Report on the Grounding of SV Sorpresa during the 2016 LO300 Challenge
Early on the morning of Monday, July 18, 2016, the SV Sorpresa, ran aground near Timber Island. At the time of the incident the winds were out of the south west, gusting up to 30 knots. Waves were in excess of 2 meters and the sky was overcast with dark clouds.
The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Trenton decided to remove the sole individual on the yacht by helicopter. This was safely done. SV Sorpresa was recovered after 36 hours on the shoal and towed to Waupoos Marina in Picton, ON and is undergoing repairs.
SV Sorpresa is a 2011 Beneteau First 30. Her sail number is USA 62. The skipper, Ken Tramposch, is an experienced solo sailor on Lake Ontario. SV Sorpresa was participating in the LO300 Sole Challenge and intended to continue in the LO600 Challenge.
Report from the skipper – Ken Tramposch
I tacked at the K12 buoy off the False Ducks Islands to head south but due to a calamity – a furled spinnaker that partially un-furled – I turned the boat 180 degrees on a downwind course back toward the shoal to try to blanket the sail with my main. I was more than 1 NM from the shoal when I went on the foredeck to pull the sail down. Something that should have taken me 45 seconds turned into a major problem. I was going too fast in the big breeze and was on the shoal very quickly.
I had chosen that route because I wanted to stay out of the shipping channel. As I rounded Main Duck Island I put in a double reef on my main. When I started off again an up-bound freighter was coming my way. To avoid the freighter, and any others that might be lurking, I continued to go NW past Main Duck to the far side of the shipping channel and then SW past the False Ducks.
I ran aground near Timber Island (False Ducks Island) at 0234 on Monday. I was in 5′ of water and Sorpresa draws 6′ 3″. After some futile attempts to get off the shoal I called a Mayday at approximately 0320. Prescott CG sent a Mayday relay minutes after that and set up a communication channel on 65 with the JRCC (Joint Rescue Coordinating Committee). One boat in the fleet answered the Mayday-Epiphany- but Ron Smallbone, a Great Lakes Solo Sailing (GLSS) member, was 17 NM away. While he could not offer me immediate assistance, his voice alone was enough to raise my spirits during this horrific event.
A coast guard auxiliary vessel out of Waupoos arrived at 0445 and stood off the shoal on orders of the JRCC due to the sea state. A larger CG vessel with a deployable RIB arrived at 0530 but they were also ordered by the JRCC not to approach Sorpresa. At 0535 I was contacted by a Canadian Air Force helicopter advising me to prepare to abandon the boat. I objected to that suggestion since, by this time, I determined that the boat was not in immediate danger and my last communication with the JRCC indicated that the RIB was going to approach Sorpresa.
The Helo helicopter dropped two personnel on Sorpresa and I was lifted off at 0550. The second air force personnel was kind enough to take a back pack with some of my gear, ID and passport after telling me I could not carry it myself. The Helo landed at Picton Airport at 0615 and the OPP provided transportation into Belleville, ON so I could rent a car. Clearly, there is a well-coordinated effort between different agencies in Canada in responding to these types of rescues. The level of professionalism and cooperation of the response personnel was truly outstanding.
From my temporary base in Belleville, I was able to hire Kingsdive out of Kingston, ON to attempt a recovery. However, due to the high winds and rough seas for the rest of Monday and early Tuesday, there was no way to safely reach Sorpresa. Finally, the conditions improved enough by Tuesday afternoon and the divers made their way out to the shoal. Unfortunately, the diver’s boat was too small for me to participate in this expedition. The expectation was that the boat could not be recovered since it was likely to have suffered extreme damage after being on the shoal for 36 hours in such a rough sea state. Steve Alford, the owner of Kingsdive believed that the best that could be done was to collect as much of my gear as possible and return later for a salvage operation. For more than two hours I watched from shore the actions taken by these amazing divers too free Sorpresa. Steve emailed me while he was on the water to say that the boat was off the shoal and that there was not a scratch to the fiberglass. The only visible damage seemed to be cosmetic due to the cast iron keel bulb grinding on the sand floor.
Once it was towed into Waupoos Marina I got a chance to inspect it closely and it appeared to me that there were signs of stress to the structural grid. After thorough inspections by two surveyors and three repair yards it turns out that the boat can be easily fixed and that work is proceeding.
I had much support and advice from my fellow GLSS sailors who were still racing at the time. Their advice was critical since I had no knowledge base of boatyards or marine services in Canada. Brent Hughes was particularly helpful in recommending yards that could repair my boat in Ontario. Don Finkle of RCR Yachts in Youngstown, NY also provided me with critical advice and shared his extensive contacts in Canadian marine services. In retrospect, I feel very lucky for the support I received and I hope to be sailing Sorpresa back to my home port in Youngstown very soon.
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