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Old 28-05-2009, 14:40   #1
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Challenge: Float this Boat!

Here's a challenge for all you salvage engineers out there.

First a photo, then the story...



The boat is a C&C 27, based in Dominica. It's a long story (which I'll get to in my next post), but the crux of the matter is that they fetched up on a reef off the north shore of Nevis last Sunday evening about 7 pm. The boat's been there ever since. I'm told that there's a bit of a crack along the keel, and there's about a foot and a half of water inside.

She's grounded on hard coral, not sand, in water about 2 to 3-1/2 feet deep, depending on tide. The wind and waves have been very moderate since the grounding, about what you can see in the photos. I'm not sure which model it is, but here are the specs: C&C 27 General Specifications.

A friend of mine is trying to organize an effort to get the boat off the reef, but we are unsure of the best way to go about it. He's got a gas-powered high-volume pump for when it's afloat again, but the rest is up in the air.

Any ideas?
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Old 28-05-2009, 14:41   #2
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The rest of the story...

As I said, the boat is from Dominica. This is what I learned today.

Three guys sailed her up to St. Martin last week with a load of fruits and vegetables to sell. They bought electronics and other hard goods to take back to Dominica. They departed St. Martin to sail back to Dominica, but lost their engine. Winds were light, and they said that they "sailed in circles between Saba and Statia for three days". They finally got a little wind and sailed along St. Kitts' lee shore and beat through The Narrows (between St. Kitts and Nevis) to re-enter the Atlantic. Just after sundown, they ran aground just off the airport here on Nevis.

They swam ashore and tried to find help. The police got involved and took them, soaking wet, to the police station in Charlestown, assuming at first that they were drug runners. They were finally released and cleared into Nevis, wet, cold and starving.

That's when the community kicked in. A clerk at a local produce stand dug the equivalent of US$75 out of her pocketbook and handed it to them, saying, "Here, go buy some groceries." A local inn gave them free lodging. Chevy's beach bar/restaurant treated them to burgers and lobster dinners. Sunshine's beach bar/restaurant told them the beer was on him as long as they're here. Miss June's restaurant has been fixing them food. Greg K, long-term ex-pat, is organizing the boat rescue. Mike Foster, the eastern Caribbean's equivalent of an Alaska bush pilot, is flying them home to Dominica later this week at no charge.

But, we still need to get the boat off the coral and floating...
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Old 28-05-2009, 15:05   #3
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Based on what you've said, she's a foot short of floating at high tide. She needs to be lightened as much as possible, and heeled over until the keel clears. I'd say a bunch of barrels, tied to both sides at low water. As the tide comes in, the empty barrels will start to float her. Attach more barrels to the keel, probably using a net of cable around the bottom of the keel. Attach the net with ropes to both sides to keep it at the bottom of th keel. Tie the extra barrels to the net with come-alongs and keep tension on the barrels so they help roll the boat. Keep the water inside the hull down as much as possible, but make sure the pump is in a boat along side, with the intake hose tied in place. Take a line to the main halliard, and run it out to an anchor, use the main halliard to pull the boat over. You will have to haul on the halliard from the tender to keep the weight off the boat.

Other than that, Large airbags which I doubt you have on hand.

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Old 28-05-2009, 15:16   #4
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I saw something similar to Sabre's suggestion used to float a power boat off rocks:

At low tide secure an empty sealed barrel or other large float by a line running under the hull to a similar float on the other side. Make the line as tight as possible. Do this with as many floats in as many places as possible. Pump out the existing water and if possible remove heavy gear. Wait for high tide.

The basic problem is that dragging/rolling her off a coral reef may well compound or create damage and sink her.
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Old 28-05-2009, 15:18   #5
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Not to sound too cold, but a 27' boat with a dodgy engine, foot and a half of water inside, and a crack along the keel, I wouldn't think to be worth much of a salvage effort.
Like the above post, a couple of drums on each side, tie them up tight along the sides down low, fill them up with air from a scuba rig, then pull like heck with lots of hp from deep water and drag it back off at high tide.

It's good to see that the people of Nevis are so caring, sounds like the kind of place we all like to visit.
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Old 28-05-2009, 16:05   #6
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Empty everything off the boat not absolutely necessary to get her to a marina. Determine the absolute straightest path toward deep water. Rig a strong anchor such as a fisherman, Bruce or CQR well set in coral to the mast top with a strong halyard. Use sacrificial 1/2" - 3/4" plywood sheets to protect the hull on the lower side. Barrels have very little chance of working in 2' - 3 1/2' of water. Rig a STRONG tow bridle that does not rely on a cleat to withstand the whole force of the tow. Wait til near high tide, heel the boat 'til the rail is almost under and the topsides rest on plywood, then yank from the bow with a STRONG powerboat or chainblock run to an anchor wedged in coral. Protect the hull and you'll make deep water. Be prepared for immediate bailing / pumping. IMHO, Chris
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Old 28-05-2009, 16:33   #7
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The McGuyver Salvage Method.

Materials needed: a) one toothpick. b) a Bic lighter. c) 4 large truck tire inner tubes. d) 50' of 2" nylon strapping e)a small generator. f) a small air compressor g) 50' of 1/4" air line h) 3 (1/4") brass T fittings. i) 4 (1/4") brass screw-on valve stem fittings. j) dingy with outboard motor (that works). k) 100' of 3/8" line. l) 2 bottles of Pyrat Rum


1) Link four large (deflated) truck tire inner tubes together in series with the 2" nylon strap leaving about a foot of space between each tube.

2) Remove the Schrader Valves from all four inner tubes and link the four tube valve stems together with the air line, screw-on valve stem fittings and T-fittings .... leaving about 5'-8' of slack air line between each tube.

3) Attach one end of a 25' air line to the last T-fitting and the other end to the small air compressor.

4) Loop a large piece of 2"strap (3' dia.) around the first (a) and last (b) inner tube and tie one end of the 3/8 line to the first loop.

5.) Snake the 3/8" line around the fin keel and draw it around so that two inner tubes are on the port side of the keel and the other two tubes are on the starboard side.

6) Using the last loop like a slip knot around the last inner tube (b), draw all four of the deflated inner tubes against the fin keel (two on each side), taking care not to slice the inner tubes on the reef.

7) Start the small generator on deck .... and plug in the small air compressor.

8) Connect the 25' air line to the compressor and fill the inner tubes.

9) This will take some time, so put the toothpick behind your ear and light a cigarette with the Bic lighter and relax until the boat starts to float off the reef .....

10) When the boat is high enough in the water to clear the reef, pull like hell with the dingy until the boat clears the reef.

11) If this works, open one bottle of Pyrat Rum and celebrate .... then send the other bottle to me.

12) If this doesn't work .... go ahead and drink both bottles of Pyrat Rum .... the boat will still be stuck .... but at least you won't feel too bad about it.
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Old 28-05-2009, 16:37   #8
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I think we can declare a winner. LeftRoamin gets my vote.
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Old 28-05-2009, 16:52   #9
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Ok here is my thought. Assume the draft is 4'6". attach an anchor to a halyard. At high tide try to stand the boat up right. Then take a few barrels and attach them to the keel hull joint as tight as possible. When the tide gooes out lay the boat down on the barrels with the mast headed toward the best path to deep water. Next take another barrel and fill it with enough water so that it floats but still has a lot of weight in it (may take more than one) Attach this with a spin halyard (prefrerably not a jib halyard) Crank the halyard to get the mast as close as possible to the barrell. I don't know the righting moment but I guess that one or two barrells attached to the mast will have enough weight so that you can pull the keel into the air. The boat will now be resting on the barells with the keel sitting proud of the water. drill a couple holes in the keel so that you can attach whatever flotaton you can to the bottom of the keel. (if it is lead it should not harm the keel). keeping this close to the bottom of the keel will help with leverage. A large log comes to mind as a good thing to use as flotation on the bottom of the keel. The boat will hopefully be lying on its side with the barrels and keel flotation keeping the boat off of the reef. Attach straps around the hull and try to pull the boat off the reef at high tide. You will also need to attach a dink to the barrels that are tied to the mast to help pull them along.

It may not be an expensive boat but it could quite easily be a large part of the networth of the people who sail it. Good luck and let us know how it works out.
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Old 28-05-2009, 17:10   #10
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Greg is thinking about a plywood sandwich with truck inner tubes in between, to be inflated somehow. The crack in the hull is a bit ominous, but the hope is that the gasoline-powered pump will keep the boat afloat. He has some quick-setting underwater cement to slap on the holes, if necessary.

We do have a bunch of blue polyethylene barrels on the island, so lashing a few of them to the hull at low tide could help. On two occasions when I've run aground (in sand), a small power boat heeled me over via my spare main halyard with a rope extension, so I could power off the sandbar. Unfortunately, the boat has a defunct engine, so we'd have to have another, larger, power boat at the ready to pull her off.

Still cogitating about this...
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Old 28-05-2009, 17:25   #11
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I saw a good idea on the forum earlier today but now I can't find it.
These guys were going under a too short bridge with a too tall mono.
Their solution was two huge bags of water (maybe a couple tons each?) hanging off the mast. They let them out to starboard as they approached the bridge with a couple of lines and heeled the boat so that the mast cleared under the bridge. Increasing the heel angle may get the keel off.
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Old 29-05-2009, 00:53   #12
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I presume the photo is at a "lower" tide. I am in this state of mind.

Rig those big blue barrels up to each other and at this kind of tide hang them from the mast head halyards and fill them with water.

Pump out any water in the boat and remove and equipment you can to lighten the boat.

Seal the companion way as the boat may need to heel over quite far you will also need to winch the barrels up over the water line level.

You may also need to wrap a good stout line either around the keel or from the port side under the hull to the starboard side. To this line attach some more empty barrels. Basically floating the starboard side and dragging the port side from the mast head. The angle of heel would be controlled by the length of the mast head halyards. Shorten them up and you should get heel. Lengthen them (into the water) and the weight of the barrels is negated.

If you do it right I suspect the boat will float off with the tide.

The only other thing you need is a way to drag it to deep water. A launch to tow or an anchor set out in deep water to haul against may be the answer.

Finally as a contingency you have the high volume pump and appropriate sealing materials. Also have sharp cutting tools available in case you have to abort.

The high cost option is to get a crane barge but I doubt you'll have one of those handy.

BTW - I can't help but comment. With no engine and no wind, ground tackle should have been prepared, commmunications for a tow should have been made. Yada, yada, yada. Hindsight is perfect of course...
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Old 29-05-2009, 02:58   #13
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I would suggest firtst sealing the crack in the hull, and then getting rid of as much of the water inside as possible. Then, inspect the underwater location of the keel - heeling the boat will require clearance for the keel to swing. If there are obstacles, the only way out will be as much buouyancy as possible and straight back, the more powerful the tug the better.

Good luck, kudos to the locals for the aloha spirit,

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Old 29-05-2009, 05:56   #14
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Good thoughts. Thanks for the ideas. A crane on a barge is a possibility, but the boat is probably not worth what it would cost. The water's pretty shallow all around that spot, too. I really don't know how they managed to end up where they did. Must have be high tide at the new moon, and dumb bad luck.

I'm going to see if I can track Greg down today and run some of this by him. I'll report back...

Any more brainstorms in the meantime will be welcome!
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Old 29-05-2009, 12:36   #15
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Get some large timbers, 3 or 4, work them under the keel from the starboard side, then rig a bridle up from the bow and the stern and drag her off sideways, the timbers will keep the boat from being damaged and they will change angle to match the boat as she starts floting again. My uncle did this with a 55' ferro ketch one time in the keys, had to be drug about 1 mile across the flats and had no damage to the hull, except for some scraped off paint where the timbers rubbed against the hull. And also used about 8 timbers for that beast. That should also protect the keel from undue stress as the pressures will be on the turn off the bilge more than on the keel. It will act just like a travois that the Native Americans used to use to transport across the desert...
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