Exploring Random Hazards

toddster

Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
Hmm... maybe time to figure out how to set up that "guard zone" thingie on the radar.
 

Teranodon

Member III
I have hit many objects, both floating and fixed, in my sailing life. Here is the only one I will admit to today:

Some thirty years ago, I was crewing on a Beneteau First 42. We were racing out of San Francisco Bay, around the Farallon Islands. It was night time. We were coming back towards the Bay under spinnaker, in fog. The boat had a very early GPS, and the navigator (not me) set it for Point Bonita, just outside the Golden Gate. We were moving nicely with nearly zero visibility when, suddenly, the fog parted and we looked up at the flashing light on Point Bonita itself! At the same moment, we hit a submerged rock just off base of the cliff. The crew reacted well. The helmsman turned away from the shore, the pole went forward, the sheet came in. We hit another rock, and then we were clear. It was a very close call, and a very dumb way to get yourself potentially killed. A little later that season, the boat was dismasted in the middle of the Bay while I held on to a suddenly slack spinnaker sheet. Still gives me the willies.

point B.jpg
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
I was about 25 and my father and I entered a double-handed race in his early 36-foot Newick trimaran. The triangular race course started at Sandy Hook, went down the New Jersey Coast to about Manasquan Inlet, then offshore about 70 miles to a Texas Tower (which I don't think is there anymore).

I was asleep below at 3 a.m when the entire inside of the boat seemed to explode in a shower of sea water and wood splinters. I came on deck in a daze and helped get the big mainsail down and an anchor out in pitch blackness. Total disorientation, both of us. What the devil was that?

It was before GPS. My father had been paralleling the shoreline, keeping the lights just in view through light fog. He didn;t know what happened either.

When dawn came there we were, anchored just off the surf line. Behind us lay a rock jetty just exposed by the lowering tide. He had run right over it at 8 knots.

Those early Newicks had daggerboards that drew 8 feet. It went straight down from the trunk in the cabin next to my bunk, and when raised extended up through the companionway. A daggerboard doesn't rotate like a centerboard if you run aground. So Newick designed a "break box" inside the trunk, a simple rectangle of wood that would be destroyed on impact.

Those were the splinters that woke me up with the sudden and arresting noise of an automobile crash.

Oh well. We sailed the 30 miles home with the jammed daggerboard jutting below. The break box had done its job, and the big daggerboard was repairable.

I was glad it wasn't me on watch. Still am.

Try Me Castine, Me.jpg
 

Equanimity

Member II
Great story, Christian.

On the topic of underwater destruction, it got me thinking about the difference in Keel types. Is it true that a full keel can be more impervious to impact or damage, versus a slimmer keel design, or even dagger board design?

Retracting keels seem to be in fashion right now, curious about that too.
 

Bolo

Member III
Great story, Christian.

On the topic of underwater destruction, it got me thinking about the difference in Keel types. Is it true that a full keel can be more impervious to impact or damage, versus a slimmer keel design, or even dagger board design?

Retracting keels seem to be in fashion right now, curious about that too.
IMO, If you hit anything fast enough and hard enough then there will be damage. The Titanic comes to mind.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Risk and Reward

IMO, If you hit anything fast enough and hard enough then there will be damage. The Titanic comes to mind.
You are right, of course. But perhaps it is also good to view this with some perspective. Otherwise you may construct a "strength graph" with only two vessels: a heavy and ponderous Westsail 32 at one end and at the other end that former AC boat that split in the middle from rigging pressure. In reality the strength curve is somewhat like the potential curve for showing what is/is not a "Blue Water" boat. This is argued endlessly and to silly extremes on the internet, and often by people who have spent no time 'out there'. (IMHO)

Think os it as a rather long scale, with weak boats (Weak engineering, thin layups, poor design) on the one end and the stronger ones in all those categories on the other. The money outlay goes up with the construction quality, as you might expect.

Further, very few of the internet opinionated "sailors" actually have offshore experience in a variety of vessels. We are beyond fortunate on this site in having several with massive offshore sailing time in self-sustained vessels. (For all of my shorter-route delivery experience, I am only a C+ or B- student in comparison, to put it in old school terms.)

On the upper part of the strength graph are the stronger boats like the Ericson's and at the low end are the 'sunny day nice weather' boats like most Hunters. The 'low center' part of such a graph is crowded with middling-quality production boats, and the part above the Ericson is rather sparse.

If you run into something hard enough at the right angle, nearly all boats will sink. What we have done by buying E-boats, by shrewd calculation or dumb luck, is bias the potential damage calculation and risk in our favor.
There are a host of cheaper 34 boats that I could have bought, but when moving along at 7 kts plus off the WA coast I love having the odds be much more For me than Against me.

In the Pacific NW, hitting a pinnacle rock is always a risk, and I personally know of two boats that have done do in the last few seasons. Bob's E-34-2 did so, and received only a ding in the lead keel, and no structural problems.

A Portland boat that I am familiar with did virtually the same thing -- a violent halt at 6 kts -- and came very close to being an insurance total. Their inside hull structure that supports their keel was bacly fractured along with the structure up one side that supported the shroud load. Much interior re-construction and new rigging; about 40 to 45K total. :rolleyes:
Insurance paid, and the boat was out of the water for several months. The owners quietly admit that they bought this boat for it's large interior and general "value", and just accept it's weakness. They also are very lucky people. Yes, it's a voluminous (!) late model Hunter 37x model.

So, when hitting "stuff" it's good to have more vessel integrity keeping the odds more in your favor. Ultimately there are never going to be guarantees, our E-boats give us the additional edge that knowing you have an ace in your hand gives you in most card games.... ;)
 
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