Re: Warning about "UFOs"

Peter Killen

Hi All,

Some years ago we were en route from SW Ireland to the Azores. 
Conditions were not great, with a fairly big sea running and very misty. 
We were about 600 miles from our destination and didn’t see the container, which had only one corner awash, and covered in seaweed, poking up out of the sea, until we were about 50 metres abeam of it. A nasty surprise!

We sailed approximately 80k miles in Pure Magic, and many more miles in other boats, but never had a similar incident before or since. 


Previous owner of SM Pure Magic  433

On 13 May 2021, at 20:31, Danny and Yvonne SIMMS <simms@...> wrote:

Hi Eric, that impact would have sunk a lesser boat. I have no idea if it is sensible but I run my forward looking sonar at sea, not expecting to see a whale ahead but that the sonar may warn a whale of my approach. Foolish? Don' know but I've never hit a whale 


SM 299 Ocean Pearl

On 14 May 2021 at 03:54 eric freedman <kimberlite@...> wrote:

While Sailing West of Africa towards the Caribbean we were surfing down the waves in the Trade Winds using our gennaker one day we averaged 10 knots.

At first, I did not see it, But I hit a whale in the middle of its body. It stopped us dead and I heard it hit the boat twice. I assume it first hit the bow and then the keel,

The stop was so sudden that one crewmember flew from the saloon to the forward berth without injury.

I started the engine to warn any other whales. We were checking the bilges but based upon the configuration that would be of little help.


As the whale went by it was much bigger than Kimberlite. I looked it in the eye, and it seemed to give me a dirty look, I also think he flipped me the flipper.

The seas were large so I could not dive at that time. 2 days later I dove on the boat and everything was where it was supposed to be and now after 15 years everything is still AOK.

Fair Winds


Kimberlite Amel Super Maramu #376



From: On Behalf Of Bill Kinney
Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2021 1:59 PM
Subject: Re: [AmelYachtOwners] Warning about "UFOs"


Just a word of reassurance.  This topic is one that comes up all the time, and is passed around the sailing world and it seems to grow larger and more panicked with each telling. It's is a great boogy-man story because it has the evil, greedy shipping companies as the villains and the poor smallboat sailor as the helpless victim.

All I can do is give my personnel take on the topic as someone who has been intimately connected with the sailing world for several decades. Ignoring press stories, and scuttlebutt that starts with "I heard about a guy...", and staying with things I know first hand.  Your experience might be different, so, here goes: I HAVE seen many things floating on the ocean that I would NOT want to hit, most of them large trees, or pieces of lumber. But...

  • In 10's of thousands of ocean miles sailing I have NEVER seen a container in the ocean.  
  • NEVER have I seen one wash up on a beach. If there were a significant number of them floating in the ocean surely this would happen?
  • NEVER have I talked to anyone who has actually, first hand, seen a container floating in the ocean or washed up on a beach.
  • NEVER have I heard from someone who actually can confirm they hit a floating container.  
  • I know of just one boat that hit an unidentified floating object, at night in the middle of the ocean but what it hit was just that, unidentified.  
  • Never have I hit a container at sea.

On the other hand, I know personally of two boats that sunk after hitting whales, and two others that were disabled after whale strikes. I have been on a boat that hit a whale, thankfully without consequences.  By my reckoning, whales are at least 50 times more dangerous to small boats than shipping containers, and the risk of boats hitting reefs are at least 50 times higher again.

It is human nature to feel that risks we have no control over are much higher than those things were we think we can control. This is why many people have a fear of flying, but not of driving a car, even though the risk presented in an automobile is many times higher. We, quite rightly, feel that there is very little or nothing we can do ourselves to mitigate the risk of a collision with a container at sea.  This lack of control of the risk causes us to greatly inflate the relative risk of the event.

I am not saying that hitting a container is impossible, but the risks are WAY WAY down on the list of things we deal with at sea.  The risk does not deserve the number of words written about it over the years. (Even though I just added to them!)




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