Do you like sailing? Or barbeques? Or how about a nice glass of wine, beer, or rum, after sailing? ASA and its network of schools are hosting fun sailing events this summer and fall that cover all of those categories, and even better, it’s all for a good cause. In celebration of our 30th Anniversary, we’re continuing our work to benefit Hands Across the Sea.
Hands Across the Sea is dedicated to raising the literacy levels of the Caribbean children by shipping new books and school supplies and working with students, principals, teachers and volunteers to create school community borrowing libraries and reading programs across the Eastern Caribbean. Last year, ASA hosted a sweepstakes and raised $18,000!
When you register for a “Sail for Hands” event, you will pay a registration fee of your choice, with all proceeds going directly to Hands Across the Sea. That money will directly improve the lives of children throughout the Caribbean–and then you get to have a great time!
On May 16th in the Bay of Florida, 80 miles out of Key West and the finish line of the 2013 Bone Island Regatta, Captain Roy Rogers saw something unusual – a boat on the horizon drifting with its sails down. A few other vessels could be seen in the distance, but this one stood aimlessly alone, a strange sight in the middle of a racecourse. Up in the cockpit, with the sound of the wind and the boat’s stereo playing, it was difficult to know what to make of it, but below in the cabin was a different story: two short, garbled mayday calls came through on the VHF radio, and then silence.
It was day two of the annual race, which starts from Tampa Bay and follows the southwest edge of Florida’s gulf coast to the Keys. Captain Roy, a career sailor who spent decades as a charter and delivery captain in the Caribbean before becoming an ASA sailing instructor, was in the race for the first time, skippering a 50-foot Jenneau with three of his former students, whom he had trained in ASA 101, 103, and 104 at Sailing Florida in St. Petersburg. They were not expecting to win, only to have fun, gain experience, and post a strong finishing time. It was so far, so good with 80 miles to go, but that’s when everything changed.
Captain Roy, having heard the mayday hails and seen the boat on the horizon, put two and two together and made a decision. “The race was over us,” he says, as they fired up the auxiliary power, disqualifying themselves, and set off to investigate.
They tried several times to establish contact over the radio, with no luck. But sure enough, as they approached they saw that the vessel was low in the water, and with the binoculars, something even more alarming: 5 men in a hopelessly overburdened 10-foot dinghy that was, itself, sinking.
Captain Roy gathered his ASA-trained sailors and instructed them that they were going to get hold of the dinghy’s painter. They then snapped into action, closing the distance and bringing the dinghy alongside. “I’m not letting anybody up,” he advised his crew, “until I’ve had a conversation with them.”
Even, or perhaps especially, in an emergency situation, prudence is necessary. In these waters it is not unheard of to encounter refugees from the Caribbean, and even criminals up to what Captain Roy calls “shenanigans.” He explains that they would have rescued them no matter who they were, as long as they weren’t dangerous, but the procedure for taking on board U.S. citizens and foreign nationals is dramatically different. It also occurred to him that there were “five of them, and four of us.”
“This was not the reception they were expecting,” he says, “but I felt obliged to do due diligence.” After a brief conversation, it was established that the men were Americans, not carrying any weapons, and also racing in the Bone Island Regatta. Within a few minutes of making contact, all 5 were safely on board.
Then it was time to watch the other boat sink. She was a 42-foot Tartan called Liela B, and her crew were an experienced, seasoned lot who had won their class in previous years. Once the foredeck was awash it took less than two minutes for the entire boat to go down.
Around that time a Coast Guard C130 aircraft swooped by low and fast, having responded to Liela B’s EPIRB distress beacon. The pilot made radio contact with Captain Roy, who confirmed that they had taken all crew onboard, there were no injuries, and that they would proceed to Key West. With that, the C130, diverted from another mission and low on fuel, was gone.
In Key West word of the sinking and rescue had already filtered from the race offices into the docks and bars. As far as anyone knew it was the first time a vessel had been lost in the race, and the first time anyone had conducted an emergency rescue. Captain Roy motored in and that evening they were met with equal parts admiration and curiosity from their fellow sailors. “Every bar that me and my crew went to, we could not buy a drink.”
What caused the boat to go down has been the subject of much speculation. The night before had seen strong winds, and Liela B had blown out her spinnaker and genoa. They had given up on the race and were motoring in to Key West when they became aware that something was wrapped around the propeller. Crab traps are numerous in the gulf, but this turned out to be something heavier that they could never identify. Someone went overboard and cleared the prop, and the engine started fine. However, when they put it into gear they heard a loud thunk in the hull. Presently they realized that water was rushing into the bilge from a leak whose source they never found, but in retrospect was most likely the prop shaft. Now, with the boat in 90 feet of water, 80 miles from shore, the mystery will probably never be solved.
At the awards banquet on Saturday night, Captain Roy and his crew were given a special commendation, even though they didn’t qualify as finishers. The award was for Seamanship and Good Sportsmanship, as well as free entry into next year’s race, which they plan to use. While they say they wouldn’t trade the experience and adventure of this year for anything, they are hoping to finish next time. (Unsurprisingly, Captain Roy is no stranger to awards. He was named an ASA Outstanding Instructor in 2012.)
Another skipper, who had listened to the entire thing on his radio, expressed wonder that Captain Roy had “sounded so professional, like [he] knew exactly what to ask for.” This captain admitted that he had heard the mayday call, but didn’t know how to respond.
Luckily for the crew of Liela B, Captain Roy and his students did know how to respond, and while other boats passed by, it was the ASA sailors who answered the call.
Captain Roy’s tips on how to be prepared for an emergency at sea:
1. Make sure your VHF radio is on at all times.
2. Know your radio protocol, how to make a call and how to respond to one. It could save your life, or someone else’s.
3. The best education is to have the VHF on and listen to the Coast Guard. They know what they’re doing, so copying them is a good idea!
4. Four pieces of information to ask for whenever you’re in contact with a ship in distress:
There are many sailing books on the market, but if you read them all you’d never have time to actually, you know, go sailing. This blog will give you the 411 on the books ASA offers so you can decide if they’re right for you. (Spoiler: If you want to go sailing for fun, they are.)
First, a little history. The grandfather of sailing textbooks is Nathaniel Bowditch’s massive 1802 doorstop The American Practical Navigator, whose comprehensive chapters cover not only piloting, dead reckoning, and seamanship, but also such obscure topics as “Geodesy and Datums in Navigation,” “Hydrography,” and “Ice Navigation.” Worthy subjects all, but perhaps not of the foremost importance to the average modern-day sailor.
If you discover that the subtleties of navigation and seamanship are your life’s passions, then you will certainly want to dig into Bowditch, along with Chapman Piloting & Seamanship and Dutton’s Nautical Navigation, spending many happy hours in the hammock with a rum and coke reading about azimuths and depth sounders. All kidding aside, most people who are trying to balance a love of sailing with family, friends, work, and the rest of life just don’t have time to read and absorb thousands of pages.
That’s where we come in. Those pioneering works laid the foundation for ASA’s sailing books, which distill the wisdom of the ages into a manageable format designed to get you on the water safely, confidently, and quickly. Our full color displays, diagrams, and photos portray the concepts visually, while the writing, by some of the top sailing writers in the business, is accessible and clear. We take the mystery and uncertainty out of sailing by showing you exactly how a sailboat works, how it interacts with wind and water, and how you, the captain, take charge of it all.
SAILING MADE EASY
WHO’S IT FOR?
Everyone. Beginners, those who need a refresher, or the grizzled salt who wants to have it handy as a reference. Sailing Made Easy is our keystone sailing textbook, covering all the basics you need to know to safely skipper a medium-sized keelboat (20-30 feet). It is the companion to ASA 101, our introductory course, which thousands of people take at our sailing schools around the world each year.
All the fundamentals of sailing. This includes the parts of a boat, what to bring with you when you sail, how you make the boat move, how you get it to and from the dock, and how to avoid hitting anything (including, but not limited to, other boats, underwater hazards, and the land). Beyond that, it also discusses the finer points of trimming your sails, slowing down and speeding up, and anchoring and mooring, among other things. Quite simply, this book sets the industry standard, which is why Sail Magazine named it “best in class.”
WHO’S IT FOR?
Those who are familiar with the material in Sailing Made Easy, and are ready to deepen their knowledge and expand their sailing horizons a bit. This book accompanies ASA 103 – Coastal Cruising, a crucial link in the ASA curriculum from basic daysailing to cruising and chartering in exotic locations.
This book builds on the skills you’ve learned in Sailing Made Easy, now heading a bit further out from shore. You’ll learn about tides and currents, weather forecasting, more advanced seamanship skills, among other things. The book is water-resistant and organized into two page “spreads,” with each spread covering a single topic, which makes it useful not just at home but out on the water, too.
Buy Coastal Cruising Made Easy here. CRUISING FUNDAMENTALS
WHO’S IT FOR?
Those who have gotten comfortable sailing coastally and want to serve as their own bareboat charter captains. In other words, if you want to go on a sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands, the Mediterranean, the Pacific Northwest, or anywhere else, this is the book you need. It accompanies the extremely popular ASA 104 – Bareboat Cruising.
Not only are the sailing skills covered that you’ll need to cruise for a week or two through paradise, but also the practical knowledge of how a bareboat charter works. We offer instruction on how to prepare your charter boat before leaving, the “rules of the road” at sea, and operating vital equipment such as the VHF radio. Sail Magazine says, “Everything needed to make the first weeklong liveaboard cruise in safety and comfort is here.”