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Old 24-01-2009, 09:37   #1
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Disposable Yachts

We seem to be living in an era of disposable yachts which I believe correlates strongly with the deployment of the EPIRB.

When I started sailing more than thirty years ago, I read dozens of stories of sailors who had disasters at sea, and through stubborn persistence saved their yachts and their lives. Many times they had no other option. Now we have other options. The EPIRB.

When I sailed to New Zealand, I sailed with people who abandoned their yacht in a storm north of New Zealand, and the next day they commissioned a plane to go out and look for it. Since that time, I have read of numerous people who were seasick and scared, plucked off yachts by helicopters and freighters, and far fewer stories of perseverance in adversity. It is almost routine now for sailors to abandon yachts, and then a couple of days later make an air search to salvage them.

When I sailed across the Atlantic, a J-boat lost its rudder and was abandoned in the middle of the Atlantic. Several weeks later, the J-boat completed it's transatlantic voyage and washed up on the shores of Barbados where it was destroyed in the surf.

People frequently lose their lives when they try to board freighters during storms at sea.

I never considered my catamaran disposable, and I carried supplies on board to deal with problems so that I would never have to abandon my yacht at sea. I regard fire, explosion, and capsize as three reasons to abandon Exit Only. Outside of these catastrophies, my plan is to save my ship.

I realize that I am on a catamaran, and sinking is not as much of a worry. I had a six to eight inch hole in my bow without a problem because of a collision bulkhead - an inconvenient, but not catastrophic problem in my Privilege 39.

One of the things that strongly attracted me to the sailing life was the concept of self-sufficiency. Some sailors don't have EPIRBs and radios because if they get in trouble, they would get themselves out of it on their own. I admired their courage, but sometimes I questioned their judgement.

I still haven't got this figured out. But I have come to believe that we are living in the age of disposable yachts, and many people could save their yachts if they dug their heels in and made the effort. I am also convinced that many people die because they turn on their EPIRB, and they perish trying to get on a freighter.

On Exit Only, I call my life raft the LAST GLIMMER OF HOPE RAFT, and I don't plan on getting on board until I have no other choice. The EPIRB is the LAST GLIMMER OF HOPE DEVICE, and I don't plan on flipping the switch until there is no other choice.

Exit Only is not a disposable yacht.

When is it time to abandon ship?
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Old 24-01-2009, 09:52   #2
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Dave,

I agree totally.

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Old 24-01-2009, 10:10   #3
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We talked a bit about this in
If you head offshore in winter

Part of my post:

In my opinion if you call for help its because there is a medical emergency or you believe the vessel WILL be lost….not may be lost…WILL be lost.
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Old 24-01-2009, 10:40   #4
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I have some dear friends who for many years cruised the pacific in their self built cold molded Adams 50, no life raft*, no engine, no electrics and certainly no radios. They never knew what an EPIRB was - and for all I know, they probably still don't.

Theirs was a lifestyle of total self sufficieny and independence from - well everything. I'm not so sure I could survive a single day of such ascetic cruising, but it does illustrate that self sufficiency is not unattainable in this day and age.

We often read of cruisers whose every desire is to leave "civilization" behind and yet they (like me) are armed to the teeth with every means of hollering for help.

The 406 Mhz EPIRB is a two edged sword. Its all too easy now to yell for Mummy to come rescue you and somehow having that option has enabled a paradigm shift in the cruisers mindset, we are now ever more tied to Mummys apron strings and ever less self sufficient.

As soon as you fire off that EPIRB, a chain of events are set off which will almost certainly ensure your abandoning your boat within 12 - 24 hours whether you need to or not because Mummy will know whats best and will insist on rescuing you.

That was a really thought provoking question, Dave.

I am now giving serious thought as to whether we really need the temptation of a 406 Mhz EPIRB on board.
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Old 24-01-2009, 10:43   #5
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Insurance?

>We seem to be living in an era of disposable yachts which I believe correlates strongly with the deployment of the EPIRB.<

I think its not only the E/GPIRB which leads to early abandonment, but also the fact that the boat is insured, and the owner expects to suffer no adverse financial impact from the event. There are numerous documented cases of people sinking their yachts offshore purposely to take the insurance cash.

In the case of boats caught out in storms, I'm sure that the crew is scared ... uhh ... witless and wants very badly to get off of that boat. I know of one case off the east coast of the USA where the crew set off the EPIRB while the captain/owner was sleeping. When the coast guard showed up, they insisted that _everyone_ leave the vessel--not just the crew that wanted off.

>When I sailed across the Atlantic, a J-boat lost its rudder and was abandoned in the middle of the Atlantic. Several weeks later, the J-boat completed it's transatlantic voyage and washed up on the shores of Barbados where it was destroyed in the surf.<

The lost rudder is a very good example of why serious yachts should have wind vanes or other secondary steering capability. The rudder on our 38 Irwin failed suddenly due to stray current corrosion. The rudder post was 3.5" diameter aluminum alloy pipe with a wall thickness of .75"! I've since heard of a situation where a brand new rudder failed within one week due to a 12V DC short in the steering column. A hot wire was rubbing against the steering cable, and it had worn through the insulation.

Regardless of the cause, a rudder failure at sea with no backup is yacht and life threatening if there is a serious storm. I like the idea of having a spare rudder that can be hung from the stern, on pintles that are already in place, or having self steering gear that uses its own rudder.

>When is it time to abandon ship?<

Everyone is going to have their own answer to this question. At some point a boat voyage becomes "manifestly unsafe", and the crew is in "imminent danger". For myself, I would do everything I could think of to rectify the situation before pushing the <esc> button. There is a saying among pilots about being "out of airspeed, altitude, and ideas..." That's what parachutes are for

YYMV
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Old 24-01-2009, 11:00   #6
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When is it time to abandon ship?
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I think the best advise is that one should never jump into a liferaft; you should step into it as your boat sinks. This is one of the recommendations that stems from the 1979 Fastnet.

I have some friends who lost a rudder on 2000 Vic-Maui. They used their emergency system to steer 600 miles. They finished the race with moments to spare.

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Old 24-01-2009, 11:35   #7
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I'm wondering if we are hearing of more people abandoning their vessels just because we have more people sailing the oceans. Maybe, maybe not.

I started to write a response but then realized that this is such a complicated subject it would take a book to explore it.

However, most situations that cause the abandonment of a boat are very complex situations. To say that people these days are simply "tied to mama's apron strings" is just (IMHO) a simplistic and judgmental way of not recognizing a complex problem.

Some things that lead to abandonment (again IMHO) are people going offshore in boats that are not meant to go offshore or are not ready for the conditions. People who are so divorced from nature that they have no idea of the power of nature. People buying boats with no idea of what is required in the way of maintenance. People not knowing the power that sails can generate and not realizing that they need to power down early in rough weather. People not realizing that fuel tanks can accumulate gunk that in rough weather may very well disable their engines. People not learning how to find out what the weather is going to be like several hours or days down the pike or not understanding forecasts or trying to beat the weather. People believing the myths that builders and magazines are always selling instead of paying heed to the stories of mechanical failure, emotional stress that breaks marriages and dreams, and physical stress that leads people to make mistakes of judgment because they are so tired that they aren't thinking properly.

And very much like airplane accidents, most deadly situations or situations that cause people to abandon their boats at sea are combinations of failures or mistakes.

Very complex problems indeed. Well, those are my opinions anyway.
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Old 24-01-2009, 12:22   #8
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It is almost routine now for sailors to abandon yachts, and then a couple of days later make an air search to salvage them.
I will go so far to disagree.

What you hear about is nothing compared to what really happens out there. You don't hear about every rescue and it's not very easy to generalize. The details of the situations have a habit of being wrong (based on the ones posted here). The information gets it wrong 100% often.

It's all too common for a story to be posted here only to listen to all the BS about how they wouldn't have abandoned the boat or how much better they are than the people that abandoned. So I would claim there are more people that claim more than they can really do and are quicker to judge others than to understand how things work and how they happen. Even an arm chair sailor can have a heart attack and fall over and get a concussion.

For anyone that abandons and saves the entire crew there is the satisfaction that they got the results that mattered.
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Old 24-01-2009, 12:44   #9
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I will go so far to disagree.

What you hear about is nothing compared to what really happens out there. You don't hear about every rescue and it's not very easy to generalize. The details of the situations have a habit of being wrong (based on the ones posted here). The information gets it wrong 100% often.

It's all too common for a story to be posted here only to listen to all the BS about how they wouldn't have abandoned the boat or how much better they are than the people that abandoned. So I would claim there are more people that claim more than they can really do and are quicker to judge others than to understand how things work and how they happen. Even an arm chair sailor can have a heart attack and fall over and get a concussion.

For anyone that abandons and saves the entire crew there is the satisfaction that they got the results that mattered.
I base my comments on three specific instances where I personally know about yachts being abandoned, and then searches undertaken to recover the yachts a day later. Obviously, you can't generalize to all abandoned yachts and rescues at sea.
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Old 24-01-2009, 12:45   #10
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Two Vendee Globe boats were abandoned at sea and one was rescued and towed in only because of it's proximity to help when it lost it's mast. Many others dropped out of the race and made for port. These boats are sailed by the best and most experienced of skippers who are well trained in their on board systems and have great teams behind them.

One boat was abandoned after the skipper was disabled in a serious on board accident. The second boat to be abandoned lost it's keel after striking something in the water. The boat that lost it's mast was damaged in the rescue of the skipper who had lost his keel. The mast failed in the vicinity of Cape Horn, in benign weather conditions. One can only imagine what could have happened if the mast had failed a few days later when a huge weather system roared through with winds up to 85 kts. Sometimes stuff happens, even to the best. Sometimes people get lucky even after stuff happens.
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Old 24-01-2009, 13:15   #11
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From what I have read, (I spent about 5 hours the other night reading missing/abandon yacht reports on another forum to make sure I had it drilled into my head what I was getting into.) I found that most abandon reports were due to no one on board having the means and/or the knowledge to fix a problem which in my mind should have been planned for ahead of time.

I also found most were experienced sailors but knew little when it came to making emergency repairs that ultimately would have saved there boat and themselves.

It seems self sufficiency has become a thing of the past, but not just in the boating world, in the world in general. I often wonder what people would do if the electric grid went down tomorrow or there was no more fuel for cars. You also see it as a lack of people taking responsibility for their own action, we see that every day. It is the free hand out that everyone demands and usually gets that has caused the world to be in its current state of no self sufficientcy and no responsibility. IMHO it seems that has overfloed to the boating world as well.

So when is it time to abandon ship, when you realize that you haven't planned ahead for the very bad situation you are in, that your lack of preparation has made it impossible for you to save your boat/yourself and you are completely and utterly convinced of that.
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Old 24-01-2009, 13:28   #12
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I think the reason is that today we have many more options than in bygone days. The infamous captain of the Bounty had but 2 when he was thrown off his vessel....do it or die. Or as my grandfather would say he walked 10 miles in the snow to school (up hill both ways) barefoot because he had no other choice.
As a student of Rube Goldberg I try to think of what could have been done to fix something long enough to make it thru what I have read of others experiance. But the bottom line is that one's life is a very personal thing and given an array of options the survival instinct will cause one to grab whatever is available, whether it is the 'mommy button' or the ball of rope in the locker to make a jury rig. If all you have available is a ball of rope then the answer is clear, all else becomes muddled in stress and emotion.
I will never question anyone's judgment for what they did but I hope to learn from all lessons good and bad so I may apply them with my own experences and to be able to make the right decision for any given circumstance for my situation. I will gladly buy a beer to listen to anyone that has gone thru a severe situation at sea and is able to explain the circumstances and if he or she would have done anything different with hind sight firmly in place so I may educate myself.

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Old 24-01-2009, 13:48   #13
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I'm not going to spend time on second guessing a crews decision to abandon ship.
There by the grace of God go I.

This thread has me wondering though, what the future might bring to the " Last Frontier" as more and more people venture offshore. I think there are already changes taking place. Livaboards marinas are becoming harder to find, States are now requiring licenses for power driven vessels of all kinds. The US Coast Guard no longer provides towing services...if they ever did? ...( I seem to remember a time when they would provide a tow)....Now we have towing insurance and the rise of Companies like Sea Tow, Boat US.

With, the demands of Homeland Security placed on the Coast Guard, limited financial resources etc. How Long will it be before you will need a permit to venture offshore..? Private rescue insurance? Fines are imposed, or fees are charged for rescue operations? ...Public perception of high seas rescues of recreational vessels by public resources can be mixed....Even here among boaters...I hear calls of "Send them a Bill"..... The general public often sees this as a bunch of rich people ..using their resources..( tax dollars).

I have formed no opinions on the matter...I just wonder what the next generation of sailors will encounter as they try to explore the freedom of the seas..desire to test themselves against nature and see distant lands....will they see more freedoms, or more restrictions ??
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Old 24-01-2009, 13:52   #14
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I'm not going to spend time on second guessing a crews decision to abandon ship.
There by the grace of God go I.

This thread has me wondering though, what the future might bring to the " Last Frontier" as more and more people venture offshore. I think there are already changes taking place. Livaboards marinas are becoming harder to find, States are now requiring licenses for power driven vessels of all kinds. The US Coast Guard no longer provides towing services...if they ever did? ...( I seem to remember a time when they would provide a tow)....Now we have towing insurance and the rise of Companies like Sea Tow, Boat US.

With, the demands of Homeland Security placed on the Coast Guard, limited financial resources etc. How Long will it be before you will need a permit to venture offshore..? Private rescue insurance? Fines are imposed, or fees are charged for rescue operations? ...Public perception of high seas rescues of recreational vessels by public resources can be mixed....Even here among boaters...I hear calls of "Send them a Bill"..... The general public often sees this as a bunch of rich people ..using their resources..( tax dollars).

I have formed no opinions on the matter...I just wonder what the next generation of sailors will encounter as they try to explore the freedom of the seas..desire to test themselves against nature and see distant lands....will they see more freedoms, or more restrictions ??
The Coasties will only tow if lives are in immediate danger. They are not allowed to compete with towing companies.
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Old 24-01-2009, 14:18   #15
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through stubborn persistence saved their yachts and their lives.

Great post, Dave.

As I look around the streets of my own country, and the jet ski riders, I wonder how many able body blokes could do half of what our forfathers did. We live in a mamby-pamby society. The location where I am currently anchored has 3 rescue services all fighting to rescue someone and each put over the VHF every few hours that when we proceed to sea we must give them all our details incl names and phone numbers of people to contact and have our mobile phone on in case the rescue service wants to call us!



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