Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

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Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by DaveC426913 » Mon May 11, 2020 2:59 pm

I'm toying with a concept for a short story. Just toying, mind.

I'm doing a little research on the South Pacific - from Peru to points West - trying to figure out if it is even *possible* to get lost.

I'm looking for just a bit of feedback from other sailors who may have experience in the area. If this ever gets off the ground, I'll do more detailed research.

Assume a small coastal vessel, blown off-course from the coast of Peru. Gets swept northward and out into the S. Pacific Gyre with Easterly winds. Drifting for several days, with no helm, motor, mast or sails (plot device to get far from mainland and heading West). Radio, maps, sextant, flares, (and, I guess, EPERB) etc. all lost in a storm (otherwise it would be a very short story). With no propulsion (at first), the direction of the first leg is determined by wind and currents. (otherwise, why not head back to the mainland?) The second leg would have limited sail power.

What I'm trying to figure out to start is:
1. is it plausible to limp across the region (which is actually a popular route for ocean-going sailors) without coming in sight of other vessels (at least, close enough to signal).
2. I'm identifying civilized islands, but is it plausible to not spot civilized land for thousands of miles? (Lots of archipelagos, but not much use)
3. Is it plausible, in modern times, to not be spotted by search & rescue - assuming they knew the last location week out-of-date?

How dense is the area in terms of vessels and civilization? If you stood a good chance of spotting anything in, say, a 30 mile radius - how likely is it you could travel thousands of miles without anything coming in range?

It would be more plausible if most of it were in the Doldrums, near the centre of the Gyre - no pleasure craft would travel there - but that might change the plot from one of sailing to one of drifting.
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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by NiceAft » Mon May 11, 2020 6:28 pm

If you have not already done so, look up Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki.
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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by Hamin' X » Mon May 11, 2020 6:47 pm

"A three hour tour!"

Image

:D
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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by DaveC426913 » Mon May 11, 2020 7:02 pm

NiceAft wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 6:28 pm
If you have not already done so, look up Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki.
Well I saw the movie in the 70s. But that was the 40s. A lot has changed.
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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by NiceAft » Mon May 11, 2020 7:17 pm

Not so much the current. We are referring to being adrift.

I suppose checking with the Coastguard might help with the question of how densely traveled the area is. Explain you are researching for a book.
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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by Bill at BOATS 4 SAIL » Mon May 11, 2020 10:07 pm

The first thing that I thought of is when we sailed from the lower FLAKEYS to Nassau in the early '70's and went thru one hull of a storm. We got to the Bahamas (either that or I'm still lost in the Bermuda Triangle) but we hadn't been there before and they all looked pretty much the same with little or no elevation. We guessed go north and did get to Nassau. Navigational equipment back then was not very far advanced compared to what it is just 50 years later.
You mention "3. Is it plausible in modern times". I think that it would be more plausible even 50, or more years ago, pre GPS, satellites, etc.
Good luck.

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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by DaveC426913 » Tue May 12, 2020 9:51 am

Bill at BOATS 4 SAIL wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 10:07 pm
You mention "3. Is it plausible in modern times". I think that it would be more plausible even 50, or more years ago, pre GPS, satellites, etc.
Good luck.
Right. But if navigational elements are lost in a storm...

I'm thinking a near foundering would pretty much take out most equipment. The EPERB is waterproof, and presumably the flares are sealed watertight - unless some unlucky accident befell them. But charts, radios, motor and batteries, as well as any GPS-enabled devices could be lost.

I hadn't originally been considering the vessel to be a Mac (a little too Polyanna-ish), but its unsinkability certainly helps with the plot. I could plausibly write off everything aboard and still have the thing stay afloat. (Also, they say, write what you know.)

Why is a Mac in open Pacific water at all, and unequipped for it? Good question. That'll be part of the setup.
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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by NiceAft » Tue May 12, 2020 10:26 am

But that was the 40s. A lot has changed.
If the presumption is that all of the modern equipment is gone, you are now back well past the forties.

Also, the belief an :macm: , :macx: , :mac19: . :tat: , etc, are not sinkable is not true. If one's definition of unsinkable is not going to the bottom, then yes, but a Mac will go down to the water line of whichever body of water it is in. It will flip onto its side, maybe even turtle. Either way, it's not much value to those clinging to its sides if your hypothesis is crossing the vast Pacific with no communication. They are better off in an emergency life raft. I assume the fictitious characters in your tale will have that. I think a submerged Mac should not be in the story. Take artistic license and give these people a break; after the catastrophe, the boat was still habitable; afloat and adrift, but dry.
Ray ~~_/)~~

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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by DaveC426913 » Tue May 12, 2020 12:07 pm

NiceAft wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 10:26 am
But that was the 40s. A lot has changed.
NiceAft wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 10:26 am
If the presumption is that all of the modern equipment is gone, you are now back well past the forties.
Skipper's eyes still work.

I'm asking if a vessel can be lost enough that it's plausible it won't encounter another vessel or civilization over a several thousand mile trip in this area.
Skipper can't radio or signal anyone, but if he spots a sailboat, ship or light, we would do well to make his way to them as best he can.

Will have managed to restore some control of helm and sail at some point (by jerry-rigging a mast). The disaster depends on him drifting for long enough that attempts to make headway eastward toward the mainland are rendered unfeasible. So, once he has some helm back, he might as well head west, with the wind and current.

NiceAft wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 10:26 am
Also, the belief an :macm: , :macx: , :mac19: . :tat: , etc, are not sinkable is not true. If one's definition of unsinkable is not going to the bottom, then yes, but a Mac will go down to the water line of whichever body of water it is in.
Yup. Costing most of his equipment. But even if down to the gunwales, he can bail his way back to a sound vessel - it'll just take a long time.

(I did this once in a plastic rowboat. It filled entirely with water right to the brim. Luckily it was still buoyant. So I bailed and bailed and bailed myself back to a dry boat.)
NiceAft wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 10:26 am
They are better off in an emergency life raft. I assume the fictitious characters in your tale will have that.
The premise is that the journey was never supposed to be in open water at all. Perhaps a repositioning trip between marinas. That's why it's not fully outfitted for seagoing.

If the vessel is too seaworthy after the storm, the story ends pretty quickly. He could just head east, back to the continent, because that would be by far his best plan if he could.
NiceAft wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 10:26 am
I think a submerged Mac should not be in the story. Take artistic license and give these people a break; after the catastrophe, the boat was still habitable; afloat and adrift, but dry.
Would be pretty hard for a storm to divest it of electricity, electronics (including battery-powered), flares, charts, etc. And if he had any of those things, he wouldn't be on his own for long.
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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by BOAT » Wed May 13, 2020 2:18 pm

Yeah, going EAST is harder to do than going west.

Lots of people sail from California to Hawaii with no problem pretty fast. The problem is getting BACK.

We have a saying here in the Pacific: When In Doubt, Go West, because Everything Goes West.
Out here in the Pacific everything near the equator goes WEST. The current goes west, the wind goes west - EVERYTHING goes west.
What you want to look at is a map of the Pacific Trade Winds. Then look at a map of the South Equatorial Current: it travels WEST.
Even the North Equatorial Current up here where I am travels west. - EVERYTHING goes WEST.

If you go west you will reach land soon because the Pitcairn Islands stretch across the entire Pacific with many chances to land even if you miss several of them and the water and the weather is warm and pleasant for the most part. You only need to endure storms and collect water. Storms are guaranteed so that means fresh water is also guaranteed if you can just collect it. You should survive exposure.

The issue you describe is a loss of helm - that is the most common cited cause of shipwreck for small craft in actuarial tables. The most common cause cited for death is drowning. If all you have is a loss of helm your odds are good that you will not drown.

The Samoans and others have been traversing that part of the Pacific for a thousand years in open boats without too much death because most of the time they explored to the EAST knowing that going back home was easy if they were going WEST to get home. They had a saying that knowing where you are going is knowing where you have been. The common method of navigating by the Samoans was to watch the direction of the swells - they knew that swells were diverted for hundreds of miles by any land mass or island so if they saw a sudden decrease in a swell they would follow that swell boundary right to an island.

If your gonna write a book I suggest you take a sail to San Nicolas Island - it's pretty far out to give you a feeling of being out in the oceans yet close enough to other islands that you will not be in any danger.

If you can stay alive you will be spotted by another ship. Here are all the AIS targets around the Pitcairns as I write this - odds are good you will be spotted within 2 weeks:

Image

I think your odds of survival are pretty good.

It's not the Pacific that scares me - it's the ATLANTIC. I don't sail the Atlantic - I'm too scared of the Atlantic.

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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by DaveC426913 » Wed May 13, 2020 3:51 pm

BOAT wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 2:18 pm
If you can stay alive you will be spotted by another ship. Here are all the AIS targets around the Pitcairns as I write this - odds are good you will be spotted within 2 weeks:

I think your odds of survival are pretty good.
Two weeks at sea is not much of a story. I am imagining months. (jerry-rigged sail means slow passage).

I think, in this day and age, this corridor is too well-travelled for a ship to plausibly be lost for a month or three.

There is also the question of how likely the vessel is to encounter land. I suspect you could not swing a bosun's chair without hitting an uninhabited atoll or three. Would a survivor have a better chance of survival waiting on the shore, as opposed to at-sea?
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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by mac n cheese » Wed May 13, 2020 5:07 pm

Interesting read here. Lost at sea for 14 months. :o

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/ ... ok-extract

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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by BOAT » Thu May 14, 2020 7:26 am

DaveC426913 wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 3:51 pm
BOAT wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 2:18 pm
If you can stay alive you will be spotted by another ship. Here are all the AIS targets around the Pitcairns as I write this - odds are good you will be spotted within 2 weeks:

I think your odds of survival are pretty good.
Two weeks at sea is not much of a story. I am imagining months. (jerry-rigged sail means slow passage).

I think, in this day and age, this corridor is too well-travelled for a ship to plausibly be lost for a month or three.

There is also the question of how likely the vessel is to encounter land. I suspect you could not swing a bosun's chair without hitting an uninhabited atoll or three. Would a survivor have a better chance of survival waiting on the shore, as opposed to at-sea?
Well, I would not give up the project - I think your on the right track. The odds are that you will hit land or another boat but if you are really unlucky and drift too far south you could miss most the other boats but then you would also get too cold and probably freeze. Freezing to death would not make a good story. Probably better to keep the story in the south equatorial current because if for some reason you did enter the gyre and encounter an easterly wind that would blow you into the Peru Current and you would make land in Chile long before you starved to death.

No, to make it interesting your going to need to drift for two months in the South Equatorial Current and let the trade winds blow you into some tiny atoll in Tuamotu - (that's the place Lalotai where Tomatoa is in realm of monsters from Moana fame) :
Image
After finding nothing there but birds and eating raw fish you catch offshore and sleeping on the rocks for three months you will decide to get back on your boat and try to find people to save you. Running into another uninhabited island (but with no monster) will make you really mad. So now you know how to survive indefinitely out at sea in a boat - eating raw fish, collecting rainwater, and navigating atolls. After a year of this you finally land on a island and discover a native fisherman who was shipwrecked on an island for three weeks and is close to death. You help the fisherman by feeding him raw fish you catch and collecting water and making him a shelter. After he is better he guides you and he in your boat to his village on a nearby atoll and they take you in and are so grateful they give you a boat but you refuse the gift and ask for transport to a real city on another island.

Later, at home you decide to become a fisherman and buy a big boat and live on the sea.

Alternate ending:

You finally make it home and get Corona the Virus and die.

:evil:

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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by K9Kampers » Thu May 14, 2020 9:17 am

Remember, this is to be a work of FICTION. It doesn't need to reconcile all the possible technical / logistical possibilities. Feel free to create a story that is interesting and thought provoking, not just true-to-life accurate!

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Re: Fiction: Lost in the Pacific

Post by BOAT » Thu May 14, 2020 9:59 am

How about a story about a guy who owns a MAC 26 M boat?

Here, I'll help you get started:

His wife and kids leave him, he loses his job, and has a sort of mental breakdown. After his wife sues him in court and takes everything except his boat and an old pickup truck he decides to kill himself.

He figures the way to do it is go out in the boat way out to sea and shoot himself - so he loads up his boat with his favorite alcohol and snacks and his trusty handgun and heads out to sea from San Diego.

So as he sails out he enters the straight between Coronado Island and Pilo'n de Azu'car (a treacherous run indeed!) and he sails straight in under 30 knot winds with abandon being completly irresponsible (no one shoots that rocky straight and never in high winds it is sure suicide) but when he gets inside the rocks he is suddenly approached by a power boat with three men on board with rifles. They immediately start shooting at him! He dives off the helm bullets going through the boat and he is so alarmed he has forgotten where he is until BAM! Crash! He hits the rocks and he can hear men yelling in spanish and he surmised he ran into some drug runners from Mexico. Still in shock he grabs his hand gun and rushes out of the cabin shooting at the voices in rabid fire in a panic just hoping he can scare them off! Bam BAM BAM bam bam bam BAM BAM CLICK CLICK CLICK he completely empties the clip on his little AMT 380 backup automatic pistol CLICK CLICK he finally stops pulling the trigger to realized he is out of bullets and slumps down behind the gunnels in the cockpit hoping he can dodge the return fire he knows is coming from the drug gangsters.

But there is silence -

All he can hear is the banging of the boat on the rocks - the wind has him pinned against some rocks and the boat is going bang, bang against the rocks with a horrible crunching sound. He peeks over the walls of the cockpit to view a grisly scene. All three men are laying in the bottom of the boat covered in blood. On man moaning quietly - the other two motionless. The boat full of bodies drifts ever closer to within three feet. Our guy stares in disbelief - he realizes he need to do something - thoughts of the Mexican Federal Police taking him to jail and being locked up forever cross his mind. Where does he go? Who does he tell?

Right then he notices the power boat with bodies in it is sinking - there is already three feet of water in it and filling fast - what should he do?? He does not want to touch the bodies, he knows the power boat is doomed, he suddenly realizes his boat is in danger - he remembers: "I'm on the rocks!"

The boom is banging to the side, the jib is flapping in the wind - he drops all the halyards and starts the engine. As he backs off the rocks he can hear a crunching sound from the bow but is too shaken to do anything but drive - he turns the boat towards San Diego Bay and starts to motor back - then it occurs to him why he was out there in the first place - he thinks about his scotch in the cabin - he wants a drink, he was trying to die, and now everything is all screwed up. He completely forgot in all the excitement why he was out there. He lets go of the wheel to go below and the boat suddenly takes a hard turn to port - Hey! He pulls it back on course but the wheel winds back to port whenever he lets go. He stops the motor and goes to the boaw, looks over the edge and can see a huge hole in the port side in the section of the ballast tank. The only reason the boat is still floating is because he holes the ballast, and not the boat. Well, he thinks - I can't sail anymore but at least I can motor back.

Then he notices the three bullet holes in the plastic gas tank in the cockpit - -


I'm sure you can take it from here as he drifts without power to the west. 8)

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