What was unusual yesterday was that the ship (one of the Hanjin Chinese freighters) was really hauling a**... she seemed to be making at least 20 kt, but I do not know for sure. What I do know is that she was trailing a prodigious big wake. In fact, it was the biggest wake I have ever seen on Puget Sound down by Seattle in going on 20 years of sailing here.
As this breaking monster began rolling toward us, I found myself constantly revising my estimate of how large it was, going from "No problem", to "That looks pretty big...", to "Uh oh...". I sent Jane below to check our state of readiness for a big 'un. While she was down there, I revised my estimate once again, now to "Holy crap!". I shouted for her to close the front hatch, but there wasn't time for her to get it done before we hit the wake.
Of course I took it head on. And it was a monster. Estimates under such conditions are notoriously difficult to make - but if I had to come up with a number, I'd say that the wake wave was 10 feet high. Our bow got submerged with green water running up to the cabin. The water that the impact raised into the air was caught in the wind and flung right at the front hatch, which was still in the "Scoop Water" position. There was a cacophony of crashing sounds from down below.
Bottom line? No injuries, although that certainly was a real possibility. No real damage - the worst was that our (dry) homemade pasta made good its escape and was all over the floor. And everything in the forward cabin was drenched with seawater.
There was one other boat close enough for us to watch as it encountered the wake - we got to check the condition of his keel. No barnacles.
Eolian is a large boat. We escaped relatively unscathed, but I can easily imagine injuries on a smaller vessel - and there were a lot of them out on the Sound on such a nice day. Don't these guys have a speed limit? Aren't they supposed to have a pilot on board? Are they immune from the "You are responsible for the damage your wake does" clause?
- Even on a nice sailing day, a container ship can create "Victory at Sea" conditions.
- Close and latch the front hatch when you are off shore!
- Beware the escape of the homemade pasta
- Regardless of whether the other guy accepts responsibility for his wake, you are responsible for your boat. Be ready for his wake.
Years ago when I was a kid, I used to read Flying magazine. I particularly enjoyed a long-running series of articles entitled "I Learned About Flying From That." Each article was written by a pilot, who humbly admitted to having made a mistake, and then having lived, told about it in the hopes that others would not have to make the same mistake. I thought then that it was a good format, and I still think that now. This series of postings is my attempt to recreate that article series with a new subject and new technology.
(If you would like to help others to learn from your mistakes, please send your article to: WindborneInPugetSound at gmail dot com)