View Full Version : Kennedy's MYA Hard Aground

Stu Fyfe
12-01-2002, 04:31 PM
Decided to take a short drive down to Sesuit Harbor here on Cape Cod. Crystal clear, about 35 degrees out with the wind blowing NW at 35-40 mph. I never expected to see any boats out today, but there was Senator Kennedy's Schooner MYA trying to come into the harbor in rough seas with just the jib up. As they approached the two jetties that line the entrance to this Cape Cod Bayside harbor, the trailing NW wind blew them away from the jetties and right up onto the shallow flats. Hard aground, beam onto the seas, she started to take waves over the side. She went aground about 3:00pm and as dark started to set in, it was apparent that she's not going anywhere for awhile. Both POB's (the Senator wasn't on board)were able to wade ashore in the cold water and are safe, but I'm not so sure the boat is. The MYA is a beautiful, German built wooden boat that winters in Sesuit Harbor and I guess this was her annual trip from Hyannisport to Dennis. Really felt helpless to see her taking that pounding. The things you see when you don't have a camera or video!

Scott Rosen
12-01-2002, 04:40 PM
Ted's not gonna be very happy about that. I wonder if Congress is getting a raise this year?

Ian McColgin
12-02-2002, 09:28 AM
Our senior senator is indeed a fine sailor but 'twas not he at the helm. Carl Anderson, one of the finest sailors alive, was at the helm.

Stu's account sheds some light on what happened - sounds like a teeny broach but in that exceptionally tight channel any wobble puts you on the hard and with the driving on-shore breeze little troubles escalate into disasters.

Sesuit is a trappy harbor. I've only taken a large boat in once about an hour ahead of high. You can see what the harbor looks like by going to WB's Msl links, hitting 'eye in the sky' and zoom in on Dennis, MA. The picture is before the recent dredging, so Carl was not so imprudent as you might think to have come in just after low.

I've not yet heard whether she got pulled off this morning. News as it happens.

Ian McColgin
12-02-2002, 09:39 AM
I heard that WQRC reports our Senator on the scene now looking at her, so apparantly Mya is still hard aground. It's 1 1/2 hrs after high so that's not good but the wind's SW now so things are stabile. It may be that they can use the dry out time to ensure a good refloat or to take her off by truck or something.

Ian McColgin
12-02-2002, 10:42 AM
By the way, go to www.capecodtimes.com (http://www.capecodtimes.com) for the all too dismaying picture and story.

Stu Fyfe
12-02-2002, 11:45 AM
They pulled her off at 8:00am this morning. The party fishing boat Albatross was able to get a line to her and she was off in a matter of minutes. Karl Anderson was back aboard. I never meant to infer that Karl made a mistake yesterday if it seemed that way. He was pretty cold and wet when he waded ashore yesterday, slightly hypothermic. He said they had taken a pounding the whole way. Ian, you know what it's like, once you exit the canal with a strong NW you have no where to go except Provincetown, Barnstable or Sesuit. There was no way they were gonna be able to back track into the Sandwich Boat Basin for relief. MYA appears to be in pretty good shape considering.

Ian McColgin
12-02-2002, 02:02 PM
Stu, thanks for the good news update. Life in the 'Port next summer would be less pleasant without Mya around.

I didn't mean to inferr that you, Stu, thought Carl might have been inprudant. I had in mind what folk saw once they looked at the arial photo. Should have said "one . . "

Nice to know she came off with the high tide.

12-02-2002, 02:55 PM
This is a naive question, from a small boat sailor, but why did they try to do this under sail? Make (or not, rather) a narrow harbor entrance with less than favorable weather conditions that is. Or am I missing something? Likely.

[ 12-02-2002, 03:23 PM: Message edited by: ishmael ]

12-02-2002, 03:02 PM

I, too, wondered about that and didn't dare ask about powering into the harbor, for fear I'd be seriously berated for not knowing MYA doesn't have an engine. You're question is far more delicate than mine would have been and you won't take the abuse.

This was 'pilot error', in my opinion. He'd have been beaten up by the wind and waves before he left the Canal, even before he reached the little harbor of refuge at the north end of the canal. The channel into Sisuit may have been dredged, but my charts show 2' at the limit of the channel. He may have had to get there at low tide as he needed a favorable current through the Canal, which is favorable when the tide is going out. Good sailor or not, this guy had a lot of clues that entering that harbor was going to be very dodgy.

[ 12-02-2002, 03:32 PM: Message edited by: rodcross ]

Ian McColgin
12-02-2002, 03:48 PM
Mya has an engin and Carl, 30+ knots out of anywhere is well within Mya's range, and Carl is one of the best sailors around here.

I can only think that the sorta broachlet that Stu describes allowed her to just touch the sand and she was driven very rapidly out of control after that. I think that on the flood there's a wicked little rip to the east just there so even if Carl started alligned closer to the western breakwater, he could have slid across.

I'd like to say that I'd never have risked that approach - great visibility but a really hellacious spot in that wind but stuff happens. I think with the northwesterly it did not seem so bad at Sagamore and by the time they were off Sisuit there really was not much to do except go in or stand off and take a beating.

I have twice promiced God most solumly that I'd never again go into a trappy harbor with a following gale. Both times I was punished with a bit of damage and lots of embarrassment but also both times I was forgiven and allowed to live.

Perhaps I'll have the steadiness of mind to not go for a third, but I tell you, when you're tired and cold and wet and scared, shore looks mighty good.

At any rate, my two bad times were more severe than yesterday. I suspect that in Carl's place with such a boat, I'd have tried to sail on in.

Anyway, any grounding where you come off with not too much damage and no injury counts as a good thing. It never hurts to be humbled at no great cost.

12-02-2002, 04:24 PM

I really am naive and would like to learn. Why not power in? If it was just braggadacio, I tend to agree with Rod, pilot error. Or is there some inherent reason to do this under sail?

Completely open to your vastly superior understanding.


Ian McColgin
12-02-2002, 05:03 PM
He was under power. Running before a sea with a jib or forestaysail set just steadies her. It should have prevented, probably at least mitigated, the broach.

The real problem is that it should be treated as a breaking inlet.

It would be nice if Stu could confirm, but I'm thinking he angled in out of the northwest on the port tack. Perhaps given the sea, it would have been better to come in from the north east on a starboard tack.

I must remember if faced with a similar problem, to plan my broach, as it were.

But again, hind sight's about perfect.

12-02-2002, 05:09 PM
Okay, I think I begin to see. The balance of the "jib" was not enough to offset the sea and wind behind. And, the power wasn't running full perhaps? Or full enough? Or she needed something beyond her engine to make?

12-02-2002, 05:10 PM
Now that I know MYA has an engine, my guess he was powering in and the jib was to steady things. A big wave under that counter and a gust could have been all it took.

It takes me too long to type a post.

[ 12-02-2002, 05:13 PM: Message edited by: rodcross ]

12-02-2002, 05:10 PM
Thanks for the link.

I saw that on the local news stations.
I went to all thier websites and I couldn't find any info.... strange

Scott Rosen
12-02-2002, 05:15 PM

I don't know the particulars of this situation, but I do know that in a steep, short following sea and a lot of wind, there is no easy way to get a boat into a tight spot.

The problem is too much speed, lack of steerage in the waves and swells, and the resulting lack of control. Adding an engine doesn't change the basic equation, and can make it worse because it adds unwanted speed. I would expect to have better control with sails, although a judiciously applied throttle used with the sails at just the right time could give some steerage, at least in theory. But the problem is, in those conditions, things happen very fast and there is no margin for error. By the time you realize the need to apply the throttle, it could be too late.

The engine would have been useful if they decided to heave to--it would have kept them off the lee shore. But they wouldn't have been able to simply heave to and go to sleep for a couple of days. Laying off a lee shore, under power, would have required someone at the helm at all times. They may have decided they weren't up to it at that point. Only they could make that call.

Alan D. Hyde
12-02-2002, 05:23 PM
Lots of hard-to-predict judgement call stuff here, even for a guy who knows the local waters pretty well.

The Vikings prefered a skipper who was "lucky" just for that reason. Superior skills, of course, but an undefinable sort of instinct for these situations, too.

The kind that Sterling Hayden credited Irving Johnson with having...


[ 12-02-2002, 05:24 PM: Message edited by: Alan D. Hyde ]

12-02-2002, 05:29 PM
Interesting. Always a question of theory and practice, and in this case a very experienced person went ashore -- as could happen to anyone.

Perhaps the lesson is one of hubris, and luck? I'll bet Carl learned some things that day. Like maybe to wait till things are less challenging to one's skill, if possible?

I enjoy this conversation about boat handling very much. It is no substitute for experience, but it is very informative. Thank you.


Scott Rosen
12-02-2002, 06:21 PM
It's mostly luck in situation like this, with experienced skipper and crew.

The lapse in judgment occurred when they decided to take the boat out for a sail in the first place.

12-02-2002, 06:42 PM
My wife and I were down at the Bay and watched what I now know to be MYA headed into Sesuit. Our first thought was " what the H.. was anyone doing out there?" . It was whitecaps all over Cape Cod Bay with a really nasty breeze. Our next thought was" Why is he headed into Sesuit at low tide?" It was going to be tricky getting in even if there were lots of water under the keel. I hope the boat is OK , sounds as if they got it off .

12-02-2002, 06:44 PM
The problem is too much speed, lack of steerage in the waves and swells, See, I don't understand this, from a boat handling point of view.

I cut my teeth driving a 26 ft. CC Sea Skiff, on lakes and rivers, and if there is one thing I learned it is that you have to be moving faster than the water to maintain steering.

And clearly this situation had many more factors. Though I wonder? Wind, current, nature of boat?

[ 12-02-2002, 07:04 PM: Message edited by: ishmael ]

12-02-2002, 07:47 PM
You have it right, Jack. There's no need to be confused.

Speed through the water is critical for control, but speed reduces the margin for error. A boat weighing 12-14 tons has a lot of momentum and the skipper may have elected the sand bar in favor of the breakwater (And shut off the engine to avoid swallowing a lot of sand). A hundred foot wide opening gets really little, really fast, especially if the waves are tossing the stern around. If I'd gone that far, I might have elected the sand, too.

[edited part] I've been there. I've gone back and forth studying the wave and current action at the opening and made a fool of myself with bridge operators and harbor masters on the VHF, all the while some very nervous crew members were donning their survival gear, wondering if I knew what I was doing. (It was not that difficult to know I was scared and knew I had one chance to get through. Wrong mean't disaster and loved ones in the water.)

[ 12-02-2002, 08:02 PM: Message edited by: rodcross ]

Stu Fyfe
12-02-2002, 08:13 PM
It happened pretty fast. I can tell you this. Karl Anderson might just be the best skipper on the Cape. His Concordia Yawl "Wizard" is one fine boat. He's an Olympic class sailor. A fine racer and a good boat yard owner. Sure we can question why he was out there. I heard that the Kennedy's have an annual sail in Hyannisport on Thanksgiving weekend and then the boat is put to bed for the winter. Maybe there was some kind of time frame to meet? I don't know. I've been through that channel at low tide in 20-25kn conditions out of NW. It ain't fun.A combination of a receeding tide, into the wind, minimal depth and a narrow clearance spells trouble. One final comment, I think they did a good job of avoiding the jetty and escaping. As they were lined up ready to enter the jettys, the boat suddenly turned to port and just missed the east jetty. My guess is they hit bottom and it spun the bow around like a wind vane. They were now beam to the wind and seas as they passed the jetty and were unable to avoid sliding onto the sandy flats.
Had they not cleared the jetty, the MYA would have been pounded against the rocks and probably destroyed.

[ 12-02-2002, 08:30 PM: Message edited by: Stu Fyfe ]

Scott Rosen
12-02-2002, 08:24 PM
Jack, the problem with speed is this.

First, in a following sea, too much speed can cause a broach.

Second, if you're travelling with a four knot current, you can be standing still in the water, with no steerage, but still you're moving over the ground at four knots. Picture moving at four knots with no steerage. Add short, steep waves and you could be pushed another few knots, out of control, and any direction. Add five or six knots of boat speed, and you're now travelling over the ground at the rate ten plus knots, with reduced steerage.

It's hard to describe the sensation of having no control over a fast moving boat, with it's speed and direction controlled by the wind, waves and current. It's scary in open water. It's really dangerous in tight quarters.

12-03-2002, 02:38 AM
FYI - last year when we were discussing the Seattle fire and the damage to the Concordia Coriolis, the owner was lurking. You may want to turn and say hi to Ted and Capt. Anderson ...

- M

12-04-2002, 01:30 AM
Nice seeing her pulling into harbour on the local news today.

12-04-2002, 02:40 AM
Let's not get confused, here. The difference between arriving on a Tuesday and arriving on a Wednesday gets smaller as the years pass. Karl Anderson may be the best sailor in the world, which means he had the wherewithall to duck into the harbor of refuge at the North end of the Canal; Another chance to round Beach Point and hide from the weather.

To those who don't understand what this is about, The distance between the entrance of Cape Cod Canal and Dennis is about 20 miles. His wife, or daughter, or even a taxi could have come to fetch him and the Senator would have paid for it. What was the point?

What's that word, Jack, you used? Braggadocio(sp?)

Ian McColgin
12-04-2002, 10:34 AM
Easy to second guess.

It's a tight entrance and they were high following seas and it was about low tide.

On the other hand, it's Karl's homeport and he really is a stunning boathandler. Those who know me know that I'm arrogant enough to think very highly of my own skills. Karl is several orders of magnatude better than I.

I'm betting that Karl got the feel of running off in that sea and was simply sure he had it well in hand.

Dad used to do some accident investigation representing the ALPA. I remember listening to the cockpit recorder from one crash - just about everything was wrong and there was no chance of surviving the event. You could hear the copilot chanting the altitude down and the last words were the captain's very calm, "I think I got it." Sometimes you think you've got it and you're wrong.

I've run off before some pretty impressive winds with Mya - a broad reach in a howler is the only point on which I can stay with her - and she appeared easy to handle. The example that sticks most in my mind was winds about 40kt and relativly mature Nantucket Sound waves maybe 8' high and prhaps 200' crest to crest. The seas kicking last Sunday on the north side were considerably closer and therefore steeper, more likely to cause a broach. Still, there are very few displacement boats I'd rather run that inlet in than in Mya or my own Granuaile. I absolutely would not have wanted to do it in my old Alder schooner Goblin.

Running into a breaking inlet in a displacement boat is very different than blasting in fast in a powered skiff or other fast boat. If you can keep up the wave speed, then you stay just a bit ahead of the trough, riding on the back of the wave, and all goes well.

In a displacement boat, the waves will be going faster than the boat and the big risk is always a broach. A problem well discussed in Chapman's and elsewhere.