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Old 13-06-2013, 11:57   #1
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What Can Cause the Sinking of a Sailboat on Open Seas?

I am following with great interest and great sadness the posts w.r.t. to the missing of sailing vessel Lady Domina 75 ft (5 o/b) and 33ft Grain of Soleil (3 o/b). I have started this tread to discuss what can possible cause a sailing vessel to sink in open ocean. I am surprised not too see any speculation on the cause of possible sinking w.r.t to these mentioned sailing vessels. But I do not wish to focus on these two vessels only, I have highlighted them as an example. I would like to discuss the causes of any sailing vessel being lost at open ocean with a reasonable experienced crew on board. Both earlier mentioned vessels had reasonable to well experienced crews on board as it appears. What can cause a vessel possible to sink with those types of crews? The facts known of above cases are raising expectations that both vessels will have sunk by now. In Europe the motor sailor Warlow on its way from Scotland to Norway disappeared 2 months ago, again they did not found a single piece of debris and can be regarded lost by now.

I can easily come up with multiple examples that will cause catastrophic failure in bad weather, even with an experienced crew, resulting in being unable to continue sailing. But still the vessel will remain floating (think the infamous fastnet race of which nearly all abandoned vessels were found again floating at a later date). I struggle however to come up with reasons that will cause a vessel to sink, provided the vessel is structurally sound. As far as I can see you need to have a major structural failure for your vessel to sink, a failure causing so much water to come in that your methods of pumping / bailing-out do not suffice. I am aware that with relative small (below 45ft) GRP sailing vessels of recent construction (last 10 years) a variety of these vessels nowadays manufactured will possible or even likely not withstand a full knockdown or worse a full 360 degrees roll in bad seas. Their structural integrity is simply not high enough, nor do those manufacturers present or advice that as such. (Still I see owners crossing oceans with them, but that is another topic). The result of knockdowns and 360 rolls on these type of vessels I can imagine can be structural failures to the limit the vessel will sink. Other more common known causes can be collision by a large ocean going ship or loss of a ballasted keel.

But besides these reasons, how can those vessels sink? If the Lady Domina indeed does not show up, then that is a 75ft solid GRP vessel lost, with an relative fairly experienced crew. You can reasonable assume someone who can built a vessel that size has the capability to mend a small leak at mid seas. Equally with 5 crews on board, being run over by a large ship is not that likely, as you will have likely someone paying attention at any time. I simply struggle to come up with reasons that would cause total loss of ship and would like to hear others opinion on what can possible cause a sound sailing vessel at open sea with reasonable crew to sink.
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Old 13-06-2013, 12:04   #2
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Re: What can cause sinking a sailboat on open seas?

a semi submerged container, struck at night at or near hull speed.

a whale or similar, being rolled by a rogue wave or two.
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Old 13-06-2013, 12:12   #3
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Re: What can cause sinking a sailboat on open seas?

I remember at least 2 stories I've seen here. One was a new boat, nearly sank because of a hole for a through hull in the wrong place was poorly sealed off and they didn't find it until it was nearly time to abandon.

Another was either something wrong with the stern tube or stuffing box that was inaccessible.
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Old 13-06-2013, 12:15   #4
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Re: What can cause sinking a sailboat on open seas?

i really do not have an answer but -- they left the carib about a week before we did and we thought about leaving that week the wx was anything but good and if i remember correctly really nasty with a lo in the wrong place and huge seas and potential squalls with huge winds - who knows but not 2 but in horta they had notes on the board that 3 boats went missing that week

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Old 13-06-2013, 12:16   #5
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Re: What can cause sinking a sailboat on open seas?

I would think a structural failure where a large crack develops that cannot be easily patched. Even a smaller hole that is easy to patch may be impossible depending on the sea state. If your bilge pumps cannot keep up then there is a loss of power. Once that happens, the boat is doomed without outside assistance.

Broken portlights and hatches are also a problem in rough seas.
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Old 13-06-2013, 12:17   #6
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Re: What can cause sinking a sailboat on open seas?

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Originally Posted by chuckr View Post
i really do not have an answer but -- they left the carib about a week before we did and we thought about leaving that week the wx was anything but good and if i remember correctly really nasty with a lo in the wrong place and huge seas and potential squalls with huge winds - who knows but not 2 but in horta they had notes on the board that 3 boats went missing that week

just our opinion and thoughts
chuck patty and svsoulmates
in angra azores
I do not know any specific statistics but in my readings it seems the number one cause of boat loss is adherence to a schedule despite weather warnings.
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Old 13-06-2013, 15:20   #7
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Re: What can cause sinking a sailboat on open seas?

Fire
the unfound hole
collision with a vessel of significant tonnage
collision with animal of significant tonnage
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Old 13-06-2013, 15:22   #8
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Re: What can cause sinking a sailboat on open seas?

rudder falling off , see Megawatt sinking

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Old 13-06-2013, 18:38   #9
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Methane hydrate bubbles.
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Old 13-06-2013, 18:53   #10
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Re: What can cause sinking a sailboat on open seas?

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Originally Posted by daddle View Post
Methane hydrate bubbles.
Whale farts?
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Old 13-06-2013, 18:54   #11
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Re: What can cause sinking a sailboat on open seas?

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Originally Posted by daddle View Post
Methane hydrate bubbles.
GREAT!! Just one more thing for me to worry about now!!!

That and giant Octopuses!
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Old 13-06-2013, 20:07   #12
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Re: What can cause sinking a sailboat on open seas?

We had a boat from our harbor hit something while returning from Bermuda last year. They were doing about nine knots, at night, and didn't see what it was. Their sprit was driven back into the boat and through a forward bulkhead with a loud bang. A shackle holding the tackle that extends the sprit exploded from the force, leaving a U-shaped imprint in the face of the bulkhead about 10' from where the shackle started out. There was no other damage to the boat. The sprit was left intact. If they had hit at a different angle, the forces involved could easily have levered the sprit and opened a huge gash in the bow of the boat, which would have dived into the next wave and not have come up again. Rogue waves also appear to take out the occasional 800' freighter. A 75' sloop would be small potatoes.
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Old 14-06-2013, 08:11   #13
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Re: What can cause sinking a sailboat on open seas?

large waves and unplanned holes.
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Old 14-06-2013, 14:06   #14
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Many boats sink alone in their slip or while on a mooring.

Cause: lack of love, care and attention by the owner.
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Old 14-06-2013, 14:10   #15
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Re: What can cause sinking a sailboat on open seas?

0.01% - the unlikely (but predictably possible) happening.....whale strike, UFO abduction or Iceberg etc.

99.99% - Wishful thinking of Skipper / Owner, either before leaving port or after. or both.
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