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colemj 13-05-2014 06:34

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)
Rebel Heart wrote: "I tried using 4200 but the area was so wet I couldn't get it to adhere. I had the leftovers of 5200 but that didn't seem to work too well. What was really needed would have been something almost like tar. Super thick, super gross, adheres to a seawater wet surface, and cures in moisture. A few quarts of that and I suppose I could have just put a huge hunk of goo over everything. No idea if it would have worked, but that's what I wanted.

Also, I could see the area the water was going down (crack between the gunwale and the deck), but a simple caulking failure like that wouldn't cause water intrusion so I felt like I would have needed to pull up the teak boards to fix the issue

He also described it as a flexing opening of unknown length.

I believe his assessment. Do you really think that some goop soaked spare underwear and a 4" tube of epoxy putty is going to help the situation he describes?

I agree that for holes and other types of leaks, there are ways to mitigate them easily with stuff on board. But in this case he would have to do some major carpentry just to access the area, then deal with a continually wet, large, flexing gap. And require "quarts" worth of solution. I carry three 12" sticks of underwater epoxy, many tubes of different sealants, and am very ready to sacrifice my underwear.

None of that would help or be enough in the situation described. That problem requires a repair, or at least longer term complete access to the area while it is dry and not flexing - which is very difficult at sea.

So I am not saying that repairing or mitigating leaks is impossible using the techniques that some of you describe, I am saying you haven't been reading Eric's account of the issue very closely.


mrm 13-05-2014 06:57

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)

Originally Posted by fryewe (Post 1539700)
Been thinking about this since RH's post on the topic...


All things I carry on board.

Any other ideas?

Well... yes.. sort of..
I was wondering if having a large can or two of a polyurethane foam could be beneficial in such cases? This stuff adheres to wet surfaces, expands like crazy, cures with moisture and does not take much storage space on board. Maybe.. when the actual leaking place is hard/impossible to reach, an alternative way could be to fill the whole space with pu foam using any tiny access? Is this idea totally off the chart?

Stu Jackson 13-05-2014 07:00

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)

Originally Posted by funjohnson (Post 1539599)

Also, with our fin keel, we use no jib and just the third reef to heave-to, but we also set our preventer as we need to hold the boom out and down for it to work.


Matt, sounds more like fore reaching than heave to, to me.

w32honu 13-05-2014 07:01

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)

Originally Posted by rebel heart (Post 1538141)
We got broached and a subsequent larger breaking wave hit us while we were still beam to, I know the boom went in the water but I highly doubt the mast did.

We were broad reaching and our boom was 19' long, with maybe 12' of beam, so it was decently out there.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I547 using Cruisers Sailing Forum mobile app

Rebel Heart,

Welcome back man!! Both myself and my wife are former Coast Guard. We have followed your story with interest. We are so glad with the outcome and that you and your family are safe. And we fully support your dreams, desires, and decisions to pursue a cruising life………especially with a family. Kudos to you mate!!! :thumb:

Wanted to ask you about the time honored tactic of heaving to……...

Is this a tactic you have used in the past? If so ….how effective was it for you on that particular boat??

colemj 13-05-2014 07:10

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)

Originally Posted by mrm (Post 1540190)
Well... yes.. sort of..
I was wondering if having a large can or two of a polyurethane foam could be beneficial in such cases? This stuff adheres to wet surfaces, expands like crazy, cures with moisture and does not take much storage space on board. Maybe.. when the actual leaking place is hard/impossible to reach, an alternative way could be to fill the whole space with pu foam using any tiny access? Is this idea totally off the chart?

Not a bad idea at all. My experiences with those cans is that they go bad in a few months and don't work. However, one can pick up new ones almost anywhere.


colemj 13-05-2014 07:13

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)

Originally Posted by Andrew Troup (Post 1539994)
Most people seem to be assuming a single or localised major leak.

Eric himself said that it was a single localized major leak (along with an unknown, smaller leak).


w32honu 13-05-2014 07:32

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)

Originally Posted by goboatingnow (Post 1540070)
Why all this fascination with heaving to, a lot of boats will run very easily on headsail alone , a very uncomplicated setup and easy to red in squalls. I see to making " book articles " suggesting " I'd hove to and went below to amazing calm" , mostly that's nonsense


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

Running off is not always an option. Besides the point of heaving to is to stop the boat and reduce or eliminate the huge amount of energy that a large boat can produce when surfing or sailing hard. Any boat can trip on it's keel and broach or pitch pole. That kinetic energy transferred to hull, rig, and on rushing water is what causes the damage.

Lots of good advice here with regard to gooping the damage and leaks once they occur. Another possibility is that this boat could have had problems that the owner wasn't aware of and could not have known. If I am not mistaken the HC-36 is a balsa core from the waterline to the gunwale. We all know the affects of water intrusion on a balsa cored hull. The integrity and strength of that laminate would have gone south………big time. Especially on an older boat.

So it is possible to be sailing in strong conditions and experience a knock down……..something a good strong boat can handle. But unknown to the operator the hull is compromised and damage could occur. No bad seamanship. No bad decisions with regard to the electronics someone purchased. Just one of those things………..***** happens.

This is all hypothetical of course…..

smackdaddy 13-05-2014 08:39

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)

Originally Posted by rebel heart (Post 1539860)
Tried that, both under yankee and staysail, but we weren't zipping along fast enough.

Plus, once I wanted to heave to I needed the main up.

You're going slow ("too slow") with a stable (and safer) headsail configuration...then decide raising the main, heaving-to with a prevented boom, and leaving the helm in the middle of squalls with serious wind-shifts and confused seas is the better option? I assume you were just tired and needed some rest - and just got caught.

For clarity, do you consider what happened to you a "broach" or a "knockdown". The reason I'm asking is Charlotte's description of the waves slamming into the boat - and the extent of the resulting damage. It's an important distinction in discussing what role the sail configuration might have played in all this (i.e. - whether it was wave or wind that put you down).

Also, do you think a chainplate let go causing the damage at the deck?

Azul 13-05-2014 09:01

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)
I read the transcript of the interview this morning and the comments on this thread last night. Opinions have been expressed as to the captain’s seamanship, storm tactics, the nature of the damage, whether it is possible for a hull deck joint on a Union 36 to be impaired by a knockdown, etcetera. Little has been discussed about the foremost cause for the call for help, the child’s sickness.

For those that want a brief synopsis of the interview, the following are points that caught my attention.

-the sick child had been given a clean bill of health after salmonella exposure before the trip and the trip was delayed while the child was improving.
-during the first seven days the child was apparently well.
-on day seven a rash occurred, the child's ears smelled like cheese and diarrhea restarted (implied it was an element of the previous illness.) The mother noted the child was becoming "lethargic," (which when used as a medical term has a specific meaning and is a true pediatric life threatening emergency especially in a child under two years of age and has the implication of possible sepsis or meningitis requiring immediate intravenous treatment to prevent mortality.)
-the satellite phone was used to call the child's pediatrician. Whatever information was conveyed to him is not known, but the doctor advised them to start the child on amoxicillin. (Snarky comment caused by poor sleep contemplating this incident: this is one of those medical situations where it would be good not to have a doctor on the other end of the line that cannot deal with uncertainty, as obviously all of the facts could not be known to the doctor ie the true appearance of the rash, the child’s state of hydration, the clinical appearance of the ears, how "sick" the child would look to an emergency physician etc.)
-according to the mother, the child was still sick after two days on oral antibiotics. Not described as worse, just still sick. (Bacterial meningitis and sepsis are now ruled out as the child would probably be dead after two days without treatment, amoxil does not penetrate into the CNS to treat meningitis for example. Meningitis used to be a large factor in childhood death and disability before the widespread and liberal use of antibiotics to treat otitis media. It should be noted that bilateral "cheesy smelling ears" would be more likely to be swimmer's ear from a damp environment and/or complication from treatment with an antibiotic for salmonella. Previously on their blog it was described that the salmonella diagnosis was made by a blood test which just shows prior exposure, whereas typically a stool culture is used to diagnose an active infection.) The mother expresses the child "should have been better within 24 hours on an antibiotic." Pediatricians do not expect an infection to get better with antibiotic treatment in 24 hours, it would be typical to wait three days before changing treatment unless the child is worsening. Typically they do not treat an unknown source of infection with an antibiotic, especially when a rash and diarrhea is present ie "first do no harm..." What if the diarrhea was not from an ear infection or recurrent salmonella but from antibiotic associated diarrhea ie clostridium difficile which would be worsened by amoxil and is also potentially fatal especially in this age group, the most common symptom is diarrhea. Clearly the doctor was not given information that would lead him to think the child was in danger, dehydrated, septic, or lethargic or he would be negligent to not recommend immediate rescue, or perhaps he was just incompetent.
-during the two days the child was becoming sick was when the broach, roll, knockdown or knockdowns (or whatever) occurred as the sea states were getting rougher according to Eric. Charlotte stated there were "several knockdowns." When the damage occurred, Charlotte stated Eric was on the side deck wearing a harness, Eric stated he was in the companionway not wearing a harness then clipped in and went out to inspect the damage. (Confusing conflict of key detail, and certainly noteworthy in that the couple were not standing watches at the helm.)
-at this point the satellite phone was used to call the Coast Guard to advise them of Rebel Heart's status. The CG stated they would discuss the situation with their doctor and call back. Further communication did not occur as the satellite phone stopped working due to the SIM card. (This has happened to me with my airplane satellite phone used to get XM weather when the carrier turned off the phone by accident thinking the bill wasn't paid when I changed credit cards and told them so.)
-Eric stated the leak which was allowing "maybe 70 gallons per day" to enter was on the starboard side near the stern. For two days the leak allowed the radio equipment and batteries to be "bathed slowly but surely in a nice coating of sea water." There was no reported attempt to protect the equipment from salt water. Eric clearly identified the hull-deck joint as the major source of the leak. (Confusing, as Minaret has stated this is impossible for all practical purposes, and even the sailboat that had a whale do a belly flop on it didn't sink or suffer hull-deck joint damage.)
-at this point the "long range radio" was used to send a pan-pan. Eric did not know if the radio was working or there was just no response. It is not clear if he knew the correct frequency to use for an emergency response.
-a heart to heart discussion ensued between the parents and use of the Epirb was contemplated. Charlotte discusses in detail that she didn’t think she could deal with the situation (after having Eric “do the math”) for another three weeks.
-on day 16 (nine days after the child was perceived to be ill) the Epirb was activated
-as of the date of the interview, no specific diagnosis was made as to the nature of the illness.

There is no "study" designed to ascertain the safety of taking children under two out of the reach of timely medical help, but clearly there is some element of risk in doing so and I believe this is a topic which should be thoroughly discussed. To his credit, Eric's best preparation while cruising offshore with children was having both a satellite phone and an Epirb on board.

Matt Johnson 13-05-2014 09:01

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)

Originally Posted by Stu Jackson (Post 1540193)
Matt, sounds more like fore reaching than heave to, to me.

Nope. Typically I can set to drift right down wind.

rebel heart 13-05-2014 09:08

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)
I think some of you guys are trying to over-simplify here a bit.

We're talking about multiple days, hundreds of miles, moving between the eastern trades, entering the equatorial counter current, and the squalls of the itcz. Trying to say "this is how you should sail in those conditions" is fairly nuts, the conditions changed a lot, especially when you're talking about multi-directional swell, breaking seas, and squalls which double the wind speed and steepen/crumble the waves.

I could sit there with a helicopter flying over your boat, analyzing every twenty minutes and saying "well you know what you should be doing right now is...".

But a reality for me is that you're not, on a multi-week sail, going to change out your sail configuration every half hour. And what works in:

- 15 knots NE
- primary 4m swell east
- secondary 3m swell north east

doesn't necassarily work as well in:

- primary 4m swell east
- secondary 3m swell north east

I'm not saying that I was carrying the ideal and perfect sail combination and trim for every second of my passage. I fully acknowledge that for the most part broaches are generally a fault of bad helmsmanship, exacerbated (but not always) by an off balanced rig.

What I would say, and I'm not looking for agreement or offering this as a defense, is that in a mixed up sea state that lasts for multiple days it's not reasonable to assume you'll be carrying the ideal trim, balance, and rudder all the time like we're sailing in a test tube.

Furthermore, eventually those doubled-up big monster swells that you tend to see off in the distance for a few seconds that then dissipate will eventually find their way over to you. You're just out there long enough that you increase your exposure.

There was a video a guy made of sailing (I think) from Panama to Hawaii and he talked about being in a rather happy sea state and then bam, knocked on his side by some random ass wave. Not a "rogue wave" by the technical definition, at all.

I think something I learned, that's really not that spectacular or unique is that you can easily end up:

+ being out of trim
+ encountering a rather bigger wave than normal
= that one is going to hurt a little bit

Again, just to put this whole thing in context, the reason we left our boat was a medical emergency. The damage to the boat although significant was in and of itself not enough for us to abandon ship.

Lojanica 13-05-2014 09:43

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)
What about just having the wife and kids fly to the other end of a 3-4 week passage? Cheaper and maybe saner than 100k boat loss and megadrama? Hindsight is great but I am thinking that perhaps someone in a similar situation would maybe consider that as an alternative over a possible repeat of this family's ordeal.

Not second guessing anyone at all just saying that it seems the wildcard was the young crew and that without the young crew Eric may have prevailed.

goboatingnow 13-05-2014 09:59

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)

Running off is not always an option. Besides the point of heaving to is to stop the boat and reduce or eliminate the huge amount of energy that a large boat can produce when surfing or sailing hard. Any boat can trip on it's keel and broach or pitch pole. That kinetic energy transferred to hull, rig, and on rushing water is what causes the damage.
This is not really the thread for this, but of course in running off, you may have to drag warps or drogues to slow the boat etc.

No-one is saying there is a panacea, the solutions is a combination of lots of things. Personally I don't see in modern boats heaving to as a good survival storm tactic, because few modern boats can reliably heave-to so as to be left for several hours unattended, with things like the Pardys suggested. ( which I don't like at all) .

But I don't think heaving to was the issue in RH anyway.


s/v Moondancer 13-05-2014 11:16

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)
First I think that Eric's decision to call for help was 100% correct and while he obviously got into a situation beyond his experience level I have done that too.

The Navy and rescue people showed how exceptional they are and I do not begrudge the money spent.

However, Azul's point about taking small children off-shore is worth addressing.

The decision to take a small child trans-oceanic is obviously a parental decision and I think that it does not reach the level of governmental intervention. However, I personally, as a pediatric intensive care doctor and a sailor, do not think that the medical risk is acceptable.

If we take a serious but usually non-lethal pediatric problem like febrile seizures it is possible to fairly accurately calculate an estimate of the probability of a child between the age of newborn and 5 years having a seizure that will result in unconsciousness. One study I have used followed 18,500 newborns for 5 years. (University of California, Berkeley).

The risk of a febrile seizure in any one month period for a child in the first 5 years of life is approximately 1 in 3000. Eric had two children in that age group so his chances of that problem were 1 in 1500. There are other studies that suggest the risk may be almost twice as high as the study I quote. And febrile seizures is just one of dozens of diseases a child can develop.

After 25 year of practicing high risk pediatric medicine and sailing, taking care of a pediatric seizure on a short handed boat in bad weather is more excitement than I would care to experience.

ps Eric you should give the donated money to a pediatric charity or to the Coast Guard benevolent fund. I for one certainly thought the money was being donated to a charity.

Captain Bill 13-05-2014 11:24

re: Call for Help/ This American Life (Merged)
First let me say that I fully support Eric's decision to push the button. Given the totality of the circumstances it was absolutely the right thing to do. I'm not going to get into the discussion on his sail configuration decision. As a cat sailor if I have my boom in the water I've got much more serious problems than Eric had. What I have noticed is a lit of speculation about whether his knockdown/broach could have cracked his hull/deck joint. I'm not familiar with the details of the hull deck joint on an HC so I'll simply ask some questions and hope to get some feedback from those who do. It sounded to me from Eric's description that the crack was beneath the teak decking and the edge of the inside of the toe rail. Am I misinterpreting what he said? In my boat this is not the hull/deck joint. In mine the hull deck joint is at least a foot to a foot and a half below this where the top and bottoms two molded halves of the boat come together. In my boat this joint is hidden under the rub rail and is through bolted every 6 inches and glassed on the inside. If HC's are built in two halves like most fiberglass boats inside the toe rail would seem to be an odd place for a hull/deck joint, but like I said I don't know HCs. Am I getting this all wrong? If in fact it was a crack under the teak inside of the toe rail rather than at the mold joint could this explain so of the differences in opinion stated about the strength of the "hull/deck joint expressed here. Is the toe rail molded into the upper mold in an HC or is an after the fact add on? If it's molded in and there is a 90 degree or near 90 degree molded corner where the fiberglass deck meets the toe rail it can produce a "hard" spot which is subject to fatigue failure from hull flexing over many years. The Knockdown/broach could have just been the straw that broke the camel's back. I had such a failure in my deck as the result of a hard gybe. The builder had seen fit to embed an aluminum plate in the layup where my lower shroud bolted to the deck. Over the years the deck flexing had weakened the fiberglass up against the molded in cabin joint. When the gybe happened that joint cracked about 18 inches through at least 3/4 of an inch of glass. Now on my cat this is 6 feet above the water line so I didn't have the problem Eric had, but it did leak in the rain until I had it fixed. From the description I heard from Eric's interview it certainly sounded like he described the crack as being under the teak, and that it was opening up between the hull (toe rail?) and the teak decking. Clearly this area is difficult to inspect and it does not seem that Eric pulled up his decking to inspect this area before he left. This last statement is not meant to be critical and it may be that without fancy test equipment one could not tell if there was any danger of an imminent failure. It was not obvious on my boat which was not covered in teak decking. If this is what happened it may be a lesson learned about a place to inspect more closely on a vintage fiberglass boat before venturing on ocean crossings. Not that I know how one would go about doing that.

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