know how it is when a bunch of guys, especially boat
captains, are sitting around a dockside table drinking
beer at the local watering hole. Like old soldiers,
they start telling war stories as indeed these guys
Not only have
I heard stories like some of the ones told that afternoon,
but had some direct experience myself with what they
were talking about. Rogue waves are a phenomenon that
few but the most experienced boatmen have ever witnessed.
My only experience with serious rogue waves came during
a few ill-advised Gulf Stream crossings when seas
were running 12-14 feet.
Yet few people are
aware that "rogue waves" can come from sources
that are other than natural, namely ships. And you
don't have to far out at sea to be effected by them.
hits the bow wake of large freighter which
is easily 8 foot.
After these guys had
exhausted their tales of "can you top this,"
one guy popped up with, "Let me tell ya 'bout
what happened to me from the wake of a passing supertanker."
He went on to say that he nearly lost his boat and
would have chalked it up to a rogue wave. But the
seas that day were not high enough to create serious
rogue waves, plus he couldn't help but notice that
there was not just one big wave but three of them,
all very evenly spaced. "Not really waves,"
he said, "but big swells. What happened here,
see, was that there were four foot seas on top of
these big swells and I hit it just plain wrong. I
mean, the bow went down and the water went up, and
when the shouting was all over, the boat was half-wrecked
and near sunk."
how da hell that happen," the mate across the
table slurred, grinning and smelling another tall
"A good three
feet of blue water right over the bow," says
Capt. Josh, slamming his beer bottle down. "Took
the pulpit right off, half the railings and blew out
the starboard side windows. Musta taken about 1500
gallons of water in a heartbeat."
"Ole Josh is fartin'
in his hat again," says Mickey.
"Oh, no, I believe
him," I said. "Over the years I've investigated
three such cases of ship wakes sinking or almost sinking
and severely damaging yachts. It happens."
"Don't pay any
attention to Josh, he's got one of them mail order
six pack licenses come somewhere out of Nevada. Last
time he seen a wave was when one took off the top
of his mother's bathing suit at the beach" says
another, getting a big laugh. "That's why he's
been drooling ever since!"
Connie Ralph, one of
the most highly respected bill fish captains said,
"Seriously, though, those tankers can make a
heck of a wake when they're goin' flat out with a
full load. Just for kicks, I paced one headed up the
Gulf Stream, her decks nearly awash tootin' along
a good 26 knots SOG and the damn wake from that monster
was a good eight feet. I'll bet ten miles away it
was still rolling along at six foot."
"Connie is dead
on about what happens when you got normal seas on
top of a wake like that," Josh said, "I've
seen it myself. A lot depends on the how the direction
of the waves are meeting the wake. If they're coming
together at oblique angles, the same kind of angling
that causes rogue waves, then what you get is
a rogue wake!!! You've seen it when two boat wakes
collide? Like that."
"Yeah, man, it
can be real dangerous for those damn rear engine boats
with all the weight in the stern. Couple years ago,
there was this guy in a Sea Ray fishin' over by the
oil rigs, one of the capped off ones. Damn fool put
a stern line onto one of the pylons and just hung
off there. It was a nice day, seas running only about
two foot or so. But the story goes one minute they
were fishin' and the next they were swimming. The
guy that told me this was on that boat and said he
didn't know where the waves came from, but they saw
them coming too late. The stern dipped down and the
next one rolled right over the cockpit. Hell, I can
see the look on their faces now," Jimmy snickered.
"Hey, where the heck did mah boat go?"
The boys at the table
all got a hoot out of that one.
"You hear what
happened to ole Carl Barnes some years back. He did
the same thing with that Cabo he had, a damn California
boat with no engine room bulkhead in it. Same thing,
they go stop for a swim on a nice day, everyone's
in the water and they're driftin along stern-to. Nice
and calm, next thing he knows there's these big swells
go right into the cockit because they left the door
open naturally cuz they's swimmin'. Sheet, before
they could climb back aboard there's the REAL TIME
pointing bow up," he said, shaking his head.
"If that boat had a proper bulkhead at the back
of the engine room, it probably wouldn't have happened,
but even so, you don't ever want to drift stern to
the seas. Where those heavy shipping lanes are, you
need to be aware that some of these ships make damn
big wakes and that the ships are long gone before
the wake gets to you. You never see the ship."
Captain Ned asks, "That
what happened to those people off Houston a couple
years back?" referring to three people that drowned
when their boat went down for reasons unknown."
I hear they were all too inexperienced to even know
what happened. Their first boat and almost the first
time out, but that could be it."
"Well, I know
of two fatalities that occurred from ship wakes. There
was this guy with an express type boat, rear engine,
but no transom door. He gets up early and goes out
fishin, taking his wife's two poodles with him because
for whatever reason she wanted the dogs out of the
house that morning. Anyway, he anchors off the reef
in Pompano Beach and has a couple lines out.
Yeah, he's anchored off the stern. In this case we
know it was a ship wake because the guy was looking
right at it when it happened. It was dead calm that
day, and the way he described it was funny as hell.
"He was standing
in the cockpit and had just cast a line out when the
stern dripped down and never came back up. Next thing
he knows he's standing in water up to his waist holding
a fishing rod. 'I'd give a million bucks for a photo
of the look on my face,' he said. But hey, I had just
locked the dogs in the cabin to keep them out of the
way. The water was pouring down the companionway and
I knew I'd go down with the boat if I tried to rescue
them. Hell, I don't like those dogs that much anyway
so they went down with the ship. That's one way to
shut up a yapping poodle!' The guy had a grin
stretching from ear to ear when he related the story."
The howls of laughter
were interrupted as the waitress showed up for the
next round of drinks. In any case, I think you'll
find the moral of the story self-evident.