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Old 27-01-2011, 21:00   #46
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In the old days when men had fingers of marlin spikes and all that guff, ship's lifeboats used to carry fish oil for use with the sea anchor. The fish oil was probably a throw back from the very old days when ships burned coal to provide power, or even earlier when they used sails to move, as do most of us. If its that bad at sea and you are streaming a drogue, then nothing to lose - try the bag of cooking oil preferably - it aint going to make it worse - other than the risk of spraying all over the boat of course and it might even help those onboard that are doing a spot of yodelling !

Probably opening another can of worms here but here goes anyway. As regards polluting with diesel, and I may be wrong - often am - is it not an offence to pollute the sea with persistant oils such as diesel, except in emergency ?

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Old 27-01-2011, 21:21   #47
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My only personal experience of pouring oil on troubled waters was when a 5 gallon jerry can of extra diesel with a poorly tightened top washed overboard on a 40 foot troller I was working off the west coast of Vancouver Island in the late '50's. It did cut down on the sea spray from astern as I recall but the mix of oil and salt water on the decks made moving about tending the gurdies in the stern a little problematic. A bit of rock salt on the decks seemed to improve the footing, though. Any blow that I've been in either a drogue or warps seemed to work the best to steady the ride. Capt Phil

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Old 27-01-2011, 22:25   #48
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I have read about this in dozens of books since I was a kid and I had it explained to me by commercial fishermen once that it does not seriously 'calm the sea' in the way most interpret it. What it does apparently is substantially reduce the breaking crests and the subsequent blinding, choking spindrift in the air. With no water in the air and the greatly increased visibility it would likely give the impression of a greater calming effect than it really is. Nonetheless I would use the technique in a moment if the need ever arises.

The following video should perhaps not be extrapolated to oceans in a gale but it undisputedly shows the effect on a smaller scale.

video of calming effect:
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Old 28-01-2011, 00:22   #49
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Wow. that was impressive. I think I need to get a couple of miles offshore with a cup of sunflower oil and give it a try.

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Old 28-01-2011, 02:27   #50
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Thats a great demonstration in the video. It reminds me of racing dinghies in college. If there was a beach to windward of the course, sunscreen washing off swimmers calmed the ripples enough to make it difficult to read lifts and headers. I'm not sure how the demonstration in the video would apply to a larger scale, it would be interesting to a similar video of using oil offshore.
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Old 28-01-2011, 07:57   #51
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I did a bit of digging on this out of curiosity and found an interesting article from the New York Times Published: January 2, 1888. The gist is two British ships, the SS Kate Fawcett and Earnwell from the UK, and the Advance from USA had been fitted with an apparatus for dispensing oil. These used linseed or varnish oil but any vessel carrying oil as cargo used whatever oil they had, including expensive cod liver oil. Incidentally, I can find no instance where they used motor oil, a crude or refined petroleum product.

I also recall reading somewhere, years ago, of one who used the procedure cautioning that everyone on the boat and everything in the boat gets covered in oil from splashing which, aside from environmental issues, likely accounts for not using motor oil. Nonetheless he cautioned that it made moving about the boat precarious.

Footnote to those interested, as near as I can determine none of the three vessels were lost at sea anytime soon following the article. In March 1888, scarcely two months later, the USA SS Atlanta broadsided the SS Kate Fawcett in a collision. (not lost, noted departing NY years later). The Earnwell was still sailing six years later in 1894 UK to New york. (That year a snubbed USA pilot sued the Earnwell because it chose a different pilot.) The Advance was apparently still afloat in 1923 but might not be the right ship.

Cheers All

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Old 28-01-2011, 09:26   #52
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I'm still a complete skeptic on this as it concerns your typical cruising boat. What conditions do you really think you are going to be able release a measured amount of oil over a time period that is meaningful to protecting the boat? In crazy, rough weather I just can't see this as practical for a mom & pop cruiser and it seems so far down the list of active and passive storm techniques, that it is misguided to bring it up the list to some meaningful of importance

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Old 28-01-2011, 10:11   #53
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Originally Posted by Bash View Post
I'm glad Franklin was brought into this. He published the results of his experiment in a letter to Mr. Browrigg. While his initial experiment spreading oil on calm waters found that there was indeed a smoothing effect, when he finally went to sea to determine whether oil could keep breakers from breaking, he found the effect of oil to be "disappointing."

Here's an excerpt from the letter: "Now waves once raised, whether by the wind or any other power, have the same mechanical operation, by which they continue to rise and fall, as a pendulum will continue to swing a long time after the force ceases to act by which the motion was first produced; that motion will, however, cease in time; but time is necessary. Therefore, though oil spread on an agitated sea may weaken the push of the wind on the waves whose surfaces are covered by it, and so, by less fresh impulse, they may gradually subside; yet a considerable time, or a distance through which they will take time to move, may be necessary to make the effect sensible on any shore in the diminunition of the surf; for we know that when wind ceases suddenly, the waves it has raised do not as suddenly subside, but settle gradually, and are not quite down until after the wind has ceased."

But the old myths persist, don't they? Franklin published the results of his experiments in 1773, and here we are still talking as if spreading an oil slick might still be a viable storm tactic for a cruising vessel.

I am glad you looked at this and showed us.

It is obvious to me that the experiment was to see if the oil lowered the height of the seas. Seems not. I would figure that.

What it does apparently do is reduce the breaking of the seas. This would be nice. I hope I don't have to try it one day but if I do and it works, and I remember, I will be sure to post back.
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Old 28-01-2015, 14:19   #54
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Re: Calm the Savage Seas with Oil

Originally Posted by Prerequisite View Post
If anyone has experience actually trying this, I'd be interested to hear their report.
Old thread but you might still be interested. We use to put olive oil(fish oil will also work) in the head and slowly pump out(about one stroke per half hour) to get over the banks during several bad(really bad) storms back in the 50s. This on a 65 foot(lwl)schooner. Riding ahull, sideway drift, oil prevented large, choppy seas from hitting boat. Basically made the chop into rollers. For two days we went through 40 gallons of olive oil. Another time for one day went through about 10 gallons. Depends on who is pumping mostly. We used the head because it was amidship, and the oil does not get blown into the air by strong winds(65+ knots). Works very well and you can reduce a 40 foot watery cliff into a relatively comfy roller and live to sail another day. For a smaller boat probably do not need more that five gallons per day. A little bit goes a looong ways. Veggie or animal oils work. Do not use motor oils nor mineral oils.

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