a few "1/2's". [That's feet not metres - Ed]
There are marshes scattered throughout. Local knowledge is a real
good thing to have.
Beaufort to Ocracoke area interested Jay and me and we decided
to try it out this year. Staffing isn't like it used to be; we
seem to be running out of crew prospects. After this trip, it
won't be any easier. My old canoeing buddy Doug, a veteran of
three of the four earlier passages, signed up. Jay's wonderful
curly-coated retriever Emma also joined us. Emma was a good sport
and didn't complain, but Doug has opposable thumbs, a desired
crew characteristic on a small boat.
drive down on Saturday was easy. Jay's reservation for the use
of the real Sara's fine Ford super truck was cancelled at the
last minute due to a distant horse event, so Jay changed the oil
in the '87 F-150 and came on. Our hostess at the Red Dog Inn said
on the phone she would only be able to put up two men and the
dog, so when we arrived we put Rebecca Ann, my lug-rigged Caledonia
Yawl, in the water as I expected to sleep onboard. I don't know
what Jay told the owner of the Red Dog, but she relented and the
four of us slept in the room.
Sunday morning, Jay, Doug and Emma went back to the east end of
Taylor Creek and launched Jay's Ness Yawl Sara. I met them at
the ramp, our plan being to use the outboard in Rebecca Ann to
tow them down Taylor Creek the three or four miles to Beaufort
Inlet. We wanted to check out the possibility of sailing outside
in the ocean to Cape Lookout, slipping inside at the east end
of Shackleford Banks.
got off to a bad start. Before Sara even got wet, her mainmast
met a pine tree between the rigging area and the ramp. The jolt
tore out and destroyed the pin that held the gate. Jay figured
out a way to lash the mast in tight as we towed Sara down the
turned out to be just the first of a series of calamities.
The launching site.
raised sails once we got by the town, and headed for the Atlantic
Ocean. Passing between Shackelford and Bogue Banks the waves suddenly
became a lot bigger. We pressed on, thinking we would be over
the bar soon and things would be easier. Not so, and soon we were
in a sea of solid six-footers. The boats were wonderful in that
stuff. We had one or two reefs and our mizzens up in 15 to 20
knots with an outgoing tide opposing the wind. Our bows would
just rise and rise and go out in the air so far it seemed that
a third of the boat length was out of the water. A few minutes
of that was quite enough. We soon headed back inside to cruise
along in the lee of Shackleford.
went as far east along Shackleford Banks as we could before we
knew we must head north toward the mainland to get around the
shoals that run next to Shackleford along the eastern part of
that island. We camped on the beach right before the shoals started.
Before dark a Park Service boat came by to bullhorn the word that
a tornado watch was in effect until 10 p.m. Nothing came of it
for us, although some mainland communities saw four inches of
rain in an hour.
Atlantic surf on Shackleford beach with Jay and Emma.
and Jay; our first night at Shackleford
on the fateful day.
morning, we sailed about nine miles around the shoals and along
the southeast end of Core Banks into the protected water behind
Cape Lookout. We anchored along the beach next to the Cape Lookout
Light, not very far into the mile-wide circle of water surrounded
by the dunes of the Cape. We had a tour of the keeper's house, met
the volunteer couple in charge and ate lunch.
sat at a picnic table in a sheltered spot, the chart in front of
us. The wind had been steady and strong all morning, out of the
southwest. Without really looking at the chart closely we decided
to cross the mile of water to the western edge of the Cape so we
could camp in the lee of the sand dunes. It was obvious there would
be a lot more shelter there. But it would be a beat and by now the
wind was up to about 25 knots with gusts well above. Only a mile
across the channel we thought. We packed up the lunch things and
I put away the chart, missing my last chance to see a shoal in the
channel, directly in our path. It was soon to create a whole lot
of excitement for all of us.
Dale. Coming soon, in Part 2, Dale recounts how it all goes terribly