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Old 31-10-2012, 05:20   #1
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Oil to calm waters

It seems there are some who misunderstand the phenomena. Oil on water will not flatten the swell, it will not lessen the height of waves. What it will do is keep water out of the boat. Waves are less likely to spill and spume is much less likely where there is an oil slick.

Some have said fish oil was used. Perhaps that is because they didn't have diesel or machine oil. Whalers used blubber...of course they did! They had blubber coming out their ears. But whatever oil was used, it worked to calm the sea surface.

My own experience is few but I do remember being astonished at how little oil it took to achieve the result. The first time was as a pre-teen kid me and my brother took an open boat several miles off the beach for a day of lounging and fishing. Caught by a line of squalls we were in danger of floundering. Having heard of this technique we threw diesel soaked clothes over the side which were tied off bow and stern. We drifted afore the wind. The sea surface diminshed before our eyes.

My 2nd experience was mostly an experiment off California central coast. I was 1st deck on a fishing charter. I had brought linseed oil and a burlap bag stuffed with cotton rags. I poured the linseed oil into the bag and tossed it off the stern secured to the boat. The effect was again immediate as the boat drifted before the wind.

Wind waves grow from capillary wavelets (aptly demonstrated by Bascom and others). The oil serves to prevent the formation of wavelets. This will result in a hove to vessel from shipping water.

Pouring Oil on ‘Troubled Waters’ | Deep Sea News

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 43/August 1893/Why a Film of Oil Can Calm the Sea - Wikisource, the free online library

Lifeboat equipment USMS General equipment of a lifeboat
One gallon of storm oil -- to calm the seas.
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Old 31-10-2012, 05:29   #2
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Re: Oil to calm waters

It helps to reduce the friction between the wind and the water.
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Old 31-10-2012, 05:33   #3
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Re: Oil to calm waters

I've never tried it, but by all accounts it works astonishingly well. One account is in the Pardeys' book on heavy weather sailing. They say that a very small amount of any kind of oil will prevent waves from breaking. It does not need to be fish oil, and you do not need to create a solid oil slick around your boat. It breaks, I guess, the surface tension and interferes with the mechanism by which waves break.
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Old 31-10-2012, 05:42   #4
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Re: Oil to calm waters

I remember reading about a a product called wave oil
It was for sale in a marine catalog where the safety items ,flares etc were sold
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Old 31-10-2012, 06:05   #5
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Re: Oil to calm waters

Watch out for slippery decks and gear!

The McDougal family kept some of the blubber from the turtles they caught, and used the oil-calming technique when the Japanese fishing boat picked them up after their 6 week ocean-rafting trip. Worked well...an epic read.
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Old 31-10-2012, 06:57   #6
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Re: Oil to calm waters

Wow Richard5. That's a great explanation.
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Old 31-10-2012, 07:26   #7
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Re: Oil to calm waters

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stray-Cat View Post
I remember reading about a a product called wave oil
It was for sale in a marine catalog where the safety items ,flares etc were sold

In the days when we had open lifeboats with oars for propulsion, there was a gallon can labelled "Wave" Oil. It was nothing special, I think on the ships I was on back then, it was vegetable oil, reasoning that getting covered in veg oil was probably slightly better than getting covered lube oil or diesel.
The can was accompanied with a canvas bag stuffed with oakum. The oil poured into the bag, then the bag secured along the sea anchor painter and deployed
I can imagine a chandler re-labeling a bottle of sunflower oil as wave oil and quadrupling the price
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Old 31-10-2012, 08:12   #8
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Re: Oil to calm waters

Sounds like a challenge for the Mythbusters.
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Old 31-10-2012, 08:31   #9
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Re: Oil to calm waters

Nigel, Thanks for the idea!



Sea Anchor Oil Can

1 Gallon size, galvanized steel. U.S.C.G. approved construction. To be used with 36" Sea Anchor.
Model #929X.
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Old 31-10-2012, 08:44   #10
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Re: Oil to calm waters

The slick to windward of a vessel hove to is amazingly calm compared to the water around.
Adding oil does help...
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Old 31-10-2012, 10:24   #11
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Re: Oil to calm waters

I always thought it was the fact that the boat was hove to which created a "slick" and kept the boat dry and upright in high seas.
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Old 31-10-2012, 11:22   #12
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Re: Oil to calm waters

Quote:
Originally Posted by nigel1 View Post
I can imagine a chandler re-labeling a bottle of sunflower oil as wave oil and quadrupling the price
Fancy going into business

I liked the idea of pouring cooking into the toilet and pumping it out every so often.

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Old 31-10-2012, 11:52   #13
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Re: Oil to calm waters

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete7 View Post
Fancy going into business

I liked the idea of pouring cooking into the toilet and pumping it out every so often.

Pete
In one of my really old seamanship books, it does mention pouring oil down toilet bowls and then flushing overboard to create a slick. This was before the days of sewage systems onboard ship.
In the Heavy Weather book, I think there is a description of a rescue by a RN ship which poured oil on to the sea surface to enable the rescue of a crew from a yacht
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Old 31-10-2012, 12:19   #14
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Re: Oil to calm waters

Quote:
Originally Posted by nigel1 View Post
In the days when we had open lifeboats with oars for propulsion, there was a gallon can labelled "Wave" Oil. It was nothing special, I think on the ships I was on back then, it was vegetable oil, reasoning that getting covered in veg oil was probably slightly better than getting covered lube oil or diesel.
The can was accompanied with a canvas bag stuffed with oakum. The oil poured into the bag, then the bag secured along the sea anchor painter and deployed
I can imagine a chandler re-labeling a bottle of sunflower oil as wave oil and quadrupling the price
Yeah, I remember those days. As a young third mate I was responsible for the life saving appliances which included the lifeboats. Had to check all the stuff in them, water in cans, barley sugar, oil and oil bag, etc. The open boats even had sails and a mast. In dull ports (and there were many, try sitting in Trincomalee for a month discharging cargo slowly) we used to lower a boat and try to sail the damn thing.
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Old 31-10-2012, 18:18   #15
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Re: Oil to calm waters

Oil works according to all research. NEVER use it if you are abandoning ship. Once your raft is in the water, it will get covered in oil. Making it slippery and difficult to enter.

Obviously, it increases the dangers for a Chopper medic who may be dropped to rescue you as he may ingest the oil upon splashdown.

Not saying dont use it. Just be aware of its flaws.
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