Friday, July 10, 2009

A Ship in the Night

Position: 07/10/09 0456Z 29 53.5N 118 35.1W

Photo of Guadelupe Island taken in 2001 from our family boat 'Amazing Grace;

Last night as I was sending off my blog my AIS alarm went off showing that I had a ship 30 miles off. It's track looked like it would pass a few miles off. I finished sending off my blog just as the 16 mile alarm went off. The track still showed that it would pass well clear so I set the alarm for 4 miles and went to get some sleep thinking that it would pass clear of Intrepid.

A few minutes later, the alarm went off again. The ship must have altered course after passing Guadalupe Island and now was headed directly at me. I hit tha data button on the AIS and saw that the ship's name was Maersk Kure and it was going 19 knots which is really fast for a container ship.

I hailed them a couple times on the VHF but got no answer so I tacked over. With the light wind, I was only making 3 knots. They didn't have their nav lights on - only two white lights at the bow and stearn. It was impossible to see their exact angle.

I tried to hail them a couple more times and then the San Diego Coast Guard heard me and they tried to hail the ship. Still no response. By now the ship was less than a mile away. I grabbed my flare gun out of the chart desk and watched the blip on the radar screen hit the half mile mark.

The Coast Guard was still hailing the ship but with no response. I told the Coast Guard that if they came within a 1/4 mile I would start shooting off flares and went back in the cockpit to stare at the lights trying to make out the silhouette of the ship.

The ship crossed the 1/4 mile mark I put a flare in the gun. Just then I saw the silhouette of the ship so I altered course a bit more and the ship passed less than 1/4 mile off. It is pretty crazy to have a ship with no one on lookout. It only took about 15 minutes for the ship to pass me after the 4 mile alarm.

To their credit the San Diego Coast Guard were totally organized and helpful. They had notified their cutter that was in the area what my position was and I am certain that had anything happened they would have been right on it.

After the ship, the wind stayed light all through the night and into the morning but now I've got a nice 13 knots that is predicted to stay steady so I am officially on the homeward tack!


Guadelupe Island - can you see Amazing Grace in the bottom left corner?


Blogger John Gezelius said...

I would have shot the flare!

July 10, 2009 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger Bill Mann said...

Is this the same USCG organization that was so roundly critized for giving you a ticket for not having a fog horn? Of course, if everyone on the Flying Dutchman (well in this case, the Flying Danishman as Maresk is a Danish company) were asleep they would not have heard your fog horn anyway.

It sounds like you are trying to get your hair to turn white before I can get to it. It also sounds like you want it to grow another 3 inches with these hair-raising exploits.

Actually it sounds like you are trying to get everyones hair to turn white before you hit MDR.

Get some sleep and watch out for those Danes. Maresk is the largest shipping company in the world so they have a lot of boats out there.

The new letter has been sent. Anyone wanting a copy, let me know.

Bill Mann

July 10, 2009 at 11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is way, way too close for comfort -- hope you get a few days' break from that type of adventure so you can reach home with some sleep under your belt. Good to see the CG is getting back in your good graces!

@Bill Mann -- With current hairstyles, I wouldn't be surprised if Zac trims it down to a half-inch in a year or two. Meanwhile, those Coast Guard people probably keep their hair short -- they might welcome the shears.

I will try to be one in the crowd Thursday morning before scramming off to work.

Cheers back,

Jack Mulkey
in the South Bay

July 11, 2009 at 12:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh for goodness sake!
That's why we near yet so far....and STAY SAFE.
Who knows what or who is out there.
Gosh, that was definitely too close for comfort.
WELL DONE did a great job and comforting to know that SDCG were aware.
Like Bill says...enough to turn our grey hair!
Thanks for the pictures too. I did find Amazing Grace but took some looking!
Hope those steady 13 knots stay with you.
How wonderful to hear you say....
so I'm officially on the homeward tack.....yeeha!

UK friend

July 11, 2009 at 12:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Zac,

Congratulations on averting disaster once again!

To Zac, the Sunderland family, Jen, and all Zac Packers:

This is an amazing journey shared! I thank the Lord for all His great works -- through all of you, through technology used rightly that assists human connections and enhances safe travels. Thank you, Zac, for allowing Him to work through you in such a public way. Perhaps more publicly than you imagined, you and your family having displayed great faith, have become true ambassadors.

Now you are homeward bound! Woohoo!

Woodland Hills, CA

July 11, 2009 at 12:19 AM  
Anonymous Rory Gogan Singapore said...

I have to say that after all this time it seems kind of weird that U made your last tack and headed into port. Of course it's great too though.

July 11, 2009 at 12:38 AM  
Blogger GYM ™ said...

Zac love the story man! Speaking of Maresk, I was just photographing one of there ships at the LB Port.
Now thinking... That vs Intrepid? hmm... Think they would still be sleeping.

Praise God you made is with some great help of the SD Coast Guard!

See you on Thursday the 16th, I will have my 35mm waiting for some great shots... :)

Jim Rossier
Costa Mesa, Ca

July 11, 2009 at 12:40 AM  
Blogger said...

Zig Zag Zac,

Keep zigging (tack) and zagging (another tack) all the way home. We'll see you when we see you.

It's the hard, tough and difficult things we achieve in life that we cherish the most!

Stay warm,

July 11, 2009 at 1:42 AM  
Blogger Anita said...

Hi Zac,
You didn't think your last 400 miles going to be peaceful and calm did you???? Good on you and the USCG. What is it with these hugh container ships and no one at the watch?

Good to hear you've got some decent wind, savor these last few days; soon you'll be home where your next adventure is about to begin.

Sail on captain!
Waterloo, NY
Captain SV "Wombat"

July 11, 2009 at 2:46 AM  
Anonymous The Writer said...

Geez, there's going to be drama to the very end? LOL! What a night you had. Reading it, I was on edge. You kept us in suspense! Wow!
Keep us informed and blog when you can!
You're unique, you know! God made you very special.
Ever think about snowmobiling for your next adventure? Is dirt-biking really in your blood?
As you say, cheers!
George Cox
Wilmington, N.C.

July 11, 2009 at 4:40 AM  
Anonymous Rory Gogan Singapore said...

O.K. So it's Saturday night where I'm at and true to form I'm having a large glass of $2buck chuck (((and of course occasionally eye darting over at the phone in the likely event Jen Aniston calls))) ...So while she's dialing...I just did that Google Earth thAng and I see U are indeed close.
-And as we say in Chicago, I am "doubly proud" of what U are about to achieve! Next time I'm in L.A. we are out out for a few pints.
As always..the glass is 3/4s full.
"Loly it leally lound"...
Smile, smile smile...

July 11, 2009 at 4:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Zak:

Glad to hear that you survived such a harrowing experience. Glad to hear that you are on the homewood tack. I have enjoyed your exciting journey and will miss your blog. Take care and be safe for the remainder of your trip. Marjorie, Baltimore, MD.

July 11, 2009 at 6:15 AM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Wow close call! Let's hope that was the last one.

Hey, you just showed up on my Northern Baja temp break charts.

If you have any jigs on board, now is the time to put them out as you should be passing over some good albacore water. :)

Looking forward to seeing you pull into port!


July 11, 2009 at 7:19 AM  
Blogger Mona said...

Well it looks like this is going to be a nail biter until the very end. Thankfully you avoided another near disaster. It's amazing those large ships have no one manning the radio or on lookout. We are heading out early tomorrow morning to make our trek across the desert towards MDR.
Stay safe Zac, you're almost home!
Tucson, AZ

July 11, 2009 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger Douglas Pistone said...

Another day in paradise. This Maersk Kure traveling at 19 knots (WOW) without anyone on watch is insane. They know that they are so large and no one would want to be on the same crash course with them. I guess they just don't care and think a ship look out is a waste of time. Believe me I think otherwise. We should have some laws with stiff penalties when it comes to watching for other ships and someone near the radio. These are all necessary during the day and especially at night.

Like Bill said, are you trying to turn our hair all gray. We'll that might work for everyone else but I'm pretty much done when it comes to not wanting any more gray hair. Laurence you still have quite a way to go with the gray hair so I'm sure Zac will help you out with that one. Hopefully not too much!!!

I guess we'll have action until the very end. Sounds like Zac's current life is just like a RAMBO move. Hopefully when you hit the break water everything will be fine.

Thanks for sending the great pictures. I never saw Amazing Grace on the posted picture. I guess I must be blind.

Sail Home Zac,
Douglas Pistone
MDR, California

July 11, 2009 at 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Laura said...

Jeez Zac, that was scary...i was wondering if those ships get fix it tickets for not having the proper lights on and not responding to coast guard calls..isn't that like not stopping when a police officer is pulling you over?
So it sounds like your making good time now...figures now that the date has been changed you'll prob be back Monday haha..o well if that's so, you'll get to rest up out there b4you meet the ZACPAC. It would be cool to see if you could figure out who's who just by talking to us...we just say something that you might recognize from our posting and you try to match a name tag with the person...just a fun thought
Keep it safe
Laura Bermuda Dunes
PS Its 91 already and its only 8am..the high today is gunna be 111..wish i could send your some Zac..oh yeah but "it's a dry heat" HA!

July 11, 2009 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger Debbie of Boise said...

God be with you and Traveling Mercies Zac!
O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole
creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve
those who travel in particular Zac and also Mike sailing alone on the seas; surround
them with your loving care; protect them from every danger;
and bring them in safety to their journey's end; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. =Amen.=

July 11, 2009 at 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Susan in Atlanta said...

To Zac, all the Sunderlands, extended family and friends, Jen and of course the Zac Packers worldwide:)

Thank you for sharing this worldly adventure, your comments and photos. Like so many following Zac's story, I have silently read, prayed, rejoiced and worried for Zac and his parents. What a wonderful accomplishment for both Zac and Intrepid. She may be old but she's bringing "our son" back home. Zac you are one amazing 17 year old. You alone have opened the eyes of many around the world through your adventures on land and sea. Wishing you only the best. Thank you again for sharing this year of your life with us.

Take care,
Susan in Atlanta

July 11, 2009 at 8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take it the coast guard logs this event? Do they reprimand Maersk or is it upto you to file or lodge a complaint? What was the name of the vessel in Panama that also came so close? Another Maersk freighter perhaps :-)

Give us the name of that vessel, we'll shame the publicly. Seems completely counter to how a master runs a steamer. No one on watch, no one manning the radio.


Curious how much the fine was for the lack of a foghorn? According to the coast guard website you're supposed to just have 'a noise maker'. You should have shown them the stereo. Just crank the stereo, with some screeching garage band crap, and say there, there's my noise maker :-)

Fight the ticket. Take it to Judge Judy. Be good fun to watch Zac on Judge Judy. Better cut your hair though first hehehe :-)))

July 11, 2009 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger Mouse on a Motorcycle said...

We went out in Newport Harbor last weekend, the 5th, and were amazed that little Duffys usually don't keep watch any better than big container ships.

On the one hand, I think it's a cost-cutting measure to have fewer crewmembers onboard those big container ships, so at night there's just one guy playing his game-boy in the galley while the computer steers the ship. On the other hand, unless it's big enough to be on a chart, it's probably not going to hurt the ship, and they have enough insurance to not worry overmuch.

I've thought about using a flare as a warning when folks get too close on the freeway, but I think the CHP would frown upon that.

My wife and daughter may or may not be there, but I'm planning on seeing you on Thurs.

Still praying Numbers 6:24-26
Mouse in Whittier

Buy "Death and Coffee" here!

July 11, 2009 at 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you shot hte flare, who would have seen it? If noone was on watch it would have gone off without any notice what so ever. I think you did the right thing, Proud of you and your accomplishments!!! Stay well!!

July 11, 2009 at 8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did we contact in-n-out burgers yet? Looks like they do catering with a cookout trailer. They can cater to the crowds awaiting Zac's arrival. And of course he can have the freshest of fresh burgers the second he steps off Intrepid :-)

Naturally we'll expect in-n-out burgers to donate half if not all the proceeds to charity ;-)

"you want fries with that"

July 11, 2009 at 9:01 AM  
Anonymous Tricia in Vancouver, BC said...

Hi Zac,
Just as you're on your home stretch, I'm getting ready to go out on a little 2 1/2 week solo sail from Vancouver into Puget Sound on my Freedom 25. It's not much compared to sailing around the world, but know that you're inspiring the adventurous spirit of a middle aged woman.

Wish I could join the rest of the pac in welcoming you home. I'll raise a glass and a prayer of thanksgiving from the cockpit of my little boat.

Stay safe, keep breathing as the crowds press close on your return, and thanks so much for including us all in your voyage.

My best to you and your family,

July 11, 2009 at 9:09 AM  
Anonymous Laura said...

@ Doug..your not is real hard to see.. i think all you can see is the thin white mast on the lower left?

July 11, 2009 at 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6 months ago we had the same thing happen, without the benefit of AIS, between Cedros and Guadalupe.
Just in case you would like to see what ZAC is up against take a look at this link.
Keep your eyes and AIS, open ZAC. Our hearts are with you, watching it all unfold.

July 11, 2009 at 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, okay now, I need to go change my clothes. Oh my gosh. There sure are some, shall we say not so bright people out there at sea. What an experience.

It must feel so good to be pointed homeward. May you have good winds all the way in.

Stay safe and sail on, Zac,
Bend, OR

July 11, 2009 at 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope Zac's compiling a chapter for his book "things to do next time" or "things to take next time"

What we'll do "next time" is rig a 20 million candlepower spot light on top of the mast. With full remote rotation and tilt action.

"Next time" any mega ship messes around, we'll zap right between the eyeballs.

We'll call it the Zac Zapper !



July 11, 2009 at 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a typical ship at sea...They have range lights, shorter light elevated near the bow, higher elevated around midship.. Very often green and red running lights can not be seen till very close.. It is easy to judge ships course direction knowing the shorter light is the forward light...
Surely you know that????
Best of luck, welcome back, Lowell

July 11, 2009 at 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm, just reread the blog, he had it ready, but didn't fire it.


July 11, 2009 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger uhauhauah said...

Glad you came through another situation Zac, those are the things in life that you always remember...regardless how close. With all the joking we gave to USCG over the stop a while back they were there for you. (I'm sure every USCG ship knows about you now due to the web traffic about not knowing you on your last encounter with them. I'm sure young man you have them monitoring your every move to make sure you stay safe. Keep a good eye on him for his safety USCG, and all of you be safe and watch out for our young adventurer.) Wish I could be there to see you come home...It's been a joy following your adventure. Looking forward to your next one.

Duluth MN

July 11, 2009 at 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have found that while ships don't respond to radio hails, they have people on watch. Everytime a ship makes radio contact with a vessel it must be documented. I've found cruise ships incredibly lazy and almost never return radio hails. LAZY!!!

Zac, I think you are familiar with range lights on the ship, right? Why weren't you relying on the angle of the ships range lights to determine your exact crossing point???? Why was the silhouette so improtant. The range lights (unless out) tell the whole story, right??
Cheers and best of luck the rest of the way!

July 11, 2009 at 11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those in Southern California: Today's (6/11/2009) has several "Letters to the Editor" regarding Zac's coverage and adventure! Turn to the Op/Ed section. Good Times picture as well!
Dale in LA

July 11, 2009 at 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maersk Kure

That's one big stinking ship !

318M (1043.FT) long 84,900 tonne deadweight, 6,418 containers. Consider 10 years ago the largest container carrier carried 6200 containers back then.

Maersk Kure top speed 25 knots. Single screw if you care :-)

No wonder they can't see anything:

Saturday's Trivia Moment :-)

July 11, 2009 at 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Betty E. said...

So glad to hear you are very close to home.
The staff at the Palos Verdes Library, our mailman (Julian) and I are anxiously awaiting your arrival at MDR on Thursday.
I want to thank you for a wonderful, exciting and impressive year long ride (be it on the sidelines!)of your adventure. The highs (touch on your shoulder)and the lows...(boom loss) and all the in-betweens, right along side the Zacpac.
We've laughed with you and cried with you and mostly prayed for you (and your family).
I pray also that you will not lose hope and continue to do "Hard Things" throughout your life that will also inspire others as you have already.
Mostly, I hope you don't abandon writing about them (your adventures). Thank you, thank you, thank you...
Hope to see you at MDR.
Your most avid fan,
Betty E., Lomita, California

July 11, 2009 at 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Kathleen in Palms said...

Was that ever a hair-raising incident or what? As ever, Zac, you display incredible cool and aplomb under extreme pressure. Once again, congratulations, good thinking entirely.

And now USCG have redeemed themselves (smiling) and shown what they are truly out there for. Most of us went fairly easy on them last time, anyway, and we're proud to have them out there.

What's the matter with them Danes...grrrr....

Happy to see you are on the homeward tack. God bless.

July 11, 2009 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Douglas Pistone said...

@ Laura, I actually see the white mast. I guess I'm semi-blind.

Thanks Laura!!!

July 11, 2009 at 12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YAY !!!!

Big Arnie's coming to the party.

How cool is that !!!

"I'll be back"


July 11, 2009 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger Bill Mann said...

As most of my writing is done at O Dark Thirty in the middle of the night, sometimes my brain is still asleep while my fingers are hitting the various keys.

Now that it is mid-day and my stomach is saying "fill me, fill me" and Robert is saying "get out of my room, I am still sleeping. I will eat when I get up" my mind is free to wander.

It wandered back to the last ships that I know of where the guys on watch were not very alert.

The SS California steamed merrily on it's way while about 20 miles away the HMS Titanic was desperatly sending out distress calls and shooting flares as she slowly slid beneath the waves.

And during my lifetime, the watches on the Andria Dora and Stockholm might just as well have been asleep. If they had, maybe they would have not made such dumb mistakes.

Luckily your encounter ended a little differently.

Bill Mann

July 11, 2009 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger MindWalker said...

"I am officially on the homeward tack!"

Zac - those words are so precious to read! See you at MDR.

July 11, 2009 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Wow! After starting to read your blog a few months ago, my wife and I have adopted your mantra "Do Hard Things" What a crazy experience with the ship! I hope that the rest of the way in is smooth with no more close calls like that. Stay strong, you're almost home!
Well done Zac!

July 11, 2009 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger kenintoronto said...


If you click on the picture, the boat becomes evident in the larger picture.

July 11, 2009 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger Brenden said...

"homeward tack"
would be a cool brand name for something you do down the line. Your whole journey has been inspiring bro. I look forward to the rest of the content (book/movie) you plan on putting out.


July 11, 2009 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger STEVE B said...

Might Makes Right!

How many blasts on your airhorn signals "Oh Shoot!"?

Did you aim your flare AT the ship?

Kidding aside...glad that USCG was assisting. They do an awesome job. I just hope the next boat the Maresk encounters at 19 knots is as lucky as you were.

I wonder how many miles off shore you will be when you get your first nose full of In-n-Out Burgers?


July 11, 2009 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Bill Mann said...

There is a nice photo of Zac and three letters to the editor on the Opinion page of today's (11 July) edition of the L.A. Times.

I cannot find a link to todays letters. The letters are interesting because they are not about Zac, but technology that Zac is showing off. One is asking why Zac can make drinking water but the State of California cannot.

The young man is raising questions far and beyond the not so small feat of sailing.

If the links are not up by tomorrow, I shall reprint the letters on my website after getting a release from the Times.

Bill Mann

July 11, 2009 at 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Mimi & Desi said...

Pretty close, Zac. I think maybe ships are so big, certainly you're not running over them, so they don't really mind all that much. X marks the spot...good thing you're always on such close watch. We lost an alternator going against 12footers in a shipping lane once. It was 35 out, pushing 6 knots against us. We went about 2 miles in 6 + hours, knocked down twice, lost the jib under the bow on the last one. Once was enough. That little mess lasted 14 hours before the coast guard hailed a tug. She guided us out to safety. Several of the big ones rushed past us, & I don't think they even saw us; mouth of the Delaware. Thank God for the Coast Guard & all the guys out there who watch over you & the sea. Reality check!!!! You're on your homeward tack!!!! Oh my gosh! This is so great, Zac! We're so proud...of you, & for you!!! Have a great nite. Love the pics. Fond memories, I'm sure. we zoomed your pic for Amazing Grace...puts the size of the rock in perspective. Sweet dreams, Mimi & Desi

July 11, 2009 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger timothy said...

OMG! I was looking at the AIS website someone had posted. I found a vessel between San Diego and Ensenada named "Intrepid", but it was heading was 188 degrees (south). I shouted "Zac, you're going the wrong way, turn around! I clicked on it and it said it was 90 meters x 30 meters, much bigger than "our" Intrepid. I did some checking, found out it is registered in San Diego, and it left this morining on a 6 day fishing charter.
I couldn't find "our" Intrepid anywhere.
@ Marianne - as much as I want to I will not beable to attend the Thursday event. I do have something I have done for Zac. I would like to mail it to you on Monday. Can you email me an address that I can send it to. I tried all of the emails in the "contact us", but never received any response. I want to make sure this gets to Zac.
Thanks for allowing us to participate in this amazing journey,
Tim Burns
Palm Springs, CA

July 11, 2009 at 6:41 PM  
Anonymous Clay Duke said...

What a fantastic adventure Zac and so well documented on your blog. We, my wife, son and I, have been following you from the day you left MdR a year ago June.
Unfortunately we, the same people plus my son’s girlfriend are committed to a sail from Long Beach to Avalon on 16 July. So we will miss your return. Can you share your float plan? Perhaps we will intersect. However, it looks like you will be passing Catalina on the north side. If not, we would love to give you a big thumb's up as we pass.
Again, thanks for sharing the excitement!
We live in Ventura so maybe we will meet someday. Would love to buy you a burger and Coke at one of our fine Ventura restaurants … Or, we could meet at Jack’s. Or, you could join us on a pleasant sail to Avalon. Let us know, I am in the book.

July 11, 2009 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger T J said...

Yikes! Just yikes. Nothing else to say - except so glad it all turned out right!

July 11, 2009 at 8:34 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

Dude....Arnold Schwartzenegger...that so awesome!!! You so deserve this and more!!
The day i heard about you on the Marc & Brian show i knew you were gonna be a star!!
Can't wait till i leave work Wed evening and pull into MDR!!
I'm glad your going to get your uninterrupted entrance that you and only you earned..
Just a few more days!!

July 11, 2009 at 8:38 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Whoa Zac....drama up to the last minute! I guess there isn't time for a dull moment in your life. Isn't that called "Living on the Edge?" I'll be relieved when I know you are safely back in MDR.

Be blessed Captain Zac and embrace the time you are about to enjoy with your family and friends.

July 12, 2009 at 4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can say is WOW, Zac! I came across the article of your return and I'm not sure I was even aware that you were undertaking sucha feat. Now, I can't wait to read your blog from start to finish. Kudos young man for having the guts and determination to take on and succeed such an amazing journey.

James King
Toronto, ON

July 17, 2009 at 12:59 PM  

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