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Old 12-07-2015, 14:14   #1
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Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

Passing on something I saw on FB so lessons learned can be shared. When was the last time you shook your fire extinguishers?
John Supertramp Kanafoski's post to the group: San Blas Cruisers.

As im sure you all know by now my boat and everything i owned was on there. i All my tools, clothes, identifications, green cards everything was lost. I left Apalachicola on Wednesday afternoon heading to tampa to pick up my son from the airport on sunday for 6 weeks of sailing fishing and diving. Caught an amazing sunset leaving the cut in Apalachicola on Wednesday. Sailes and fished all night and all day Thursday. Filled the freezer with 1 amazing bull mahi. Friday morning, yesterday the wind had died around 10 am. I motored around and was bottom fishing ans swimming around the middle grounds. 80 miles offshore. Around 2 my outboard stalled and would not crank. I replaced the fuel filter and both spark plugs. Good spark and no fuel. The primer ball was mushy.. i had an inboard motor still inside with the fuel pump for that engine on the fuel tank plumbed to the outboard. I flipped on the electric fuel pump and was able to get the engine running.
I traveled due east trolling to the edges of the 120 ft mark. The motor died again. I reached for the fuel pump switch and flipped it and the bilge blower fan switch together. Boom. The back port hatch blew open with a massive fireball. The fire blew the dog off the boat and me out of the cockpit down into the companionway. I was dazed i could amell burnt hair. I jumped up and as the ringing in my ears subsided the roar of the fire became clear. I also heard a splashing. Dogs in the water. I immediately reached into the burning hatch to grab the fire extinguisher mounted next to the fuel tank. h burned arm. I discharged the first fire extinguisher and thought the fire was out. I grabbed the main sheet line and jumped overboard after the dog. The sails were up and the boat was slowly moving. The sheet was my lifeline. I grabbed the dog and swam back/pulled myself back on board. I got onboard and saw a small flame ao i popped extinguisher 2. I immediately started opening hatches and removing companionway atairs for access to the bilges and engine room. While i was looking around i found another small flame under the access hatch to the stuffing box. I grabbed fire extinguisher 3. When i hit the lever all i heard was a swoosh but no familiar yellow powder. The can was caked. The wind gust from the tank blew the small trash fire thru the entire fan tail sending little embers everywhere. I started the wash down pump and grabbed the remaining 2 extinguishers out of the v berth. By the time i got to them and dug them out from under the pile of tools and clothes and returned to the back of the boat it was too late. The flames were coming from the lose fiber stands of fiberglass resins that are laminated the floor to the hull. I pointed a full stream of sea water at 65 psi and discharged 2 more extinguishers. 5 in total. There was snoke but i saw no fire. I called the coast guard imformed them of my situation. I told them about the fire and how it was now out. 10 15 20 minutes passed and i had cleaned all the yellow powder out of the cockpit and started to try to find the sorce of the first explosion. Still amoke no fire. I went into the vberth to grab my multimeter and some tools. As i was digging in the tool bag whsn i heard a lite roar coming from the rear of the boat. I ran to the back to find the entire port hatch in flames. The same hatcn that was holding a 13 gallon plastic fuel tank half full. I pointed the water hose at the fuel tank, rurned OFF the bilge and called the coast guard back. But i was getting no response back. Within 30 seconds of calling i realized i had to abandon ship. I put out a mayday gave my position. Drift bearings, boat info, and name. No response just static. I started looking for the bailout bag. And started grabbing anything i thought i might need. And threw it between the book bag i had and the ditch bag. I called mayday again no response. Cabin was full of black smoke and the dog was missing. I threw the ditch bag over board. I then tied a life jacket to the bookbag and threw it overboard as well. I couldnt find the dog and there was only about a ft od clear air near the floor. I knew if i didnt find her quick that the smoke would get her. I tossed the entire vberth into the cabin floor so now i was tossing everything back on the v berth. I found her and she was ok. Terrified but ok. I opened the forward hatch to go out of the front of the boat. As soon as the hatch opened the black amoke rushed out and the flames followed the smoke right onto the right side of my arms and face as i was goign out the hatch. The dog had her wiskers and eye brows burned. My right arm and a little of my face were flame kissed. My beard and hairy arms were scorced but just the hair. I grabbed the dog and jumped into thw water. Swam to the back of the boat to untie the dingy. Then had to climb back on the boat to get into the dingy. Walker bays are piece of ****. You cant get into that boat from the water without sinking it. Me and dog are nownin dkngy i started collecting the stuff i thre overboard. Bags water towel hat. Bookbag. Etc. I couldnt find the ditch bag. It sank. I had no radio no gps no flares and no way of knowing if anyone even heard the abandoning ship mayday i never heard a respose. The boat burned fast and the sharks were there within minutes. They weren't lying when they said sharks come to fuel oil and burned boats. They were small but there were 3. Thank god the Coast guard jet flew over within an hour and within another hour i was in a basket getting snatched out on the water. i didnt know if anyone heard my call. I made peace with my maker during the search thru the smoke for the dog. I though i was going to suffocate looking for her. I was thinking of my kid. Also when i was drifting. I realized my call may have not been heard. I was 70 miles offshore and vhf only runs about 30. I said a prayer and thought about the best times i had with my son. I mentally prepared myself to die not once but twice yesterday. I was adrift in a dinghy. I could barely breatha and had no water or shade or even a paddle.
Dire situation 1. Dog in water or flames. If i would have stayed onboard and sacraficed the dog the outcome would have been different. No regrets tho
#2 i opened all the hatches looking for fire and left them open. Unfortunately that is what lost the boat fresh air was being fed to the flames.
#3 ditch bag. I had vhf gps and flares first aid in the ditch bag. It was not a floating bag.
4# no automatic fire extinguisher in the fuel compartment.
Anyway. Im done. I would rather not talk about it for now as all i have been doing is crying when i think back on it and that bullshit isnt getting me anywhere. Save your questions for next week. Im at a thrift store trying to find shoes. Im walking out of st pete up 19 north. If you know anyone heading north tell them to stop and grab the guy carrying the dog and lifejacket. Im sure im the only one. i was able to receive a small wire transfer last night so i ate fed the dog and split a room with a street walker. Now im waiting on the thrift store to open and in trying to figure out how to get to rome georgia. Or anyplace safe to rest my burned feet.
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Old 12-07-2015, 14:16   #2
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

Here's a couple of the pictures... I couldn't imagine how heartbreaking it would be to take pictures of your home while it burned.
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Old 12-07-2015, 14:36   #3
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

Ditch bag. Only half fill the emergency water bottle. This gives it some flotation. Also i have a spare lifejacket tied to it.

See ditch bag stuff in this video.

Be good to see how others keep theirs floating.

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Old 12-07-2015, 15:53   #4
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

That is a very good post to share. Thanks for posting it here.

It was well written.

Very unfortunate for the sailor to lose his boat. Always sad to hear that.

Very fortunate for the sailor the USCG could hear his call and he was picked up quickly.

Note: No EPIRB use mentioned.

The photos are interesting too. I suppose he took those from the dinghy?
He had an interesting comment on his dinghy.

Admirable that he saved his dog.

My observations:

1. Fire can happen unexpectedly (without an open flame starting it) and spread quickly.

2. Fire can "restart" after it seems you have put it out, especially if oxygen is added to the compartment by ventilation (to get the "smoke out").

3. Resin boats burn very quickly. Smoke can fill the boat in a very short time.

4. Better to have more (and even more) extinguishers, with several outside of the immediate area of the engine. He used up five (and a wash down pump with water) and still the fire consumed the boat.

5. Front escape hatch may be needed if trapped in the cabin by fire under the companionway (typical location for engine). If a dinghy was strapped down on top of the forward hatch and prevented it from being opened from below, you might be toast.

6. Ditch bags must be made to float (attach some cheap foam PFDs, because they can also be used by a human if a crew member abandons ship without one) AND be attached to the liferaft or dinghy (if that is used instead of a raft). Otherwise it may become another lump on the bottom of the sea.
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Old 12-07-2015, 19:40   #5
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

Glad he came through this with his life. A singlehander that far offshore in a burning boat probably has a small chance of survival. And thankfully the Coast Guard has some pretty tall antennas ashore to pick up what are probably very weak signals.

To me personally it speaks of the real danger of gasoline stored aboard. We carry gas for the dinghy outboard and the honda 1000 generator in two steel 3 gallon outboard tanks, lashed on deck. No plastic jerry cans where gasoline is concerned.
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Old 12-07-2015, 19:47   #6
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

Holy crap. Glad you are okay.
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Old 12-07-2015, 20:10   #7

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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

The first link was apparently taken down. The third link cannot be accessed unless you are registered with facebook. The second link tells some important points:


" Around 2 my outboard stalled and would not crank. I replaced the fuel filter and both spark plugs. Good spark and no fuel..... i had an inboard motor still inside with the fuel pump for that engine on the fuel tank plumbed to the outboard. I flipped on the electric fuel pump and was able to get the engine running...The motor died again. I reached for the fuel pump switch and flipped it and the bilge blower fan switch together. Boom. "


Apparently an inboard gasoline engine and pump were rigged to feed an auxiliary OUTBOARD engine as well. Given that the inboard was apparently inoperable and the outboard was not reliable...one might suspect a plumbing problem causing gasoline fumes or a leak. And not turning on the blower before the fuel pump would have compounded a fuel vapor problem.


I feel for the man. But it is gasoline. It is supposed to burn and explode. Jerry-rigging it near electricity...uh-uh. They put burn victims in medically induced comas, because even morphine won't stop the pain. Visit a burn ward, just once, and your respect for gasoline and fires is guaranteed to change.
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Old 12-07-2015, 22:34   #8
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

What I truly appreciate about this post is his honest assessment of what went wrong. It's going to save someone else's life, somewhere, without anyone ever knowing it.

Kudos to you sir.
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Old 12-07-2015, 23:01   #9
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

Quote:
Originally Posted by mstrebe View Post
What I truly appreciate about this post is his honest assessment of what went wrong. It's going to save someone else's life, somewhere, without anyone ever knowing it.

Kudos to you sir.
No boat is invincible.

Wishing you well for your recovery.
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Old 13-07-2015, 05:51   #10
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

http://www.gofundme.com/WhoIsJohnKanafoski
This is his go fund me page some other cruisers set up for him.

Sent from my SM-N910V using Cruisers Sailing Forum mobile app
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Old 13-07-2015, 09:33   #11
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

As a relative newbie to cruising, I am profoundly grateful for the learning that is available in the study of this post, and for the diesel engine in our ship. Here's what happened: Several months ago, I was running our Perkins in a Cal 46, drawing fuel from the port tank and returning to the stbd tank; unbeknownst to me, the latter filled to the brim. That night, while hove to — still air, modest 3-4', two second seas (we were pausing in the Sea of Cortez to awaken and view the lunar eclipse) — I awoke to a smell and the sight of fuel gaslorshing out the fuel tank vent hose into the engine room. I had removed that vent hose while painting the engine room, and erred in the reinstallation of same. /// Perhaps 4-6 litres (?) of fuel entered our ship; soapy water quick washdown and more into the bilge resolved the immediate problem as my children slept; I corrected my error with the vent hose. /// Sobering indeed. I feel inspired by Mr. Kanafoski's courage and transparency, and hope someone else may be helped by my taletelling too. Thank you sir. /// As a former fireman, I also affirm the imperative for starving-of-air any fire that has been knocked down with water and/or chemical extinguishers. Think wet Blankets on smoldering messes; and keep 'em wet! /// Mr K: At some point in the desperation, did you cry out "God help me!". I think that God did; take hope in this. One day, I think, you will look back on this terrifying and devastating loss: with a grateful heart and a smile, you will know the reason why. Allowing that gratitude to become manifest, allowing that goodness to happen is part of the reason and learning, right? Kurt Grimm R/V TrinitySeas
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Old 13-07-2015, 09:46   #12
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

Quote:
Originally Posted by scuba0_1 View Post
Who's John Kanafoski?! by Michael Brown - GoFundMe
This is his go fund me page some other cruisers set up for him.

Sent from my SM-N910V using Cruisers Sailing Forum mobile app
I made a small donation. Very easy through this site. No doubt he can really use the help.
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Old 13-07-2015, 09:51   #13
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

I've picked up USCG/ NOAA on vhf out around 50 nm. I guess that they are using repeaters aboard their transiting vessels or maybe fixed structures offshore.. Just a guess. Pappy
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Old 13-07-2015, 10:47   #14
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

Met John in Appalachicola a couple months ago. Nice guy with many sea stories to tell. And this isn't his first run of bad luck with a boat. He's a survivor of the lifestyle for sure.

He got a good deal on, I believe, an Alberg 30 with lots of new kit recently installed. Then sold his Vanagon to purchase more including solar.

Sat on the dock most of an entire night swapping lies and smoking his cigarettes (I was out). As we parted he said he had a steak in his cooler that "needs eaten" and handed it to me while pointing at my grill.

Motoring out the next day passing his slip I said, "See you down the road somewhere."

John responded, " Yep, no doubt about it. Take care."

I said, "You too."
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Old 13-07-2015, 10:58   #15
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Re: Terrible story shared on FB of boat fire

Quote:
Originally Posted by PappysSailing View Post
I've picked up USCG/ NOAA on vhf out around 50 nm. I guess that they are using repeaters aboard their transiting vessels or maybe fixed structures offshore.. Just a guess. Pappy
I think they rely on a high antenna and significant wattage. If they have a vessel receiving it, its gets relayed probably by not by VHF.
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