Friday, 15 March 2013


               "That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed..."
                                                           -gordon lightfoot

    Picked up some bad news on the cyber-telegraph today:

    The proprietor of BFS Gear and longtime sailnet contributor SmackDaddy's boat sank.

     At the dock.

     I'll let him pick up the tale from here.  Warning:  Graphic images ahead.

  Below is borrowed without permission but with the best of intentions.

"The Saddest Day of a Sailor's Life:

On February 25, 2013 we lost our sailboat. It went down in the slip in about 100' of water during a freak storm with 60+ knot winds.

Literally, all that's left of S/V Smacktanic, that Catalina 27 we loved so much - the first boat we ever owned - the boat that patiently taught us to sail - is a freakin' cleat.

I'm laughing while I cry. It really is an indescribable feeling to know your boat is...just...gone.

Here's the story...

We've had the typical, blustery late Texas winter. Gusty northerly winds in the 20-30 knot range. I usually check in on the boat every week or two when we're not sailing her  - cleaning her up, doing little projects, running the motor, checking lines, etc. Just making sure she's in good shape. This past Friday I took off work around 2 and went down to put the bimini back on. I had re-sewn some of the seams that had let go due to sun damage to the stitching.

Although the exterior of the boat was nasty since it hadn't been power-washed in over a year (due to there being no water at the docks since we'd been pushed out so far - see below) - everything was in pretty good shape. I got the bimini put back on the frame and ready for the upcoming season:

Then I worked on the cabin of the boat, cleaning the sole, wiping down all the surfaces...and, of course, having some beer and chips aboard my awesome boat that I'd put SOOO much work and love into over the past few years.

I checked the battery charge, checked the bilge pump, and finished up the bimini work, squaring everything away for the week. It was a nice, peaceful evening:

After taking this photo, I noticed the somewhat slack dock lines and slack "bow collar" that kept the stem away from the dock. I also noticed that the bumper board at the dock in front of the bow had let go on one side and was hanging down in the water, leaving the concrete edge exposed to our bow. So I adjusted all the lines, making sure the stem would stay well clear of the dock. I then put a call into the marina manger about the bumper board. He said he'd try to get to it over the weekend but couldn't guarantee anything.

Now, notice in the photo above the amount of fetch behind the boats toward the dam in the distance about 1.5 miles away. And notice the lack of any breakwater whatsoever. Hell was about to break loose.

As you might have heard, Lake Travis has dropped some 40' due to the Texas drought. As this has happened, our docks have been pushed further and further out into the lake - exposing us to far more fetch and far more weather. Here's the setup showing where our boat used to be - and where it was on this day:

On Monday, 2/25, we were hit with near-hurricane-force winds of over 60 knots from the WNW for approximately 6 hours. This burst of air and large chaotic chop violently pushed all the wildly-bucking boats on our dock forward toward that concrete and steel edge. Docklines stretched and snapped like thread.

I talked with the marina guys who were down there during this storm. They said they did everything they could - replacing lines that were breaking and adding second lines. But as soon as they would get to one end of the dock securing the boats - all the lines they'd placed had snapped again. They said that one guy was there trying to hold the pulpit of his violently pitching boat to keep the stem away from the dock. But he was literally pitched into the air and almost went into the water inside his slip - which would have easily killed him. They evacuated the docks. And the boats didn't stand a chance.

The next day there was nothing but carnage to both boat and the dock - the entire structure of which had bent dramatically enough to pop out the concrete pavers.

80% of the boats along our line that did stay afloat were dismasted, holed, and/or suffered massive "total loss" damage to their stems:

As the boats pounded into the concrete the fiberglass gave way. The concrete even gave way under the tremendous force, revealing an even deadlier foe: the sharp steel structure beneath. These ruthless edges worked through the remaining fiberglass like a hot knife through butter. And as the bows were sliced open ever wider with each huge wave, the gaping hole began to pull in more and more water...until she couldn't fight it anymore.

Above: Boat in center slip is gone - leaving only the mast hanging off the dock structure (just out of frame to left).

Above: Catalina 27 on the left is sitting down to her gunwales - 3/4 submerged. Her stem is gone. Boat to the left of her is dismasted.

Then it was to our sickeningly empty slip (where the workboat currently is in this photo).

Not a trace of the Smacktanic. Just small pieces of teak, shattered concrete, and bent steel showing the carnage that had occurred. Beside us to port had been a Beneteau First 235. Also at the bottom of the lake with our boat.

That damn bumper board that I'd called about on Saturday still lay in the water.

And nothing else remained.

It is a strange, sick feeling that comes over you when your boat - that THING you loved - is gone. You realize that you had some true emotional connection to it. You loved it. You actually loved it. How can that be?

On closer inspection, I could see small bits of our beloved C27 under the concrete. Shards of the anchor locker - the starboard nav light - just...pieces.

From this... this in just a few hours.

I'll miss that damn boat. I really, truly loved her. RIP S/V Smacktanic.

I always hate to play on heart strings - but, c'mon, do us a solid and buy a BFS sticker, tee, or skully, will ya? We've got an ocean boat to save up for!"

Hang in there, Smack.

"Talk the Dock!"


  1. That was truly disturbing. I have an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach just reading that story and looking at the pictures. I don't know if wooden docks trump metal and concrete docks, but I'm happy we have wood in a somewhat protected harbour.

  2. Just so so sad. :( I'm glad no one was hurt but when you put so much love and effort into a thing, it becomes more than just an object.


    Dunno what's up?