While the risk is statistically tiny, there is always a chance that a whale could treat your boat like Moby Dick treated the whaling ship Pequod. Marine biologists don't seem to have a definite answer as to why whales strike boats, but Sacramento, Calif.-based singlehander Max Young knows firsthand the dangers of boat-butting whales. Young was sailing his 50-foot sloop alone when his boat was struck roughly 40 miles off the Mexican coast on June 12. He was sailing his boat from the U.S. east coast to San Francisco and had nearly completed the passage when he was hit. According to an AP report, Young stuffed a mattress in the hole and turned on both an ACR GlobalFix EPIRB and an AquaLink PLB. The Coast Guard was able to quickly fix his position and directed a nearby commercial ship to pick him up.
"His EPIRB delivered an exact position to us, contact information that allowed us to quickly discern the sail plan and number of persons on the vessel, and really took a lot of the search out of the search and rescue," said Lt. Charles Kelly of the USCG Command Center in Alameda, Calif.
This latest incident joins another Pacific Ocean case of a whale strike and sinking in July, 2006. The 40-foot sloop Mureadritta's XL was bound for Los Angeles from Hawaii with a four-man crew when it was struck by a pilot whale. The boat had a 8-by-12-inch hole in the left side and eventually sank. All four crew were rescued safely after skipper Nick Barran turned on his ACR RapidFix 406 EPIRB. See image of sinking Mureadritta's XL below (courtesy Nick Barran).
So the lesson appears to be stay away from whales if you can and definitely carry an EPIRB or two.
Below, Coast Guard video of Max Young's boat.