Twenty feet of trouble

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One of the biggest challenges that can face a voyager is getting something wrapped around the boat's prop. Even worse is for this to happen while offshore in big seas. Eric Freedman sails the 53-foot Amel Super Maramu 2000 Kimberlite and he and his crew were in the North Atlantic when they snagged something. Using a GoPro attached to the end of a pole, they were able to see that it was a mass of fishing lines and nets ensnared on Kimberlite's prop. Freedman was forced to go over the side and cut it away, an operation that consumed eight hours. The mass of material was more than 20 feet long. Here is Freedman's account:   

22:30 Zulu – Sunday
Position: 28° 24' N,  64° 53' W
Nice wind from 45° Magnetic 22 to 28 knots.

At 9 am we caught  a conglomeration of fish nets. We counted at least 10 different types of line or nets. We brought two big leaf bags of nets, etc. on to the boat, including a three-inch hawser. This thing must have been floating around for a year. There was at least a mile of mono filament in the mess. We put a GoPro camera over the side to see what was going on. We finally got as much onboard as we could but there is still a line and at least 8 feet of assorted nets attached to  the hub of one blade and the shaft. Even with a line cutter we had no luck.

We finished cutting at 5 pm a total of eight hours of cutting and decided to sail as the seas were running six to eight feet. It was dangerous to dive and cut the line. Hopefully over night the nets will loosen themselves and come off the prop. Sailing with this mess on the prop is like sailing with a drogue over the side.

We were too tired to put up the gennaker so we are sailing to wind with Genoa and main.  I would like to see the line gone in the morning, but looking at how it is wrapped, I guess I will have to dive to cut it free. I just hope the seas and wind calm down.

Midnight Atlantic time – Monday
Position: 25° 23'  N  63° 46' W, about 1,021 miles southeast of Montauk.

Today I went scuba diving to cut the line and net that we caught on the propeller yesterday. It is not easy to do this. The boat with the sails down is moving at 1.5 knots. The sea is 6- to 8-feet swells, wind 25 to 30 knots, boat rocking and rolling, and in 12,000 feet of water.

There was a lot of preparation for me to make the dive. With the current running and the wind blowing. First we ran a line from the bow to the stern to give me something to hang on to. We streamed a life preserver off the stern of the boat with 100 feet of floating line. If I were to be separated from the boat it would be difficult-impossible to recover me without a motor. Then a line around my waist, just in case. The biggest problem was attaching the removable ladder to the side of the boat. Kimberlite's deck is about 4 1/2  to 5 feet above the water. The current kept trying to blow the ladder off the boat. We attached enough lines to it to secure it and off I went.

It was a challenge not getting my face smashed by the prop and trying to stay under the boat while the wind rolled the boat and the current trying to push me away. After 25 minutes I got the line and net  off. I was concerned about getting ensnared in the multitude of nets. I was relieved to watch each net blow away in the current and not getting caught in the rudder as I cut each one away. We could then motor again. Without an engine and the sea state what it was, it would have been very difficult to recover someone if they went over the side.

This must have been floating around for years accumulating other floating stuff. 4 different nets, I don’t know what the orange mono stuff was, a hawser,3 different 1+ inch ropes, a bunch of clear mono for long line fishing, a number of dead fish, 2 different colors of carton plastic strapping tape, and more.
Going under the boat in 25 knots, with the boat moving at about 1.5 knots in seas was very challenging. However it so nice to see the balance that was wrapped in the propeller wash away as it was cut, and not get hooked on the rudder. It was a shame that I could not retain the 8 feet of stuff that I cut away. Needless to say it was very hairy being under the boat. In those conditions I was concerned about getting entangled in the stuff and wind up like captain Ahab tied to Moby Dick.

By Ocean Navigator