Discussion in 'Stability' started by Guillermo, Nov 26, 2006.

  1. Guillermo
    Joined: Mar 2005
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    We built a series of this kind of boats for the Spanish authorities, when I worked for RODMAN, a long time ago. We performed the inversion test with the prototype of the series and it was impressive to watch, indeed!

    Attached Files:

  2. DGreenwood
    Joined: Aug 2004
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    DGreenwood Senior Member

    Impressive looking boat.
    The US Coast Guard uses a similar looking boat for surf rescue etc. The older ones were pretty damn tough and seemed pretty capable crossing those deadly west coast entrance bars in bad weather. I don't know how their new one is working out. I missed my chance to take a ride on one lately:mad:
  3. Guillermo
    Joined: Mar 2005
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    Location: Pontevedra, Spain

    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    Interesting list of ocean-going light & average cruising auxiliary between 40' and 50' with some desirable characteristics, from my point of view (gotten from Thanks, Antonio)

    40' < LOA < 50'
    180< D/L < 300
    SA/D > 15
    MCR > 30
    CSF < 2

    Amel Maramu, LOA=47.93, Displacement to LWL=278, Sail Area to Displacement=17.74, Motion Comfort=36.05, Capsize Ratio=1.71
    Bavaria 44, LOA=44, Displacement to LWL=186, Sail Area to Displacement=23.92, Motion Comfort=31.19, Capsize Ratio=1.83
    Bayfield 36, LOA=41.25, Displacement to LWL=291, Sail Area to Displacement=19.9, Motion Comfort=30.72, Capsize Ratio=1.81
    Beneteau First 435, LOA=43.5, Displacement to LWL=226, Sail Area to Displacement=15.66, Motion Comfort=30.5, Capsize Ratio=1.84
    Bolger Barnowl, LOA=49.27, Displacement to LWL=188, Sail Area to Displacement=24.44, Motion Comfort=37.85, Capsize Ratio=1.58
    Brewer Sandingo, LOA=40.92, Displacement to LWL=260, Sail Area to Displacement=16.16, Motion Comfort=35.5, Capsize Ratio=1.72
    Cal 48, LOA=47.75, Displacement to LWL=260, Sail Area to Displacement=19.46, Motion Comfort=36.06, Capsize Ratio=1.64
    Caliber 40 LRC, LOA=40.92, Displacement to LWL=281, Sail Area to Displacement=15.25, Motion Comfort=32.15, Capsize Ratio=1.82
    Caliber 47LRC, LOA=48.7, Displacement to LWL=239, Sail Area to Displacement=15.77, Motion Comfort=38.51, Capsize Ratio=1.65
    Cambria 44, LOA=45.11, Displacement to LWL=255, Sail Area to Displacement=15.69, Motion Comfort=35.56, Capsize Ratio=1.75
    Cape Dory 45 Cutter, LOA=46.88, Displacement to LWL=285, Sail Area to Displacement=16.96, Motion Comfort=32.65, Capsize Ratio=1.8
    Catalina 42 MK II, LOA=41.83, Displacement to LWL=234, Sail Area to Displacement=15.12, Motion Comfort=30.08, Capsize Ratio=1.9
    Catalina 50, LOA=49.81, Displacement to LWL=187, Sail Area to Displacement=16, Motion Comfort=33.66, Capsize Ratio=1.78
    Cheoy Lee 41, LOA=40.16, Displacement to LWL=229, Sail Area to Displacement=16.7, Motion Comfort=31.8, Capsize Ratio=1.78
    Cherubini 44, LOA=44, Displacement to LWL=208, Sail Area to Displacement=19.64, Motion Comfort=42.05, Capsize Ratio=1.51
    Cherubini 48, LOA=48.75, Displacement to LWL=194, Sail Area to Displacement=17.55, Motion Comfort=41, Capsize Ratio=1.56
    Chris Craft Comanche 42, LOA=42.19, Displacement to LWL=283, Sail Area to Displacement=17.46, Motion Comfort=33.25, Capsize Ratio=1.68
    Columbia 43, LOA=43.75, Displacement to LWL=284, Sail Area to Displacement=17.26, Motion Comfort=33.6, Capsize Ratio=1.74
    Colvin Gazelle, LOA=42.28, Displacement to LWL=224, Sail Area to Displacement=19.89, Motion Comfort=30.22, Capsize Ratio=1.74
    Dufour 12000CT, LOA=44.25, Displacement to LWL=270, Sail Area to Displacement=18.83, Motion Comfort=32.52, Capsize Ratio=1.8
    Endeavour 42, LOA=41.23, Displacement to LWL=289, Sail Area to Displacement=17.32, Motion Comfort=33.57, Capsize Ratio=1.8
    Formosa 46, LOA=45.02, Displacement to LWL=221, Sail Area to Displacement=16.34, Motion Comfort=37.8, Capsize Ratio=1.65
    Frers & Cibils F&C 44 Ketch, LOA=43.58, Displacement to LWL=272, Sail Area to Displacement=18.79, Motion Comfort=31.53, Capsize Ratio=1.8
    Gail Storm (Exp. Design), LOA=44, Displacement to LWL=207, Sail Area to Displacement=20.64, Motion Comfort=35.5, Capsize Ratio=1.74
    Gibbons 42, LOA=42, Displacement to LWL=217, Sail Area to Displacement=15.62, Motion Comfort=35.57, Capsize Ratio=1.71
    Hallberg Rassy 41, LOA=41, Displacement to LWL=244, Sail Area to Displacement=19.05, Motion Comfort=34.1, Capsize Ratio=1.7
    Hallberg-Rassy 40, LOA=40.67, Displacement to LWL=234, Sail Area to Displacement=17.71, Motion Comfort=31.94, Capsize Ratio=1.78
    Hallberg-Rassy HR 42, LOA=43.36, Displacement to LWL=203, Sail Area to Displacement=16.8, Motion Comfort=34.31, Capsize Ratio=1.72
    Hallberg-rassy 40, LOA=40.66, Displacement to LWL=181, Sail Area to Displacement=17.71, Motion Comfort=30.16, Capsize Ratio=1.78
    Hans Christian 41T, LOA=40.11, Displacement to LWL=337, Sail Area to Displacement=16.29, Motion Comfort=46.46, Capsize Ratio=1.62
    Herreshoff Fishers-Island 31, LOA=43.5, Displacement to LWL=257, Sail Area to Displacement=19.8, Motion Comfort=33.63, Capsize Ratio=1.63
    Hylas 46, LOA=46.23, Displacement to LWL=209, Sail Area to Displacement=19.48, Motion Comfort=33.42, Capsize Ratio=1.77
    Icelander 43, LOA=43, Displacement to LWL=196, Sail Area to Displacement=16.91, Motion Comfort=33.29, Capsize Ratio=1.71
    Irwin 41 CC Ketch, LOA=41.8, Displacement to LWL=258, Sail Area to Displacement=17.83, Motion Comfort=32.56, Capsize Ratio=1.83
    Irwin 43, LOA=42.71, Displacement to LWL=259, Sail Area to Displacement=18.63, Motion Comfort=32.75, Capsize Ratio=1.84
    Irwin 44, LOA=43.6, Displacement to LWL=243, Sail Area to Displacement=16.3, Motion Comfort=31.68, Capsize Ratio=1.83
    Irwin 46 CC, LOA=45.6, Displacement to LWL=259, Sail Area to Displacement=15.2, Motion Comfort=31.83, Capsize Ratio=1.82
    Irwin 46 Ketch, LOA=45.5, Displacement to LWL=278, Sail Area to Displacement=16.31, Motion Comfort=39.53, Capsize Ratio=1.68
    Island Packet 40, LOA=41.5, Displacement to LWL=259, Sail Area to Displacement=18.05, Motion Comfort=31.92, Capsize Ratio=1.82
    Island Packet 44, LOA=46.2, Displacement to LWL=242, Sail Area to Displacement=19, Motion Comfort=34.99, Capsize Ratio=1.73
    Island Packet 45, LOA=43.25, Displacement to LWL=242, Sail Area to Displacement=18.91, Motion Comfort=35.29, Capsize Ratio=1.75
    Island Packet IP420, LOA=44.58, Displacement to LWL=244, Sail Area to Displacement=18.56, Motion Comfort=32.01, Capsize Ratio=1.87
    Islander 44, LOA=43.38, Displacement to LWL=293, Sail Area to Displacement=16.82, Motion Comfort=39.56, Capsize Ratio=1.56
    Kelly Peterson 46, LOA=46.25, Displacement to LWL=218, Sail Area to Displacement=17, Motion Comfort=38.18, Capsize Ratio=1.66
    Kettenburg PCC, LOA=46.25, Displacement to LWL=264, Sail Area to Displacement=16.93, Motion Comfort=39.38, Capsize Ratio=1.44
    Malo 39, LOA=40.16, Displacement to LWL=264, Sail Area to Displacement=20.36, Motion Comfort=30.63, Capsize Ratio=1.83
    Malo 41, LOA=42.66, Displacement to LWL=285, Sail Area to Displacement=15.31, Motion Comfort=38.13, Capsize Ratio=1.7
    Morgan 42, LOA=42, Displacement to LWL=288, Sail Area to Displacement=17.84, Motion Comfort=31.86, Capsize Ratio=1.75
    Morgan 462 Sloop (1981), LOA=44.2, Displacement to LWL=221, Sail Area to Displacement=15.11, Motion Comfort=35.15, Capsize Ratio=1.74
    Nauticat 44, LOA=44.9, Displacement to LWL=262, Sail Area to Displacement=19.52, Motion Comfort=43.69, Capsize Ratio=1.54
    Navy 44, LOA=44, Displacement to LWL=298, Sail Area to Displacement=16.66, Motion Comfort=39.62, Capsize Ratio=1.64
    New York 46 (Roberts), LOA=45.35, Displacement to LWL=235, Sail Area to Displacement=15.65, Motion Comfort=48.23, Capsize Ratio=1.5
    Newport 41 MK II/S, LOA=41, Displacement to LWL=240, Sail Area to Displacement=17.47, Motion Comfort=31.5, Capsize Ratio=1.72
    Newport 41 MarkII, LOA=40.44, Displacement to LWL=240, Sail Area to Displacement=17.47, Motion Comfort=31.52, Capsize Ratio=1.72
    Nordic 44, LOA=44.6, Displacement to LWL=241, Sail Area to Displacement=17.44, Motion Comfort=32.13, Capsize Ratio=1.79
    Norseman 447, LOA=44.51, Displacement to LWL=237, Sail Area to Displacement=16.25, Motion Comfort=35.61, Capsize Ratio=1.71
    Outbound 44, LOA=45.14, Displacement to LWL=195, Sail Area to Displacement=18.8, Motion Comfort=32.88, Capsize Ratio=1.76
    Outbound 44, LOA=44.75, Displacement to LWL=192, Sail Area to Displacement=18.79, Motion Comfort=32.76, Capsize Ratio=1.76
    Passoa 46, LOA=47.3, Displacement to LWL=196, Sail Area to Displacement=18.53, Motion Comfort=31.35, Capsize Ratio=1.83
    Passoa 47, LOA=46.9, Displacement to LWL=260, Sail Area to Displacement=15.72, Motion Comfort=35.54, Capsize Ratio=1.78
    Passport 415, LOA=41.667, Displacement to LWL=265, Sail Area to Displacement=17.57, Motion Comfort=31.46, Capsize Ratio=1.86
    Passport 456, LOA=45.5, Displacement to LWL=226, Sail Area to Displacement=16.07, Motion Comfort=33.09, Capsize Ratio=1.82
    Passport 47+3, LOA=50, Displacement to LWL=237, Sail Area to Displacement=15.25, Motion Comfort=37.84, Capsize Ratio=1.67
    Peterson 44, LOA=43.8, Displacement to LWL=231, Sail Area to Displacement=16.75, Motion Comfort=37.92, Capsize Ratio=1.66
    Roberts 44 Offshore, LOA=44.3, Displacement to LWL=285, Sail Area to Displacement=17.05, Motion Comfort=32.21, Capsize Ratio=1.79
    Roberts 470, LOA=48.24, Displacement to LWL=261, Sail Area to Displacement=16.61, Motion Comfort=37.49, Capsize Ratio=1.74
    Sceptre 41, LOA=41, Displacement to LWL=215, Sail Area to Displacement=15.54, Motion Comfort=30.83, Capsize Ratio=1.81
    Sceptre 43, LOA=43, Displacement to LWL=203, Sail Area to Displacement=16.21, Motion Comfort=31.5, Capsize Ratio=1.78
    Shannon 43, LOA=47.5, Displacement to LWL=247, Sail Area to Displacement=16.96, Motion Comfort=32.67, Capsize Ratio=1.8
    Shearwater 45, LOA=44.25, Displacement to LWL=235, Sail Area to Displacement=20.07, Motion Comfort=34.85, Capsize Ratio=1.73
    Swan 46, LOA=47.1, Displacement to LWL=273, Sail Area to Displacement=18.53, Motion Comfort=33.65, Capsize Ratio=1.85
    Swan 46 Mk I, LOA=47.12, Displacement to LWL=257, Sail Area to Displacement=15.74, Motion Comfort=33.59, Capsize Ratio=1.84
    Valiant 42, LOA=42, Displacement to LWL=267, Sail Area to Displacement=16.06, Motion Comfort=34.57, Capsize Ratio=1.75
    Wauquiez 43PS, LOA=42.83, Displacement to LWL=274, Sail Area to Displacement=16.81, Motion Comfort=33.81, Capsize Ratio=1.83
    Whitby 42, LOA=42.58, Displacement to LWL=299, Sail Area to Displacement=17.06, Motion Comfort=33.34, Capsize Ratio=1.82
    Young Sun 43 PH, LOA=42.64, Displacement to LWL=278, Sail Area to Displacement=19.1, Motion Comfort=43.13, Capsize Ratio=1.57
  4. Pericles
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    Pericles Senior Member

  5. paladinsfo
    Joined: May 2002
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    paladinsfo Junior Member

    Perhaps I am misreading things or have missed some simple instructions......but how do I contact Mr. Mertens about a new design, or a modification of an existing
  6. masalai
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    masalai masalai

    Who is this Mr Mertens?, has he posted in a thread on ? Someone may know but more information would make the task easier.
  7. Pericles
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    Pericles Senior Member

    Go to Click on forum and register for free. You must fill in all the fields including the boat you are interested in. Then search your question to see if it has been answered previously. If not, post for Jacques' attention. He's very prompt.


  8. Guillermo
    Joined: Mar 2005
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval


    Very explicative sketch from Practical Boat Owner magazine, February 2008 issue.

    The article is written by well known surveyour Hugo du Plessis. He states these pearls:

    "But as a surveyor with a particular interest in damage and over 50 years in the boat business, I have never noticed that qualified crews run aground less than unqualified. Rather the opposite."

    "Whenever I see a wooden boat I am struck by how much more strongly built they were than the average modern, production glassfibre cruiser, despite all rules and regulations and directives that are supposed to make life so safe for us"

    "I run aground more often with an echo sounder than ever did without"

    "The Recreational Craft Directive,....,does not seem to consider the probability of grounding as it does not require even a category A boat to have a keelson"

    "...running aground at some time in a boat's life is an almost inevitable event"


    Attached Files:

    2 people like this.
  9. Pericles
    Joined: Sep 2006
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    Pericles Senior Member

    I've even run aground with a car. :D The illustration demonstrates the usefulness of dagger boards on a catamaran. Raise them and save them.

    1 person likes this.
  10. marshmat
    Joined: Apr 2005
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    marshmat Senior Member

    Comparing a few characteristics commonly seen in these craft (feel free to disagree, everyone),
    Wooden-hulled sailing yachts:
    - Are frequently one-offs or custom built;
    - Are built by competent carpenters with well-proven materials and techniques;
    - Tend to be substantially over-engineered, because it's quite easy and inexpensive to do so with wood.

    Production fibreglass yachts:
    - Are mass-produced to a defined price point;
    - Are frequently built by low-skill general labour;
    - Often have carefully tweaked and lightened scantlings to reduce the use of more expensive materials.

    Dave Gerr's Elements of Boat Strength woke me up to this- wood is actually a hell of a lot more structurally efficient in the types of loading found in a boat hull than most people give it credit for.

    I've run my five-metre runabout aground (frequently on purpose, occasionally not) and it only draws twelve centimetres with the motor up. It's gonna happen, so build the boat to take it.

    I think these gadgets provide a false sense of security at times. I imagine it's easy to forget that most of them look straight down- great for anchoring, but useless for judging clearance while underway. The forward-looking units seem more useful, to me, but are also expensive.
    1 person likes this.
  11. murdomack
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    murdomack New Member

    I've had one of these forward looking sounders installed. It's great for creeping around but if I were to go off course and head for a reef while I am doing something else, I would be lucky If I could avoid running aground even if I heard the alarm.
    Like all modern gadgets, it has a lot of merit but will not cure recklessness
  12. charmc
    Joined: Jan 2007
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    charmc Senior Member

    Good points about typical wood vs FRP boats, Matt. The same is true of power boats. Of course, a major basis for the advantages of wood boats is that they are one-off. Someone might correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think, apart from the 1940's and 50's, when a few builders had production lines for plywood runabouts and small cruisers, that anyone really mass produced wood boats. They were built by skilled laborers and craftsmen, and the marine aspect was the priority.

    Mass production, by definition, is an effort to increase profits by building more whatevers at a fixed and repeatable cost, preferably the minimum to make an item that performs its design functions. The whatevers can be autos, boats, or TV's. More than one writer has said that boat models produced in large quantities have no soul.

    As far as depth sounders go, operators need to remember they are a tool; one of several sources of information to the skipper. Call me cautious and old fashioned, but I like to study charts, regional piloting guide books, and double check position data with sightings as I approach a shore or enter a pass (inlet to you guys still living up North).

    About 3 years ago I helped with the rescue of the operator of a 40' sloop who ran it aground while trying to enter a local pass for the first time, on a stormy day. This pass is notorius for its shallow depth even in the channel, shifting sands, inadequate markers, and lack of protection from onshore winds. When there is a strong wind from the west, as there was that day, the locals all travel further north to a larger and deeper pass. He had just bought the boat, and wanted to take it to his home marina. It was only a 20 mile trip, and he didn't have more time, so he went because "the waves wouldn't be as big near the shore." He was astounded that he went aground, because "The GPS said I was in the channel. The depth sounder reading was bouncing around a lot because of the waves, but it mostly said 8', then we went aground and it said 4'! " Oh, yeah. His radio wasn't installed; he was relying on his cell phone for communication. He was lucky; I was walking the beach in the storm (I do things like that; drives my beloved Kathy nuts) and saw him. No one else was out on the beach or on the Gulf that day. His quick trip cost him over $40,000 in towing fees and repairs.
  13. Guillermo
    Joined: Mar 2005
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    Sad news:

    San Francisco Chronicle

    S.F. charity sailboat race ends in tragedy
    "(03-16) 19:12 PDT San Francisco -- A sailing race from the San Francisco Bay into the open sea turned deadly this weekend when two Marin County sailors and their boat vanished in heavy swells.

    One of the men's bodies washed up Sunday morning, while the other remains missing.

    The race from the Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco to a buoy about 12 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge, began Saturday on a clear winter morning marked by 12- to 16-foot swells and high winds, authorities said. But when the three dozen competing boats finally struggled back to port at the end of the day, the 32-foot Daisy was missing.

    The first clues to what might have happened emerged at 10:30 a.m. Sunday when officials retrieved debris from the boat about 5 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge. And then, an hour later, the body of one of the missing sailors, Anthony John Harrow, 72, of Larkspur, was pulled out of the water at Moss Beach in San Mateo County, officials said.

    The other sailor, and owner of the boat, 68-year-old Matthew Kirby Gale, has not been found. The Coast Guard suspended the search for Gale on Sunday night.

    Gale's family members waited anxiously Sunday for news about the retired neurologist, who is married.

    His stepdaughter, Megan Howard, said Sunday by phone from the family home in Mill Valley that Gale was an experienced sailor who did some racing. She was crying, and declined to comment further.

    Coast Guard Capt. Paul Gugg declined to speculate about what went wrong on the boat. He said that sailing in any vessel can be dangerous, particularly in the open ocean but that Saturday's race took place in particularly treacherous waters.

    "Racing is a thrill sport, and they went out in challenging conditions," said Gugg. "We don't know if they did anything wrong; we don't know if there was an equipment failure. It's risky and very challenging out there." A person cannot survive more than four hours in 50- to 55-degree water, the estimated temperature this weekend. But Coast Guard officials said that they did not know what type of emergency equipment, including a lifeboat, the pair might have had onboard.

    Coast Guard officials have been unable to locate any Mayday calls or other calls for help from the boat in their records, officials said.

    "We are working feverishly," Coast Guard Cmdr. Pat DeQuattro said earlier in the day. "We want to push until we cannot reasonably assume success."

    At 6 p.m. Sunday, the Coast Guard suspended the search due to lack of new information and an "extremely low probability of survival due to water temperature and sea state," according to a Coast Guard news release.

    DeQuattro said that weather and sea conditions were likely factors in any problems the men ran into, noting that the swells reached at least 16 feet and winds were hovering around 30 mph. The Coast Guard had issued a small craft advisory, but the men were sailing a fairly large boat called a Cheoy Lee Offshore 31.

    "I would not underestimate the weather in this," said DeQuattro. "It's a challenging environment when seas are 12 to 16 feet, and it can be arduous and dangerous."

    The debris fetched from the water included wooden plankings, a refrigerator door and a rudder that matched descriptions of the Daisy, a white and green sailboat. The pieces were floating in the area where the Daisy and the crew were last seen around 1 p.m. Saturday, said DeQuattro.

    Based on inspections of the debris, authorities did not believe the boat crashed into another vessel, said Gugg, but he would not rule it out as a possibility.

    The men left Richardson Bay Marina around 9 a.m. to participate in the Island Yacht Club's 27th annual Double Handed Lightship race, a benefit for United Cerebral Palsy.

    Gale's family called the Coast Guard around 6 p.m. Saturday after the pair failed to return from the race, which was scheduled to end around 4 p.m. The Coast Guard and other local law enforcement agencies immediately launched a search from air, water and land, which continued through Sunday. Authorities also investigated all vessel traffic headed in and out of San Francisco Bay hoping to gain more information about Daisy's whereabouts.

    Janet Frankel, staff commodore for the Island Yacht Club, said it was sunny and clear when the approximately 40 boats participating in the race left from the Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco, where the race began.

    "The weather forecast predicted thunderstorms but that didn't pan out," she said. "All the (other) racers came back by 2:45 p.m., and we started hailing Daisy then, not because we were concerned but mostly because we wanted to go home. We wanted to know what its intentions were."

    Frankel said she did not know Gale or Harrow personally. She could not recall a similar mishap in the club's 27 years of hosting the race, but said it's a difficult course.

    "I've raced it ... and boats sometimes don't finish," she said. "At one point (Saturday) the wind died down and the boats were just bobbing around for 45 minutes. Then they all came back in quite a cluster."

    Frankel described Gale's boat as a "full-keeled oceangoing vessel," and said the craft was large and well suited for such a race.

    "His was not the boat we were worried about, it was the smaller boats we were worried about," said Frankel.

    Anyone with information should call (415) 399-3547. "

    Cheoy Lee Offshore 31 information:

    Attached Files:

  14. masalai
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    masalai masalai

    What a tragedy, Sincere commiserations to all bereaved.

  15. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    Here's a well written article worth reading:

    Fibreglass Boats and Damage Control

    by Hugo du Plessis

    Are fibreglass boats safe to go to sea? Such a question, daring to cast a doubt about fibreglass boats, will I am sure bring heaps of abuse on my head and indignant denials from every builder, as well as endless reports from owners of fibreglass boats who have crossed oceans, as I have myself, and sailed round the world. So I add hastily, before being burnt at the stake as a heretic (not for the first time! I was the first to dare to suggest that fibreglass boats needed maintenance), that it does not apply to fibreglass boats in general, or indeed to fibreglass as a material. The principle problem is the way most fibreglass cruising boats are designed and built, in particular regarding the difficulty, even the impossibility, of damage control - a very important factor when far from land and help.
    My comments are based on 50 years of experience of fibreglass boats as a professional surveyor, builder, charter operator, and owner of over a dozen. I am widely considered to know more about fibreglass boats than most people. My book Fibreglass Boats [Adlard Coles Nautical, ISBN 0-7136-6209-3] has been a standard book on the subject since 1962 and is now in the 15th impression and five languages, frequently revised, updated and rewritten. The latest was in 2002 and I am already working on the next. I was one of those over?enthusiastic pioneers way back in the 195Os and well remember the days when many people could not say anything bad enough about fibreglass and they certainly tried pretty hard. Admittedly in some cases it was justified. Fibreglass boats have been my life's work. So you might think I should be the last person to make such a sweeping condemnation. However I have also had nearly 60 years experience of cruising, including 20 as a liveaboard, and am one of the most senior members of the Royal Cruising Club. Maybe I know a bit about cruising, too.
    Not Designed with Damage in Mind

    Damage control is an essential feature of big ship design, whether naval or commercial. There are endless rules and regulations. But with yachts, "damage" is not a word in the boatbuilder's vocabulary. Blame the owner's carelessness! No concern of the builder's if the boat sinks. What is insurance for? The surprising thing is that insurers stand for it. Their attitude is to increase premiums for everybody instead of encouraging the design of sensible, safe, easily repaired boats. That is safer policy than risking legal action in this profitably litigious age for suggesting a make of boat is less safe by increasing the premium or refusing insurance.
    I sometimes wonder if builders know that boats are meant to leave a snug, safe marina and venture on the sea, a place of storms, rocks and other vessels, mostly of vastly greater size. The sea is a dangerous place, always has been and always will be. Man is a land animal. The sea is not his natural element. Nowadays there has grown up a popular misconception that when you get into trouble, all you have to do is send a Mayday, take to the obligatory "liferaft", which is the limit of the bureaucratic mind, and immediately a lifeboat or helicopter will come dashing to the rescue like the US Cavalry. Gone is the old idea of seamanship and saving yourself and crew by your own efforts. Yet it is still as true as ever that when you leave harbour you are on your own and you and your crew will live or die by your own skill and seamanship. Or as a former Commodore of the Royal Cruising Club once told me "When you go to sea you must be prepared to die like a gentleman".

    Sinking has ever been the sailor's great fear. With fibreglass boats there are no seams to leak and no rot or worms or rust to destroy the bottom. So on the face of it, fibreglass boats should be safer to go to sea. Yet there are still many dangers, even in the open ocean, which can sink a boat: containers with sharp steel corners, wreckage, logs, crates with protruding six-inch nails. Boats have been attacked by killer whales and great white sharks, run down by ships and fishing boats, and cannot be detected by a submarine. Structural failure due to overloading a light boat not built to carry the amount of stores and equipment needed to cross an ocean can lead to sudden catastrophe. Failure of some underwater part of the elaborate domestic services now considered so essential is quite common.
    There is seldom time to analyse the cause when the boat has a dangerous leak and is sinking. You are out of range of a lifeboat or helicopter, and in any case it would take too long to reach you. The radio is also damaged so a Mayday is impossible. The situation is desperate. The damage has got to be controlled and fast.

    Access is Essential
    There are many ways to stop a leak given ingenuity and resourcefulness, abilities for which sailors have always been renowned. But above all, survival will depend on access to apply this. That is where the design of fibreglass boats is critical and often dangerously deficient because without access to get at the damaged section of the hull, flooding cannot be controlled and sinking is inevitable.
    Given access to the inside face of the hull it may be possible to stuff a sock in the hole or rig pads and shores or whatever ingenuity suggests. But this is not possible with the common one-piece pan moulding forming large parts of the accommodation and which prevents access to the inside of the hull. The crew will be faced with a sinking leak from somewhere unknown, emerging from under the pan moulding, spurting through holes and ducts for wiring and pipes, and probably through splits caused by an impact. How to get at the damage to plug it before the boat sinks is literally a life or death struggle. Builders assume repairs will always be done on land with the boat steady, plenty of time to plan discreet cuts with power tools - power is of course available - good lighting and professional skills, and the certainty of an inflated payment from the insurers.
    It will be very, very different for a crew working knee-deep in fast-rising water, by the light of a dim torch, with few tools, seasick, wet, cold and frightened. Ordinary tools like saws and drills - even assuming there are any on board - would be too slow and difficult to use due to the motion. The situation calls for ruthless, brutal butchery. But what with? How many boats carry an axe these days, let alone a prybar or wrecking bar? In any case fibreglass is tough and springy, not at all easy to smash.

    That is why I question whether many fibreglass boats are safe to go to sea. It is a question of design and access. This problem seems to have escaped the notice of all classification societies and authorities interested in safety. The bureaucratic attitude is to list safety equipment which must be carried for when the boat sinks. Do they not realise that the boat would be safer if it did not sink - if it could be kept afloat?
    Accommodation, whether made in separate pieces or a large one-piece pan moulding, must allow full and easy access to all of the inside of the hull. Lockers should be cut out, not formed integrally with the moulding. Linings should be easy to tear away. There should be no closed compartments. All parts of the bilges should be accessible.
    Wooden accommodation should also provide easy access. Modern practice is to glue not screw, yet even if wooden accomodation has to be destroyed it is much easier to repair than an elaborate fibreglass moulding.
    Lockers, of course, are meant to contain things and - as I know from trying to survey bluewater liveaboard cruising yachts, as well as living on one for 20 years - are invariably stuffed full. There is never enough stowage space. Yet it is surprising how quickly a locker can be emptied in an emergency and no one is worrying about the clean contents getting wet and dirty.

    Stopping the Flood
    The first essential is to stop or reduce the inflow of water so that the danger of immediate sinking is averted and there is time to contrive something better. There are various ingenious devices such as a sort of folding umbrella, but damage can take so many forms it is impossible to generalise about best methods or materials. There are, however, certain basic principles. The first is that the water will be coming in under pressure and will wash away anything not well supported or strong enough, and in particular anything that relies on bonding or takes time to set. An external repair, if strong enough to avoid being sucked in, will at least contain the pressure. A polythene bag would do, but probably needs something to strengthen it. Old waterproof trousers have also been suggested. To attach an external repair, it is likely to need somebody going overboard and that can be dangerous if it is rough (as the ocean usually is) and cold. Exhaustion and hypothermia have sunk as many boats as hull damage.
    Damage to a fibreglass hull will rarely be a neat hole as is usually assumed in theory; it is nearly always a split with jagged sides. This makes it more difficult to stuff in a sock, or push through an umbrella-type leak stopper. As a rule, only repeated impact, such as pounding on a rock, will produce the multiple cracks to form a hole. That is unlikely at sea where any impact will be a single wallop.
    Once the flow of water has been controlled, a stronger repair can be contrived. Forget the fibreglass repair kit you were persuaded to buy. It will not stick to a wet surface. That is for when ashore. Some epoxies and putties will set underwater, but that does not mean that they will bond. Water has to be displaced from the surface and very few adhesives can do that. All take time to set and that is too long.
    The old seaman's collision mat using a sail will take time to rig. Also there are practical difficulties. How do you rig a collision mat on a keel boat? A sail needs something to hold it tight against the hull, otherwise it will just act as a scoop. A mattress or foam plastic is better.

    Making a Boat Unsinkable
    Fibreglass does not float, an early objection - but the same was said of the first iron ships. If flooded, few wooden yachts with ballast and an engine will float either. So making a boat unsinkable is a problem to be tackled at the design stage. The structural requirements would make it very difficult to achieve later. There are two fundamental principles:
    1) Even the lightest buoyancy material, air, requires space: for one ton of buoyancy you need one cubic metre (roughly 35 cubic feet) of air - the equivalent volume of five big oil drums. For the average 35- to 40-foot ocean cruiser weighing ten tons, there would have to be room for the equivalent of 50 oil drums! Moreover the paper displacement figure is just for the bare boat. To this must be added the two or three tons of stores, equipment and possessions - and for any ocean cruiser we really are talking about tons, and probably underestimating. The more stores and equipment, all absolutely essential, the less room for buoyancy, and conversely the more buoyancy the less room for essentials. There has to be room to work the boat and live in reasonable comfort when in harbour where the boat will spend a lot more time than at sea. Therefore the sheer space required for using trapped air as a buoyancy material rules out anything except emergency air bags, and once those are operated, on purpose or accidentally, the boat becomes unliveable and "unsailable".
    2) It is not sufficient just to keep the boat afloat, decks awash. Sheer survival requires a degree of shelter, habitability and perhaps "sailability". The widow maker is exposure and hypothermia. This means the boat must float high enough for the crew to remain reasonably dry, sheltered from wind and water, able to cook, and have electrical power to operate a radio and lights. Perhaps also to run an engine, especially if a power boat, and ideally to sail after a fashion. Morale too is very important. It is far better to stick with the boat, if possible, than take to a "liferaft". However in practical terms this amount of buoyancy is almost impossible to achieve with a ballasted, well-equipped cruising monohull, although feasible with a catamaran.

    Sadlers', for example, have built unsinkable boats by use of double skinned, foam-injected hulls, but even so still have to steal essential storage space. Both skins are fairly light construction and do not allow for the tons of extra weight essential for ocean cruising. Double skinned hulls like this and foam-filled spaces can only be done while the boat is being moulded, and are therefore design features. It is claimed that damage is limited with this type of construction. This may be so with minor damage. But the foam filling must be weak, or it becomes too heavy, and would not prevent a serious impact from damaging the inner skin too. Foamed compartments can become waterlogged and are then almost impossible to dry. Even closed-cell foam will disintegrate when wet, and then flotation is lost.
    Aiming at unsinkability, ships have watertight doors and bulkheads. This is not practicable on a yacht. The interference with habitability would be unacceptable on anything but the most dedicated, large, ocean-going racer. The average yacht bulkhead is not strong enough; the sheer pressure of, say, a forecabin full of water would be formidable, even without surging. Most bulkheads, being designed for inward compression only, are secured by weak angles, sometimes none at all, and would be torn adrift. Possibly the hull or deck would burst too. The weight would also affect the stability.

    Well meaning bureaucrats specify collision bulkheads. Sadly they know little about boats and their thinking is based on fast, wide-fronted cars on narrow roads where head-on collisions are the rule. With boats, free to move in any direction, head-on collisions between two pointed end shapes are very unusual, rather like two spears meeting in mid-air. Most impacts are glancing blows and if between two boats, the victim is usually hit on the forward topsides or amidships where it is weak. The victim sinks and the attacker, with its strong stem taking the impact, escapes relatively unscathed. Even a hard-sailed dinghy can sink a much larger boat. Because it interferes with the accommodation, a collision bulkhead is usually placed well forward. With the usual overhang this is above the waterline and is therefore just a token, the collision bulkhead commonly being the aft end of the chain locker. Most boats have an overhang forward and fast power boats in particular sail with a pronounced bows-high trim so that any impact with rocks or debris will be well aft of any collision bulkhead. In all my years as a surveyor I remember only one case of a dangerous leak due to impact on the waterline. This was when a Moody hit a heavy mooring buoy, and it was well aft of the mandatory collision bulkhead. I have seen a few crumpled bows from hitting dock walls or lock gates, most often just resulting in bent pulpits. But I have seen plenty of underwater damage from rocks. Because any dangerous impact will be at or below the waterline, it makes more sense to have a double bottom.

    The Watertight Lockers Option
    One idea seldom mentioned, and more in the way of damage control than unsinkability, is to have numerous small watertight compartments. This is copying ship practice, where each watertight section is small enough that flooding it does not affect the integrity of the ship. However, on a yacht it is not practicable to divide the boat with watertight bulkheads, and even if it was, the spaces would much too large. But almost every cruising boat has dozens of lockers which could be made watertight fairly easily. This is not the same as filling them with buoyancy, as is done with "unsinkable" boats. By making the lockers watertight and fitting watertight lids, such as large dinghy hatches, they would provide some limited buoyancy yet still remain useable, just as a ship cannot afford to lose the payload of a hold.
    As well as providing buoyancy, making lockers watertight would have the even more important function of containing a serious leak. With good planning the boat could virtually have a double skin over the entire underwater area. (If a pan moulding was used it would need to be stronger and better attached than usual because, being considered just accommodation, most are lightly moulded and weakly bonded. They generally break away and split if the hull is damaged.) One or more such watertight lockers could flood without unduly affecting stability and, most important, would prevent the rest of the boat filling and sinking. Essential systems like batteries and engines could be in their own watertight compartments so that the boat remains operational.

    Another important factor is that having many small, watertight compartments would prevent surging, which alone can cause damage and seriously upset the stability of a flooded boat, even if nominally unsinkable. Moreover, a lot of this work could be retrospective and done in preparation for an ocean cruise.
    Buoyancy and unsinkability sound like nice safety features. But do your sums. Work out the weight of the boat - plus everything you have or intend to stuff inside it. To be on the safe side double this at least; it is invariably underestimated. On the first haul-out after an Atlantic crossing every crew finds they have to raise the waterline several inches! On my 31-foot-waterline boat the rate of waterline change is roughly two inches per ton, a fairly typical figure.

    So is it safe to go to sea in a fibreglass boat? Well thousands of us do. But they could be designed and built to be a lot safer. The trouble is that builders do not go to sea often enough - they certainly do not have the time for long-term liveaboard ocean cruising - and some have one-track minds based on racing. Speed sells boats, and to many designers the idea that anyone may not want to go racing is unthinkable. Production is dominated by convenience more than practical seaworthiness. Moreover, whatever the designer may say or the owner want, the last word in boatbuilding today is that of the company accountant.
    Hull shape is also important. A long keel boat will ride over an obstruction and the slack bilges will tend to slide past. They are also more strongly built. The modern straight stem, flat-bottomed, fin keel, lightly built boat is more vulnerable to impact. And, with no proper bilges, if flooded the water will rise to a critical level much faster and the weight will soon have a critical effect on stability.
    Damage control should begin on the drawing board.
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