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What to do if you break down over 20 miles out?

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What to do if you break down over 20 miles out?

Old 02-02-2019, 09:32 PM
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Default What to do if you break down over 20 miles out?

I searched and read some other threads on this but didn't get a clear picture, they all seem to deviate into discussions about distance VHF travels. I got a late start the other day and was gonna go deep then decided against it after really not having a clear idea of what I should do. I have built in VHF, hand held VHF, and EPIRB, a ditch bag, and Seatow. I'll admit that within phone range of shore I'm not one to leave my VHF on but I am starting to venture out further and need to get better about this. So give me the run down. You are 40 miles out and run out of gas for some reason, what is protocol.

PLEASE refrain from discussions about checking gas before you go out by dropping your pecker in the tank to make sure you have enough, how 2 engines means this never happens, how having other equipment will solve problems out there so I need to purchase more crap (sat phone... duh), or anything like that. Just a short these are the steps I take (if you have other equipment you can certainly list them in the steps without telling everyone why you should have them or you will perish). Sorry if I seem demanding keeping things on topic, but you know...
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Old 02-02-2019, 09:42 PM
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VHF can be used more then 20 miles if you hail the coast guard. VHF can be relayed by other boats to shore for you also. SAT phones are good, and now days we also have text communication with tracking services.

Sea Tow or similar is the best choice if it is a choice in your part of the world. But they have there limitations. Out of my port we do not have a towing service for REC boats. So most of the offshore guys know each other and if one gets in trouble we will work to get a shrimper or commercial boat to go get them. Happens couple times a year, and we make some long runs out.
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Old 02-02-2019, 09:47 PM
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If all your comms are out of range from shore you can try to get another boat to do a vhf relay for you on 16 for a while if it isn't getting too late. If that doesn't work your only remaining tool is the EPIRB which is hopefully GPS enabled and registered with your details. If you left a trip report with your contact person that may help. Just don't wait until people will be searching in the dark
Other than that some tools and spares if you are technically competent.
if you see other boats out there you could try to say hello on the vhf before you break down and do an informal buddy boat with them checking in on an agreed vhf freq for mutial safety
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Old 02-02-2019, 09:50 PM
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nobody wants to respond to this thread for fear of murphy comin’ round...
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Old 02-02-2019, 09:55 PM
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You don't activate your EPIRB because you are broken down, that's kind of like calling 911 because your pizza is cold, much to your surprise, if you break down, doesn't mean you're dead or your boat will flip over, the correct method to call for assistance is radio, phone, flares and anything else long before your EPIRB comes out.
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Old 02-02-2019, 10:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Aliboy View Post
If all your comms are out of range from shore you can try to get another boat to do a vhf relay for you on 16 for a while if it isn't getting too late. If that doesn't work your only remaining tool is the EPIRB which is hopefully GPS enabled and registered with your details. If you left a trip report with your contact person that may help. Just don't wait until people will be searching in the dark
Other than that some tools and spares if you are technically competent.
if you see other boats out there you could try to say hello on the vhf before you break down and do an informal buddy boat with them checking in on an agreed vhf freq for mutial safety
This pretty much covers it. Especially about not waiting too long to hit the epirb.
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Old 02-02-2019, 10:18 PM
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You shouldn't even have to ask!! If you haven't planned for this kind I eventuality you are not fit to own a boat !! so on you knees !
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Old 02-02-2019, 10:54 PM
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Based on what you have said you have on board:

1. Hail on VHF. As someone said, USCG should be able to pick up your signal 20 miles off shore (assuming your radio is in good working order). You may or may not be able to hear USCG reply.
2. Start with the other signalling devices such as flares, horns, etc.
2. If after hailing for a couple of hours with no response, and your loved ones are expecting to hear from you (i.e. you're overdue) - ACTIVATE YOUR EPIRB. If I cannot get in touch with people and am going to be overdue, that's what I'd do.
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Old 02-02-2019, 11:25 PM
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Ignoring for now Mr. Congeniality in bold type above, asking is good as it obviously helps you plan for "what-if" semi-emergency circumstances.

Here's a diagram map of minimum USCG VHF comm. coverage assuming only 1 watt transmitting radio .
Name:  SecJack.jpg
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Presumably( and apparently) you have a "permanantly mounted " ~~25 w VHF with a decent tall antenna since you are going offshore, so that should extent those predicted ranges a bit as long everything is checked often and confirmed working well at long range.

Off FL you would also be operating in a high traffic area so if you can't get a response to a hail to the nearest USCG group/ station or SeaTow or Boat/US ( whichever you have tow insureance with) , then an "Any Station"/ Pan-Pan hail with transfer comms should eventually provide a relay mesaage to get your tow insurer underway to deliver more fuel to your stated L/L position, though you will have to pay for more than ?? 5 gal? delivered.

If you are drifting the wrong direction, deploy your anchor with the extra long rode youneed offshore.

Having a Sat phone aboard can facilitate comms to SeaTow/TwBoat/US beyond VHF or cell system range.

And though you declared you aren't interested in this part of operating a boat, having a responsible record of your engine's normal fuel economy GPH and/ or preferably NMPG at various RPM ,and logging in fuel gallons-filled (i.e., gallons -used) for each & every tank each fill and hours run, and following the 1/3 out ( including usage trolling, etc. out that far), 1/3 back, with 1/3 reserve rule will help keep your hypothetical quesion hypothetical.

Last suggestion- It can't hurt to have a substantial tarp and lines stowed away to rig as an emergency kite-sail on a powerboat in case you find access to other means of help no available. Getting closer to shore by any means increases chance of accessing assitance. Even some super tankers "supposedly" have these. That would be no means restrict you to "sailing" only directly downwind.

It should be obvious use of an GPIRB/EPIRB/PLB should be limited to true emergency use after all truly reasonable attemps to remedy non-life-threatening situations are exhausted. The response to such an emergency request is immensely expensive and, if it is deemed a patently unnecessary use of that system , whoever activates it ...can.... be charged for those expenses.

That said , don't hesitate to activate an EPIRB if the situation actually warrants it, as response often gets more difficult as time passes and wx changes. It does not have to be an immediate threat to life or vessel ... if ....no other means of access to help are possible well offshore.

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Old 02-03-2019, 12:02 AM
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EPIRB ! Amazing with all the gadgets and the like ,if a spotter plane cruising the sky's in the vicinity is asked to look and find how easy is you boat to be spotted by radar ?? does it glow or is it even able to be seen at all ?? how about smoke signals ??
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Old 02-03-2019, 01:22 AM
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Suprised no one has mentioned this, but you should always leave your VHF on and test it before leaving port to ensure it is working by doing a radio check. Leaving it on channel 16 allows you to hear if another boater is in distress; similar to the scenario you are describing.

Back in the 80's I went with a buddy fishing out of Port Canerval in his used Bayliner boat (first clue this was not going to end well LOL) he had just bought. It was a very hot July day. All was fine until a summer weather system popped up and things went from good to just about abandon-the-boat in minutes. To make a long story short, my buddy an ex-marine panicked and while I was trying to get all of our lines in and close the front hatch he took off for shore like a bat out of hell and stuffed the bow into a wave almost knocking me out and swamped the engine. The seas went from glassy calm to raging, rain blowing horizontal and lightening all around. I got back on deck, and he was white as a ghost trying to start the engine again, which had stalled. Just as I got on deck, the engine starts, and he does the same thing and rams the boat into another wave. Water came over the transom, and the engine dies again. I grabbed him and pulled him out the helm chair, put his life vest on, yelling that he was going to kill us and pushed him into the other chair and said to sit there...he was paralytic with fear. I could not start the engine, and after getting the other rods stowed, I went to the stern to try and take the cover off the motor and keep in mind the conditions were still horrendous and we were being tossed all around. I could only estimate the size of the waves but the seemed huge.

What I found was the transom had two cracks on either side of the motor about 5-6 inches long. I can only assume it was an older boat with a bad transom and the force of the impact into the waves broke it. So I rushed below, to turn on his VHF radio which he had not done before leaving port. BAD MISTAKE...what i discover is the radio does not work and has a wire dangling from it...WTF!

Well, I was able to get the engine started but could only limp to shore off a plane, for as soon as I try to add power it would stall again PLUS I was afraid the engine was going to fall off. We made it back after hours of babying the boat,all the while the weather continued and did not let up, but I was mentally prepared to abandon the boat if the transom fell off or we were swamped. My buddy did not move or say anything until he saw land.

I learned many valuable lessons that day. Never go on anyone's boat unless you are sure it is in good shape, has the proper emergency equipment that actually works and he is an experienced boater. If in doubt check the equipment yourself and never go offshore in a Bayliner or other vessel that has not been maintained. It the boat looks like a piece of shit, which his used boat did, then it probably is. And I always carry a portable VHF and a PLB with me on my boat and anyone else's as back up. Also never assume the people you are with are going to act in a rational way in the event of an emergency. I have no doubt he would have swamped the boat and lost his life if he were with a less experienced boater or by himself.

BTW that day a few boaters in the same area were not so lucky. Their capsized boat was found with no crew on board.
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Last edited by oceanluvr30; 02-03-2019 at 06:44 AM.
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Old 02-03-2019, 01:50 AM
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Try living in countries where boats have only one engine and never even think twice about venturing out of the sight of land !!NO RADIO NO COMPASS MAYBE DEPTH SOUNDER!! EPIRBS?? NEVER ! CELL PHONE DEFFINITLE NO !
But the motor is well maintained regularly, service regularly and although it 10 years old looks better than new motor ,apart from all the fishing get is a really well equipped tool box and a spray can of crc for sure ! lift the lid and everything is soaking in crc spray and never ever misses a beat even in 10 years have seen the motor on our trips regularly covered with stern waves but still it carries on regardless !
the closest land is home the other way is south America or a pacific island if you lucky ! depth of water is measured in hundreds of feet !
This message is take care of your boat and specially your motor and all and every bit of equipment you possess !!
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Old 02-03-2019, 01:57 AM
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Good point about the VHF. The OP mentioned he leaves his off if near shore but i believe any boat with a working VHF is required to monitor VHF ch 16 unless activelusing a working channel. That requirement is horrendously ignored by too many boaters, due to some extent to the abuse of Ch 16 for way too many radio checks..
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Old 02-03-2019, 02:29 AM
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I too believe you're required to have VHF offshore and have it on at all times. But it would be crazy to not have it on for reasons already mentioned. Sounds like your new to going far offshore, I highly recommend taking some time to search this and other forums for people that have been in trouble offshore. There are plenty to choose from and you'll find some great ideas and gain tremendous knowledge in the process.

But back to the VHF. We were heading out one day, probably about 8-10 miles out and heard a charter captain calling out for help. He with crew and passengers was taking on water and heading back to shore as quickly as possible but didn't think he was going to make it. As he headed back in he kept calling out his coordinates continuously and nature of his issue. We heard the call and thanks to his coordinate call out started his way and were there within about 10 minutes. By that time there were about 6 or so boats all around him and he stopped to move his passengers onto another charter boat, then continued to port. Before we left the CG and Tow Boat US were there too. I know he made it back but never heard what the problem was.

You'll occasionally hear the CG calling out for various reasons when your offshore. Sometimes just information, sometimes for distress calls for someone needing help or missing. We were once specifically identified and advised to leave an area that was closing for a military exercise. Without the radio, we likely would have had a helo visitor with an angry attitude.
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Old 02-03-2019, 04:21 AM
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Originally Posted by tunnles View Post
You shouldn't even have to ask!! If you haven't planned for this kind I eventuality you are not fit to own a boat !! so on you knees !



The salt water running through your veins has settled in your brain !
I don't care what country or language you claim , that's just an ignorant statement !
Please stop this stupid ruse , you are the worse troll ever !
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Old 02-03-2019, 04:26 AM
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Originally Posted by tunnles View Post
You shouldn't even have to ask!! If you haven't planned for this kind I eventuality you are not fit to own a boat !! so on you knees !
You know, you had a few posts recently where you seemed to be trying to contribute instead of acting like an ass. Welcome back to the old Tunnles, I guess. How can you plan without learning? How can you learn without asking? No one starts off knowing everything, or at least, no else knows everything from the start.
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Old 02-03-2019, 04:30 AM
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I was fishing Taylor's reef out of St Augustine (25 miles from the inlet) two weeks ago and could hear Coast Guard on the VHF. Another boat had a medical emergency and I got to listen to the back and forth while they set up an ambulance to meet them at the dock. Typically there are several boats fishing out of St Aug, so you are never far from anyone. That day was strange as I only saw two boats at Nine mile on the way out and one other boat came to Taylor's, that was by far the least amount of boats I have even seen out. I am always monitoring 16 if I am heading out of the inlet, you never know when someone needs help and you are the closest to them.
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Old 02-03-2019, 04:37 AM
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Originally Posted by tunnles View Post
Try living in countries where boats have only one engine and never even think twice about venturing out of the sight of land !!NO RADIO NO COMPASS MAYBE DEPTH SOUNDER!! EPIRBS?? NEVER ! CELL PHONE DEFFINITLE NO !
But the motor is well maintained regularly, service regularly and although it 10 years old looks better than new motor ,apart from all the fishing get is a really well equipped tool box and a spray can of crc for sure ! lift the lid and everything is soaking in crc spray and never ever misses a beat even in 10 years have seen the motor on our trips regularly covered with stern waves but still it carries on regardless !
the closest land is home the other way is south America or a pacific island if you lucky ! depth of water is measured in hundreds of feet !
This message is take care of your boat and specially your motor and all and every bit of equipment you possess !!
Just a few days ago you told us that you didn't own a boat and that you fished from the shore.
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Old 02-03-2019, 04:38 AM
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Sounds like you have all your bases covered, to me.
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Old 02-03-2019, 04:40 AM
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You're basically asking what you should do when the capabilities of your existing tools (VHF, cell) are exceeded, without buying a different tool such as a satellite phone. I would say, based on that limitation, that you should just pray really hard because that's going to be just as effective as anything you could do.
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