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Old 08-06-2008, 12:00   #1
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Catamarans Aren't the Only Boats to Turn Turtle

Early Sunday morning the USCG rescued 5 of 6 racing sailors from the Texas A&M Offshore Sailing Team on a 38' sailboat participating in the VeraCruz race. CNN Sunday Morning had a special on it, which we watched from our motel room in NY.

Apparently, the boat lost it's keel sometime on Saturday and capsized, then filled quickly. The five persons rescued had 4 lifejackets amongst them, and shared periodically until rescued. USCG is still searching for the sixth crewmember. Let's hope he's found soon.

Apparently, everything happened so fast there was no time to grab rescue gear; the boat was very well equipped, according to the interview with a CG captain on CNN. Reportedly, there were very experienced sailors aboard.

Moral: CHECK YOUR KEEL BOATS IF YOU HAVE AN EXTERNALLY BALLASTED SAILBOAT. And, consider alternatives if your boat should suddenly turn turtle and you find yourself in the water.

Bill

The CNN news story is here: 5 of 6 missing sailors rescued from Gulf - CNN.com
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Old 08-06-2008, 12:45   #2
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This is typically a racing boat issue (keels falling off).

I remember when it happened to Simon Lebon (or one of those Duran Duran guys) as he was leaving England for a transatlantic. Same thing... the boat turtled and they waited on the overturned hull for rescue.

Scary thing!




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Early Sunday morning the USCG rescued 5 of 6 racing sailors from the Texas A&M Offshore Sailing Team on a 38' sailboat participating in the VeraCruz race. CNN Sunday Morning had a special on it, which we watched from our motel room in NY.

Apparently, the boat lost it's keel sometime on Saturday and capsized, then filled quickly. The five persons rescued had 4 lifejackets amongst them, and shared periodically until rescued. USCG is still searching for the sixth crewmember. Let's hope he's found soon.

Apparently, everything happened so fast there was no time to grab rescue gear; the boat was very well equipped, according to the interview with a CG captain on CNN. Reportedly, there were very experienced sailors aboard.

Moral: CHECK YOUR KEEL BOATS IF YOU HAVE AN EXTERNALLY BALLASTED SAILBOAT. And, consider alternatives if your boat should suddenly turn turtle and you find yourself in the water.

Bill

The CNN news story is here: 5 of 6 missing sailors rescued from Gulf - CNN.com
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Old 08-06-2008, 16:53   #3
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Moral: CHECK YOUR KEEL BOATS IF YOU HAVE AN EXTERNALLY BALLASTED SAILBOAT.

And how do you recommend we do that, since they are encapsulated in fiberglass and the only part accessible is the last few inches and nut?
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Old 08-06-2008, 17:04   #4
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There are two general ways in which sailboat keels are ballasted. Note that I was referring to the traditional and very common one of these, "external ballast", in which lead or iron is bolted to the bottom of the keel structure.

Other boats, like my own, have "encapsulated ballast" where lead or iron chunks are installed completely inside the keel....obviously, that's what you are referring to.

There are several posts on how to check externally-ballasted keels and your keel bolts. It's not always easy to do.

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Old 08-06-2008, 20:13   #5
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Very sad news: the sixth sailor was found dead on Sunday. Story is here: Last missing Texas A&M sailor found dead - CNN.com

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Old 08-06-2008, 20:43   #6
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Checking the keel bolts really isnt that hard. best to do it when doing a haul-out as the keel is then setting on the ground. Its the ONE thing that I will pay an experanced person to do..
Last time they did it, They took a 3 foot long tork-wrinch and cranked them down.
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Old 09-06-2008, 02:56   #7
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Checking Keel Bolts

I am not so sure it is always an easy thing to do - I reckon the only true test is to pull a few of them out, eyeball them and then send them off for some NDT. Not for the faint hearted.

For some designs (like mine) they can't be drawn out from the top so that means dropping the whole keel off the bottom of the boat. It was something I was not prepared to do (or have done by someone else) so I had them X-Rayed in situ as part of the pre-purchase inspection. Certainly not a perfect test but hopefully better than none.

Who knows, I paid the money, read the X-Ray report, looked at the pretty X-ray pictures, went home and slept easy - probably with a false sense of comfort .
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Old 09-06-2008, 06:03   #8
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The vessel which lost its keel was identified as the Cynthia Woods. This is a Cape Fear 38 built in NC, which was donated to Texas A&M University.

It's a very light (11,000 lbs displacement) 38-footer, built for racing. A picture of the boat is here (click on bottom pic): Texas A & M Sailing Team

More details on the construction are here: Sailing World - Cape Fear 38

Racing sailors have a saying, "If you finish the race and nothing breaks, the boat was overbuilt". Clearly, this one wasn't.

Sad, sad, sad...

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Old 09-06-2008, 11:46   #9
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Interviews with the surviving crew indicate that the keel apparently came loose before it abruptly fell off. Water levels were rising quickly in the cabin. The second safety officer literally pushed crewmembers out of the cabin. He didn't make it.

There was talk of the auto inflatable lifevests inflating in the cabin. This is a bad thing, and extremely dangerous, for when the boat turned turtle the lifevests would have been underwater, inflated. It isn't possible, then, to swim down and out wearing one of these. And, even if they are not worn, they could conceivably block egress from the companionway or the hatches.

This tragic incident has made me rethink my sometime practice of wearing an inflatable lifevest when belowdecks, even in a monohull. Multihull sailors who, presumably, are far more prone to suffer a capsize should think carefully about the use of auto-inflating life jackets....especially, how they are stored and used.

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Old 09-06-2008, 14:41   #10
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At Bay Yacht Club, in Corpus Christi, TX, we "watched" the whole event roll out this weekend. Several of the folks there knew the boat, and knew some of the sailors.

The boat is/was a high performance "sled" - I think with a carbon fiber keel.

We also had LOTS of discussion on life jackets below, and the consensus BEFORE the incident happened, that they shouldn't be worn below, for just this reason. This certainly adds to the issue...

What's bothersome in the whole thing is that there was suspicion around midnight Friday that there was a problem. The iBoat transponder was "drifting", and no one could raise the boat. On Saturday morning, they missed their 8:30 am call in, and at that point the CG was notified that there might be a problem.

Unfortunately, somewhere during this time period, a representative from iBoat chimed in on one of the forums, and said that they had previously experienced a problem with the transponders coming loose, and that's probably what happened... Some have said that might have slowed the rescue response.

The CG sent a 41' cutter, which turned around because of heavy seas (allegedly, 6-8'). They sent a Falcon Jet, which had to turn around after injesting a bird. A second Falcon found the overturned hull. They then dispached a helicopter - by now it was late Saturday. The copter crew found the 5 floating, I think 5 miles from the boat, around 2am.

At least one of the survivors that was below deck at the time of the incident (there were 3 below deck) credited Roger Stone, the single fatality, with saving his life by forceably shoving him out of the cabin.
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Old 10-06-2008, 05:58   #11
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Lost the keel

Haven't seen any comment on the loss of the Cynthia Woods off the coast of Texas.

Looks as if the keel tore off in 15knot winds. Five of six crew survived, after some 26 hours in the water.

Inexpensive flashlight proved priceless in A&M sea rescue | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle


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Old 10-06-2008, 08:20   #12
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Here's a GREAT video of the press conference - takes a couple of minutes to get started while they mess with microphones, but WORTH THE LOOK!

News Video On Demand | KHOU.com | News for Houston, Texas
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Old 10-06-2008, 12:23   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post


This tragic incident has made me rethink my sometime practice of wearing an inflatable lifevest when belowdecks, even in a monohull. Multihull sailors who, presumably, are far more prone to suffer a capsize should think carefully about the use of auto-inflating life jackets....especially, how they are stored and used.

Bill

While the point about life jackets is a good one the statement that multihulls are more prone to capsize is not accurate. A monohull has about 1/3 the initial stability of a multihull and is thus easier to capsize. Now the monohull is supposed to self right and probably does more often than not and the multihull will stay inverted. I am not arguing that point just the inaccuracy of the initial statement.
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Old 10-06-2008, 12:44   #14
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While the point about life jackets is a good one the statement that multihulls are more prone to capsize is not accurate. A monohull has about 1/3 the initial stability of a multihull and is thus easier to capsize. Now the monohull is supposed to self right and probably does more often than not and the multihull will stay inverted. I am not arguing that point just the inaccuracy of the initial statement.
Exactly. Thanks for saving me from having to say it.
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Old 10-06-2008, 14:11   #15
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Uncle! OK, guys, I concede the point that cats are less prone to "capsize"...at least initially... than are monohulls.

But, I believe my initial point is valid because:

1. When I used the word, "capsize", I meant the usual definition thereof, i.e., "turn turtle", or "upside down". Cruising monohulls don't often wind up in this position, but both racing and cruising multihulls do. Why else would they have "escape hatches" built into the bottoms?

2. While a cat is initially less prone to capsize, they are more prone to being pitchpoled (end-over-end) than are monohulls; however, in extreme conditions, this can happen to any boat, including large vessels;

3. The racing definition of "capsize" includes "mast touching the water" as well as upside down. A monohull is certainly more prone to knockdowns than is a multihull, but a well designed monohull will recover quickly provided water entry below is restricted.

The remarks re: inflatable lifejackets envisioned a boat upside down in the water, with the jacket suddenly inflating, thus making it very difficult or impossible for someone to swim down and out of the boat wearing such a jacket. I still maintain that this scenario is much more likely in a multihull than a monohull.

This view and this post is NOT in any way meant to denegrate the capabilities of multihulls, or to say that one design is better than another. Rather, it's just to make the point that multihulls wind up in an inverted position .... and stay there .... much more often than do monohulls. The Cape Fear 38 which lost its keel is a big and tragic exception.

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