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Shane J

Spearing A Wave

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Fishing with Big O in S. Texas this past week, and we did it. I gotta say, that was one crazy, very scary experience. I had never been through it before to that extent, and I thought we were done! Now, that guy can drive a boat as good as anybody, and his 21i Class Skeeter, is arguably the best big water bass boat on the market, however sometimes, tragedy will strike. We had gotten on the water about 7:30 am, and found gorgeous conditions. 75+ degrees, light breeze, and clear skies. As we motored out, and were getting ready to head to our first spot, I looked out behind us, and saw the coolest cloud formation I had ever seen. A long, unicorn horn-shaped cloud, that went all the way across the lake. It was amazing and beautiful, so we took a few pics. (They don't do it any justice)

 

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As we watched it over the next few minutes, we noticed that it was rolling in a drill type fashion, and moving down lake in one huge mass. It got closer and closer, until it was obviously going to pass over us. Big O idled around, and we ventured up under the thing. I couldn't believe the difference right under it. It was easily 20 degrees colder under it, and the wind was ripping at about a constant 20-30mph. We went through to the other side, and the wind was picking up fast (probably about 40 mph), and the lake was getting worked up big time. Heading to a sheltered cove to wait it out, we figured once this "squall" passed, we'd be fine, so we decided to cross the lake and wait it out in a North wind-sheltered cove on the other side. It was about a mile or so to the other side. Going across, we were going with the waves, which had now gotten to be about 4'-6' rollers. I didn't realize, that is the most dangerous way to approach big waves, especially when they are tight together. This lake was worked into a frenzy, and waves were coming from everywhere it seemed. We made it about 3/4 across before it happened. Came up on top of a wave, and as the boat came down off it, BAM! Wave had come from the side, and we speared. The boat was instantly full of water, I thought I was gonna drown, gear everywhere, electronics both slammed down, and we were sitting in water up to our waists. Big O hit the throttle in a lightning fast reaction, dumping hundreds of gallons of water out the back of the boat, and saving the boat from sinking, but we were hit bad. We got to the other side to wait and assess the damage. Trolling motor broken, lost gear, two swamped Lowrance units, and of course, we were soaked and freezing in that wind. I'll tell ya, THAT SUCKED, and I wouldn't wish that on even my worst enemy. Looking back, we should have known better, but hey, what are you gonna do? 20/20 hindsight, you know? Anybody else ever lived through this frightening experience? Maybe we could spare someone else from having it happen to them, and possibly even save a life.

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Glad you guys where uninjured Shane. 

 

Spearing a wave is usually the result of a few things.  Wave conditions of course, but boat design, speed and handling will also play a role.  Reducing speed will often help but, if the waves are spaced close enough together and of sufficient size, sometimes there will still be some over the bow spillage even at the slowest speeds.

 

Deeper-V style boats with a bow designed that offers more freeboard up front are less prone to spearing (when operated correctly), and the ride is more of an up & over the waves rather than through them.  Small vessel maneuvering in a challenging sea state often requires the operator to be on & off the throttle constantly.  Maintain the vessels heading, avoiding larger waves, keeping waves from spilling into the boat, keeping the boat from falling off the front or back of waves all takes timing, skill & experience; and can almost never be accomplished by merely setting the boat at a slow speed, holding the wheel, pointing toward the marina and holding on.  As the seas state in front of you is changing by the second, you and your boat must do the same.  It's taxing to say the least.  It's also hard on your boat and especially your engines.  Knowing how one's vessel and engines react in these conditions also helps the navigator know what to do and when.  Being "Good" at this like most things, only comes with practice, but as you guys learned there is a risk to both you and your equipment.

 

 Many of us have at least one Big Water story, and hopefully they all end as this one did with everyone making it back to the dock safely and uninjured.  The advice of watching the weather, and trying to stay ahead of it always sounds good, but routinely fails us because eventually we're someplace we shouldn't be and it's always because of the choice we made to either stay out too long or to even go out in the first place.

 

  Last year Lake Erie almost had me for lunch.  After years of training and after pulling hundreds of lucky and not so lucky boaters out of the same thing, one would think I knew better.  But getting caught up in the fishing is so easy to do.  

 

When you get caught in something like this there are a few things one needs to do right away.  One if it's not already on, put on your life jacket.  And two, call someone right away and tell them where you're at, what's going on and where you're headed.  Once you're safe let them know that too.

 

A-Jay

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Glad to hear you are ok! Last year on Erie I was coming back towards presque isle and was navigating 4-5 footers and for some reason let my guard down for a split second and BAM! Destroyed my trolling motor and full of water. Thankfully my ranger just kept going and was able to make it back. One thing I think would help other people is to carry a spare bilge pump with a hose and alligator clips so if they take on too much water and their pump can't handle it or goes down you can quickly hook this up and get rid of the excess water.

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Thanks for your concern, guys. Actually, Phil, when that happened, we were not in a position to just stop navigating, or we would have sunk. Like A-Jay said, it's a battle, and you gotta stay on it. He did throw on his bilge system (which is huge, by the way,I think 3 1500 pumps), but messing around and hooking something up, no way! Have it hooked up, or it's useless.

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Glad you're ok. I've never speared a wave, but have had a couple rough experiences with one being terrifying on Lake Michigan. It was reminiscent of an episode of Deadliest Catch only I was in a 26' Pro Line walk around with an 8ft beam. My then 5yo son and I were salmon fishing in my dads boat. Water was glass calm when we launched. We were around 10 miles out. I watched the weather move in and headed back. We were about a mile from the marina when all hell broke loose. Sky turned black. If I had to guess 8-10 footers Had a big wave come over the bow. It broke the windlass and the anchor slammed into the hull. I was sure I was going to be dead on the bottom of Lake Michigan with my boy. We made it into the marina, the storm passed I was shaking and my son, although quite scared on the boat, acted like nothing had happened once we were safe on shore.   

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There is only one way to navigate a following sea with steep waves.  You ride the back side of a wave and work the throttle to keep the boat there.  You never want to get a boat in a "surfing" situation where you risk burying the bow into the back of the wave ahead.

 

  1. In a true following sea, adjust your speed so that you can stay on the back side of a moving wave. Use the throttle to keep your boat always attempting to climb the back side of the wave, but never reaching the top.
  2. Continue to climb the back of this wave until it dissipates or until you need to change course.
  3. When you need to change course, back off the throttle and change directions on the back of the wave.
  4. NEVER attempt to ride down the face of a wave. If you do find yourself going over the crest, never try to turn the boat as you go down the face. The bow will dig in and slow the boat and the following wave will flip the boat over sideways.
  5. Keep the boat straight if you top the crest. You may bury the bow into the back of the next wave, but chances are better that you won't flip."

 

http://saltfishing.about.com/cs/boatsandeqpt/ht/followingsea.htm

 

Having spent nearly thirty years on the ocean as a commercial lobsterman, your photo was all I needed to see to know what was coming.

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In shallow water, boats can "pitchpole" if they surf the front side of a wave.  If the bow hits the bottom, the boat becomes a vaulting pole.  The bow stops abruptly and the force of the wave pushes the stern over and past the bow.

 

Heading out of Westport Harbor with a falling tide, incoming swells and no wind.

 

Picture007.jpg

 

Stray from the narrow channel to the east or west and you'll find yourself in the surf.

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There is only one way to navigate a following sea with steep waves.  You ride the back side of a wave and work the throttle to keep the boat there.  You never want to get a boat in a "surfing" situation where you risk burying the bow into the back of the wave ahead.

 

  1. In a true following sea, adjust your speed so that you can stay on the back side of a moving wave. Use the throttle to keep your boat always attempting to climb the back side of the wave, but never reaching the top.
  2. Continue to climb the back of this wave until it dissipates or until you need to change course.
  3. When you need to change course, back off the throttle and change directions on the back of the wave.
  4. NEVER attempt to ride down the face of a wave. If you do find yourself going over the crest, never try to turn the boat as you go down the face. The bow will dig in and slow the boat and the following wave will flip the boat over sideways.
  5. Keep the boat straight if you top the crest. You may bury the bow into the back of the next wave, but chances are better that you won't flip."

 

http://saltfishing.about.com/cs/boatsandeqpt/ht/followingsea.htm

 

Having spent nearly thirty years on the ocean as a commercial lobsterman, your photo was all I needed to see to know what was coming.

 

 

Good Stuff.

 

Interesting difference between waves I've seen on the Atlantic and Larger Inland waters ( the Great Lakes in particular) lies in the distinct difference in wave period.  The waves in the sweet water are Dramatically closer together.  I'd heard about from shipmates before but until I was in it I didn't believe it made that much of a difference - It does.  Routinely the waves are so close together that even a 20 ft vessel in a head on or a following sea condition barely fits length wise between them.  In these cases, it's often best to quarter the waves and tact diagonally back and forth to your destination.  This maneuver still requires a high level of awareness as the boat can be very easily end up broadside in the trough of a wave.  Taking a spiller broadside in never a good time. 

 

Going up & over steep, close together waves is one rough & violent ride.  Ensuring your gear, hatches and especially ropes / lines are secured safely.  You do not want any lines to end up trailing over the side which is a sure way to have them end up in tor prop.  That is a recipe for big trouble.

 

A-Jay

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Tough and violent is a good way to put it. There were several bone-jarring boat slams on that ride, as he was quartering exactly how you just described. In fact, it was on one of those massively hard slaps, that I believe the trolling motor broke on.

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Sheet happens. I'm glad you & Steve made it out ok. I had something similar happen to A-Jay and I last year. I debated going one direction to safety with the wind at our backs but decided to head into the wind to get back to the truck & trailer. Luckily it worked out for us without any damage to equipment or ourselves. It is very tough boating with really strong winds directly at your stern. You never really get a chance to practice under those conditions. Hopefully we all learn from our scary rides.

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  Being from Ohio I spend some time on Lake Erie. Some say big waves are just part of it. I got out of tournament fishing it because I want to pick and choose my days.

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My buddy and I took a nasty ride on Chatauqua last year, started the day similar except fog instead of sun. When the sun hit the horizion the wind started. My back hurt for a week. Those close together waves, theres no riding them.

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