S/V Concordia

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by marshmat, Feb 23, 2010.

  1. bistros

    bistros Previous Member

    This wasn't a bunch of lubbers - it was a group of high school senior students who committed to spend a school year on the boat in question. Each one was an active member of the crew supplementing the professionals on board. Each person on board was versed and tested in regards to emergency procedures. Each had been through abandon ship drills. Each one was as old as a entry level merchant seaman cadet. We are not talking about children here.

    All sailing ships should be able to survive a knockdown. Every modern sailing ship carrying commercial passengers should have standing orders and procedures documenting exactly how the ship must be configured for specific weather conditions. The accounts indicate that sail was set the previous day for storm conditions. It would be interesting to know if there were any changes in conditions from when the sails were set and when the incident occurred. If the boat was safely configured for the weather, it should have had watertight bulkheads closed and compartments isolated providing redundant flotation.

    As I stated before, it would be interesting to review stability documentation for the hull in it's actual configuration at the time of the knockdown. If it was a microburst, it was not a sustained wind, but rather intermittent gusts.

    You CAN prepare for any situation, and luck is not a factor. Good "luck" generally happens when good preparation is present, and bad "luck" seems to be present in situations that are under anticipated. Obviously, in this incident the preparations were adequate in regards to abandon ship situations and inadequate in regards to ship handling in extreme weather. The safe rescue of the crew was not good luck, it was good preparation (lifeboat drills, exposure suits, EPIRB) and the loss of the ship wasn't bad luck, it was the direct result of inadequate preparation as well.

    From all indications, there were procedural and policy issues here that may have contributed to the incident. There may also have been equipment deficiencies and inadequate maintenance as indicated by the failed portlights and the failed rafts. Language barriers between the Polish crew and English students may have also contributed to chaos. You can't prevent stupidity or incompetence by design as much as it would be a nice goal.

  2. Hunter25
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    Hunter25 Senior Member

    I have been knocked down. I have been capsized and anyone that thinks a professional crew has their wits about them in this circumstance is just plain not experienced a beam ends event, let alone a bunch of teenagers whose experience is plainly questionable, if not doubtful.
  3. magwas
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    magwas Senior Member

    It is suggested by a Brazilian sailor that the "microburst" had been indeed a front coming from antarctica, which kicked in very fast and had very few signs in terms of cloud. He told it is usual there. I don't know. Any suggestions on this possibility?

    (the rest is offtopic, sorry)
    Enterprise has compartments organised along decks, I don't see any problem with that, as compartmentalisation in starships is not for stability.
    However at least newer constructions need much more than a single hull breach to loose a whole deck: there are force fields to relieve plankings and bulkheads (see "First Contact" for an example), and also force fields in every corridor junction. In an occasion Ms Torres have even jury-rigged a force field inside the cockpit of Delfa Flyer.

    Maybe the reason of sinking of S/V Concordia is that she had no force field to kick in when ports have failed. Sloppy design :)
  4. mark775

    mark775 Guest

    Two of the biggest reason for airplane crashes are failing to carry sufficient speed for a given maneuver and flying from VFR to IFR conditions, yet microbursts and other down-drafts are very often blamed. At sea, "White Squall" and "Microburst" are convenient terms to explain away human cupability. "Microburst" is a particularly useful term in that it defines with its very name why no one else saw it.
  5. ancient kayaker
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    ancient kayaker aka Terry Haines

    My 2.10 cents worth (derated Canadian dollar):-

    You cannot anticipate every possible thing, and certainly cannot plan for it. The sea is the most powerful thing on the planet, and the most unpredictable. The weather is a close second to that.

    There has been talk of luck, good vs bad. It really comes down to probability vs cost. If you attempt to deal in advance with every possible thing that can happen that you know of, it still leaves the things you don't know about. But you won't have to worry about it because the projected cost of the project will get it canceled. Lives have been lost due to torpedoes, being hit by another ship, striking an uncharted reef, acts of terrorism or piracy, mutiny and a whole lot of other things that I defy anyone to plan for ...

    There has been talk of chaos and incompetence. An old ship turned over without warning and everyone on board got out, without serious injury as far as I know, even though they were mostly young, inexperienced and had no warning. Surely this is a monument to planning and training!

    I agree with some of the stuff, especially the windows breaking.

    Well then, should we send our kids out on the sea to learn? Better than sending them out to war, IMHO.
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  6. jehardiman
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    jehardiman Senior Member

    Good post. The term I use when writing Operational Guidance and Damage Control Manuals is "a small but real danger of a statistically significant event". In this way, I bring out the fact that the danger is real, which is often lost if you just consider the probablities. Most people don't realize that there is a 40% chance of a 100 year event in the 20 year life of a vessel.

    Microbursts, extreme wave slope or height, lighting strike, collision/allision, and floating containers are all examples of the types of real dangers that have some very small and unpredictable probability of occurance. It is impossible to plan for, and operate, so as to totally avoid ALL the risks that a ship faces at sea. Indeed, often the necessary precautions preclude being prepared two or more simultaneous hazards (such as fighting a fire and controlling flooding).

    While warships are expected to soak up damage and continue, merchant ships only have to survive the damage from a "statistically significant event" long enough to get the crew and passangers off. In this case, as in the M/V Explorer, damage control design was "adaquate" in that the ship was abandoned without a loss. Wether this is better or worse that the recent incidents aboard the M/V Louis Majesty were two were lost or the M/V Costa Europa allision where 3 died is open to debate. However, I agree that the fact the "windows cracked and broke" is disturbing. Where they incorrectly designed, or improperly installed, or was there some other unanticipated action at work here?

    While events like this are rare, they are still part of "the normal hazards of the sea" that all ships are subject to while at sea. If you wish to remove these risks, then set the ship in concrete next to the pier and never let them sail...but that is not what ships are for.

    She is Barbadian flagged, but run by a Canadian school, so I expect to see a report at the Transportation Safety Board (http://www.tsb.gc.ca/en/index.asp) in a few months after they get it all sorted out.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2010
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  7. Brent Swain
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    Brent Swain Member

    This clearly shows the dangers of having openings off the centreline. I prefer to have all openings on or near the centreline where they will remain above the waterline when knocked down to 90 degrees . I've taken many such knockdowns, which would have sunk me, had I had openings too far off the centreline. To sink a boat as big as the Concordia so quickly, such openings must have been huge. Some one must have made the naive assumption that such a boat would never be knocked down. A similar tragedy happened to the "Albatross" many years ago, with much loss of life. Failure to learn the lessons of history led to them having to be repeated.
    I'm amazed to see boats like the Masons, with offset hatches, which would sink a boat quickly in a knockdown , by a surprise squall or katabatick, which often hit without warning.
  8. sharpii2
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    sharpii2 Senior Member

    I remember when they used to say that about rouge waves.

    Until a ship's officer on an oil tanker actually photographed one. The ship survived the hit and the photo was was examined to reveal that the wave in question was at least one hundred feet high.

    I may have been affected by a micro burst myself.

    I was trying to get my boat in before a storm hit and has hit by a relatively strong gust. It was certainly no stronger than this boat had experienced before, rolling her over about 45 to 60 degrees. But this time, the further the boat rolled, the greater the effect of the gust seemed to be.

    My blind brother and I jumped overboard as the deck went vertical. We were only a few dozen yards from shore.

    The boat continued to turtle until only the dark blue bottom paint was visible.

    Within an hour, I had the boat righted and bailed out, none the worse for wear. But I was personally shaken by the incident.

    The problem with this kind of phenomenon is that it is so sporadic that it is almost impossible to scientifically verify.

    I think I also saw an airliner caught in one.

    It was flying over my house (about 30 miles from an airport) and it was much louder than usual. I went outside to see that it was flying so low I could read the lettering on it. The engines were screaming so loud that they must have been at max power. The poor pilot was pedaling as fast as he could to keep that puppy in the air. But the thing seemed to hang there, like a swimmer desperately dog paddling to stay afloat. It wasn't gaining any altitude.

    This went on only for a few seconds, then the thing finally started to climb. If he were a thousand feet lower, perhaps, when this started, he would have been headline news. My guess is that he was hit with a sudden tail wind that deprived him of airspeed.
  9. ancient kayaker
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    ancient kayaker aka Terry Haines

    -and if it was 30 years or so back they would have blamed the pilot. At least modern airports are equipped with detectors for such conditions. At sea, that is not an option, unless there is something that can be seen from a weather satellite. Of course, until we know what to look for, we won't know what to look for ...

    The problem with a jet airliner is, the engines take several seconds to respond to a power level increase while the fans spool up. Of course, some folk would say that if the designers were really serious about air safety they would fit small rocket motors for emergency propulsion in such circumstances ;)
  10. bistros

    bistros Previous Member

    Seems like I've been taking some flack here for my "there is no luck" comment.

    I perfectly well understand the reality of balancing cost/effort versus potential problems - but my statement was more aimed towards many folks tendency to underprepare and then blame "luck", rather than assume responsibility for their inaction.

    Personally, I think the responsibility bar is set pretty low when doing post event incident analysis. Rarely do inquiries dig deep enough to produce useful results that could help prevent future occurrences of a similar situation

    I know you can't anticipate everything that can happen, nor could anyone afford to prevent everything. You do have to make sure your preparations are in line with the type of usage your vessel is doing. I think a commercial school vessel carrying young adults should have higher standards due to the value and fragility of the cargo.

    A momentary knockdown and safe recovery in a storm is within the level of preparation and anticipation I would expect for a ship performing this type of duty. This wasn't a rogue wave, tectonic event or impact with a semi-submerged item.

  11. Doug Lord
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    Doug Lord Flight Ready

    It seems to me that if this was a microburst that then it would be in the same general category as these. From what I understand, if it was a microburst the "wind" is coming vertically down and would tend to pin the boat or even push the rig into the water for a short time after the knockdown with a lot more force than a "normal" horizontal gust.
  12. bistros

    bistros Previous Member

    Read through ALL the accounts. There is also very clear indication of gusty horizontal winds, not vertical. "Microburst" is a catch all phrase and these reports have no basis in factual verification by anyone qualified (Doppler radar observation by meteorologist) to label it as such. The lack of agreement in the accounts is indication things most likely aren't clearly attributable to one specific weather condition.

    We get what meteorologists label "microbursts" here in Ontario during the summer storm season (I hesitate to call it tornado season, because we just don't get enough). They are small, very localized and very quickly over. One building gets damaged, and 200 feet away it's like nothing happened. Over in seconds.

    The one thing consistently reported in all accounts is that the portlights failed, and water came in too fast to deal with. This is pretty clear indication the boat didn't roll back up effectively, and as a microburst is a momentary event, it would not hold down the rig for a sustained period of time.

    I'll be watching for the Transport Canada reports.

  13. jehardiman
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    jehardiman Senior Member

    At issue here is not the knockdown, which most likely could not have been prevented, but the downflooding. Microbursts and white squalls are real events that I and many others have experienced to more or lesser degrees. And over the centuries many large sailing vessels have been knocked on thier beam ends, and most have recovered with more or less damage, often by cutting away one or more masts. Here is an example


    Or do a google search for ["beam ends" cut away masts] to turn up many accounts.

    The fact that the Concordia did not capsize and it reportedly took over 20 minutes to downflood puts it in a very different light than The Pride of Baltimore, the Marques, or the Albatross each of which went down very quickly due to thier deck layouts.

    BTW, the TSB of Canada is going to take up an investigation:
  14. Doug Lord
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    Doug Lord Flight Ready

    Not necessarily-I would hope that actual facts would be brought into play when making judgements of this magnitude:


    The periodicity of vortex ring instability explains the wide variety of microburst life times and characteristics. Most microbursts are rather short-lived (~5 min), but others have been observed to last four or even six times as long (Wilson et al. 1984). Vortex ring instability is a parasitic feature of a downdraft that acts as a dissipative mechanism. In situations where the flux of air in a downdraft is not large, one vortex ring may be enough to dissipate the downdraft energy; the result would be an impulsive, short-lived microburst. For downdrafts with higher fluxes, several vortex rings may be initiated, resulting in a series of discrete microbursts of short duration and spaced several minutes apart. That happened in the Eastern Flight 66 crash (Fujita and Byers 1977); three microbursts occurred along the landing approach within a period of 9 min. In the crash of Pan American Flight 759, two impulsive microbursts occurred in approximately the same location within a period of about 7 min. For still higher downdraft fluxes the vortices generated become part of a larger scale circulation that has a much longer lifetime than each vortex element. Such was the situation at Dallas-Fort Worth during the crash of Delta Flight 191 as reported by Fujita (1986) and Caracena et al. (1986).

  15. bistros

    bistros Previous Member

    If there were actual facts, no one would be speculating. No one in this thread is making judgments, they are posting theories.

    In cases like this, there is no capability to empirically determine the weather facts, including if a microburst actually occurred.

    I have no interest in playing word games with you, Doug. Have a great weekend. I'll be out working on a real boat.

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