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Old 07-04-2012, 03:20   #1
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Ocean Survial Ability

Hello all,
I not going to pretend that I'm an expert or an experienced sailer. I've owned my 35 foot ketch for only 6 months and sailed only about 500miles. So this question might sound a bit daft. But recently on the news two otherwise ocean going yachts in races sank, without foundering. So my question is, WHAT makes an ocean going Yacht sink, even in rough weather? I mean, Jessica Watson travelled around the world in at times very rough seas. If your vessel is truly ocean going ready, what can cause it to be so damaged that it sinks?

I'm interested in hearing from you out there who have that ocean going and heavy seas experience.
Ted
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Old 07-04-2012, 03:40   #2
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Re: Ocean survial ability

Quote:
Originally Posted by tedsherrin View Post
Hello all,
I not going to pretend that I'm an expert or an experienced sailer. I've owned my 35 foot ketch for only 6 months and sailed only about 500miles. So this question might sound a bit daft. But recently on the news two otherwise ocean going yachts in races sank, without foundering. So my question is, WHAT makes an ocean going Yacht sink, even in rough weather? I mean, Jessica Watson travelled around the world in at times very rough seas. If your vessel is truly ocean going ready, what can cause it to be so damaged that it sinks?

I'm interested in hearing from you out there who have that ocean going and heavy seas experience.
Ted
1) Weather
2) Skipper / Crew
3) Decisions (including those made before leaving port)

If "you" don't know what you are doing (and why) then are relying on luck, if racing you are pushing your luck (intentionally) - plenty do and most get away with it. Most.

Hopefully others will flesh things out a bit more........
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Old 07-04-2012, 06:39   #3
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Re: Ocean survial ability

Racing is a very different kettle of fish when sailing oceans. By definition the boat is being pushed to the limit of it's capability, and so for that matter is the skipper. A race boat is built for speed, sure safety is an issue but it will be lighter, more canvassed than your usual ocean going cruiser.

I am not sure what you really want to know. Is your question about race boats or the kind of cruising boats that folks like us sail?

From a cruising boat perspective the kind of accidents that can cause sinking are structural failure of some kind:loss of prop allowing water ingress, loss of rudder, holing by a submerged object(container).

Lack of experience in a skipper who may panic when faced with taking water on board and fail to secure the leak.

Extremely severe weather causing a pitchpole, dismasting or structural damage that allows water aboard.

The only incident that I have personally experienced was hitting a submerged container off the Irish Coast, severely holed the boat and we had to be taken off by lifeboat. The vessel was saved but a less experienced crew would probably have lost her. We were racing and it was at night so no/little visibility.

When cruising and faced with severe weather conditions offshore we tend to heave to if possible and sit the weather out. Our boat is strong and we sail her conservatively, she is capable of taking far more severe conditions than we are!

But the best advice is don't be in the wrong place at the wrong time. **** happens but you can do a lot to avoid being caught in it!
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Old 07-04-2012, 07:12   #4
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Re: Ocean survial ability

A real life account of a container! now i thought they were imaginary
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Old 07-04-2012, 08:15   #5
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Re: Ocean survial ability

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Originally Posted by stevensuf View Post
A real life account of a container! now i thought they were imaginary
Quote:
Originally Posted by annk
... The only incident that I have personally experienced was hitting a submerged container ...
... it was at night so no/little visibility...
Maybe so; maybe no.
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Old 07-04-2012, 08:55   #6
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Re: Ocean survial ability

....until we hit the b*stard and then it was all TOO clear just what had caused the damage. It was floating just at the surface and from time to time you could see a corner once you knew where the damn thing was.
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Old 07-04-2012, 09:36   #7
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Re: Ocean survial ability

My dad and his dad both did sailboat races....my grandpa in particular would do some crazy ass **** to win those races. They would take huge risks and if they had to replace a quarter million dollar mast (this would have been in '60s or '70s dollars) oh well.

I would completely ignore the racing world...it has nothing to do with cruisers for the most part. You can get some tips and learn from their mistakes but don't copy them....
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Old 07-04-2012, 10:04   #8
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Re: Ocean survial ability

I was at the helm sailing south down the coast of Washington state in the dark ten miles offshore when, out of the corner of my eye, I seen a sea gull standing on a 3 foot log, The boat and I survived but the crew asleep in the forepeak suffered major trauma. It was a Cascade 36 - built like a truck.
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Old 07-04-2012, 10:08   #9
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Re: Ocean survial ability

Quote:
Originally Posted by tedsherrin View Post
Hello all,
I not going to pretend that I'm an expert or an experienced sailer. I've owned my 35 foot ketch for only 6 months and sailed only about 500miles. So this question might sound a bit daft. But recently on the news two otherwise ocean going yachts in races sank, without foundering. So my question is, WHAT makes an ocean going Yacht sink, even in rough weather? I mean, Jessica Watson travelled around the world in at times very rough seas. If your vessel is truly ocean going ready, what can cause it to be so damaged that it sinks?

I'm interested in hearing from you out there who have that ocean going and heavy seas experience.
Ted

Ted, serious mistakes are the cause of most yachts sinking. A good sailor can sail a non-blue water boat in rough waters safely. Someone making a lot of mistakes can get into a lot of trouble no matter how "blue water" the boat is in theory. It's all about personal experience, knowledge, and just plain time on water.

A couple of years a boat sank here in rough weather during a race. The crew had an asymmetrical spinnaker out even though the wind was 35 mph with gusts. Worse, they opened the forward hatch to bring it on deck -- and forgot to close that hatch.

Then a gust of wind hit the boat, and it began to try to broach. the bow dipped down enough for the headsail to scoop up water, which pulled the bow down ... low enough to let water pour into that open hatch.

The skipper did some things right. They all went in the water, but he had a long rope with him, and he tied himself and his five crew members together. That made rescue much easier. All were OK, but the boat went down -- in water shallow enough that the mast was sticking up. This was good because the rest of the racers knew to avoid that spot.

It was just a couple of mistakes, but it took the boat down.
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Old 07-04-2012, 10:15   #10
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Re: Ocean survial ability

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My dad and his dad both did sailboat races....my grandpa in particular would do some crazy ass **** to win those races. They would take huge risks and if they had to replace a quarter million dollar mast (this would have been in '60s or '70s dollars) oh well.

I would completely ignore the racing world...it has nothing to do with cruisers for the most part. You can get some tips and learn from their mistakes but don't copy them....

Well, I don't agree with completely ignoring racers. I would give different advice, that you crew on other people's boats. You will learn a lot about squeaking every possible bit of speed out of your boat, but you won't have to risk your rigging to do it.

Why does this matter to a cruiser? Would you rather get to your destination in five days of more boring sailing, or three 1/2 days of getting the most your boat has to safely offer? When you race you'll sail in all sorts of conditions you'll encounter on your boat, but with a more experienced skipper in charge. You'll end up in a storm and see how that's handled, and you'll experience very light air where it takes great skill to get the most out of your boat. I know you can turn the engine on in light air, but what if you have light air, dirty fuel and a setting sun, as I had one day recently? Knowing how to get the MOST out of my boat (which came from someone crewing with me; I don't have decades of experience) made all the difference.

Speed doesn't matter as much on day trips, but what if it's Sunday and you REALLY have to be back Monday for work or that grandchild's birthday party?
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Old 07-04-2012, 10:28   #11
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Re: Ocean survial ability

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Originally Posted by Rakuflames View Post
A couple of years a boat sank here in rough weather during a race. The crew had an asymmetrical spinnaker out even though the wind was 35 mph with gusts. Worse, they opened the forward hatch to bring it on deck -- and forgot to close that hatch.

Then a gust of wind hit the boat, and it began to try to broach. the bow dipped down enough for the headsail to scoop up water, which pulled the bow down ... low enough to let water pour into that open hatch.

It was just a couple of mistakes, but it took the boat down.
Knowledge, experience, preparation and learning the lessons from the mistakes of others helps. But, there are some who don't learn and a simple thing missed can have major consequenses.:
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: THE SQUALL RULES!: Anatomy of a sinking.
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Old 07-04-2012, 11:32   #12
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Re: Ocean Survial Ability

Au contraire Rakuflames! While big bad things can happen and ruin your day, in most cases, whether at sea, in an airplane, or safe(?) at home, accidents result from people accepting a few minor problems that seem to multiply then overwhelm. If you listen to survivor accounts, you will come to agree that tragedies come from complacency, minor errors in judgment, compounded failures that join up and wreak disaster. There may be one slightly more notable event that serves as the last straw, but it is just adding to all the other straw that someone thought they could handle OK.

I speak from experience!

Sandy Daugherty, NTSB (ret)
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Old 08-04-2012, 20:53   #13
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Re: Ocean Survial Ability

Thanks everyone, I have some reading to do but some of you have helped my understanding a bit.

I was referring to Ocean passaging and travelling, not racing. Over Easter, here in Tasmania, Australia, there was a rash of sinkings and groundings. But two of them have left me wondering, what on earth happened. With one of them it was a race, and from news reports they didn't hit anything, but had to abandon ship and the vessel sank just after they did. Another one (from last night) the three men abondoned their yacht due to rigging damage, but the boat continued to float, and still is, well after they have been rescued by helicopter.

So, my origional question was specifically what mechanical problems would cause an otherwise well built and solid vessel take on water and sink. Some of you have helped me understand that question. Thanks.

Last night, I found the following link that is really helpful.

How to Prevent Your Boat from Sinking: Boats and Yachts Maintenance and Troubleshooting :
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Old 08-04-2012, 22:38   #14
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Re: Ocean Survial Ability

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Originally Posted by tedsherrin View Post

I'm interested in hearing from you out there who have that ocean going and heavy seas experience.
Ted
Welcome to CF Ted.
Important question and I can tell by your other posts, you are a serious sailor who gets into the details.

There are basically only 2 operational mindsets that cause mechanical failures and emergency scenarios bad enough to sink or abandon a well-designed ocean going yacht

1. Crew’s reliance or desire for maximum Speed that factors into non conservative: passage planning, weather routing, crew fatigue, poor look-out, higher stressed equipment…. Etc…etc.

2. Lack of Maintenance and emergency management that factors into awareness of preplanned solutions for critical failures at worst case scenarios.

I chose a heavy full keel, Dutch built Corten Steel yacht, 2/3rds double bottomed hull that trip averages at a conservative 7 knots in a sea-kindly and relaxed fashion.
We are self contained and never in a hurry

All thru-hulls are easily accessible, with cone plugs attached, spare hoses, spare clamps for every hose and emergency timbers and pads with hydraulic jacks to dam up any large opening.

Oil Bath Shaft and prop is not exposed and has double seal at cutlass bearing with pressure grease packing.

Firefighting equipment and training is a must!

Good look-out at helm position with Radar assist at that station

Your odds of keeping the water out is much higher if you take a conservative, proactive approach!

Good luck in your travels
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Old 08-04-2012, 23:13   #15
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Re: Ocean Survial Ability

I don't think anyone has answered the OP's question.

Cruising boats rarely sink at sea, and almost never just from bad weather, no matter how horrendous. Water has to get into the hull in order for a cruising boat to sink, and fiberglass hulls are quite tough. So what sinkings there are usually happen at the dock, and usually result from bad hoses or through hulls or something connected to them. Another hole through which water can come into the boat to sink it is stern tube -- if the stuffing box disintegrates or the drive shaft falls out, this can cause a sinking.

The risk of such problems can be greatly reduced by good maintenance and regular inspection, plus keeping plugs and a mallet on hand and fitting a bilge alarm, so a problem can be located and plugged before it is too late. Good capacity redundant bilge pumps also help contain these risks, to give you more time to find and plug a leak.

The sinking risk which keeps some cruisers up at night is the fear of hitting a floating container at sea. Hundreds or thousands of these are lost off the decks of ships every year, and theoretically they can float just at or just below the surface where you can't see them. But the sharp edges of them could pierce the hull of a cruising boat and sink it

I personally know of very few verified cases of cruising boats being sunk in this manner and, since there is nothing you can do about it (like a plane crash on a commercial airliner), I don't worry about it. Besides that, ocean containers for years have been required to have holes in them so that they will sink if lost overboard.

It's not bad, however -- and not just for the semi-mythical case of floating containers -- to choose a cruising boat which is designed with some consideration to resisting collision damage. My boat, like many, has a substantial watertight bulkhead between the forepeak and the main accommodation space, and the hull forward of the keel is made of Kevlar to resist collision damage.
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