Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Florida pays to dispose of derelict boats

Two different press releases today about removing derelict boats from Florida waters:

County hauls derelict boats floridatoday.com Serving Brevard County and Florida’s Space Coast

Capt. Kevin Miller of Absolute Marine Towing and salvage is under contract for $275,000 to remove nearly 70 boats from the Indian and Banana rivers, along with the Barge Canal. His work for the county will take him from the Sebastian River to Titusville.

UpdateFlorida: Project to clear waterways

Brevard County recently awarded the $275,000 job to Melbourne-based Absolute Marine Towing and Salvage Inc., which will start the project in late June or early July, pending approval from commissioners.

A $200,000 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission grant and FEMA reimbursements will cover the contract cost. The county is expected to contribute about $30,000 in matching funds, including the cost of monitoring the project.

Ranging from a 131/2-foot sailboat to a 72-foot yacht, the boats were declared "derelict vessels" after owners couldn't be identified or found
If the boats range from 13.5' to 72', would it be safe to say that the average is 40'? Lets see, 70 boats divided by $275,000 comes to $3928 per boat; an average of almost $100/foot. If you have some derelict disposal work in your area, now you have a general price range that your state and federal authorities might consider fair. I used to charge $100/ft to strip old derelicts and have them trucked to the county dump.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Boat America Corporation sold to Berkshire Hathaway

Boat America Corporation sold to Berkshire Hathaway

I'm not sure there is anything to add to this news. But, I do claim my blog is "news, notes and commentary about the towing and salvage industry", so I would be remiss if I didn't at least note this as a news item.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Vetch & Release

The two major national membership comanies, BOAT/US and Sea Tow, have engaged in a little "tit for tat" this month. Am I the only one who hears a banjo and a guitar playing as I read these "dueling press releases"?

It all began with this release on July 11, which began with this statement:

Contrary to what you may be hearing from US Department of Homeland Security officials lately, recreational boating has never been safer.

Sea Tow wasted no time in rushing to release their own statement on July 16, spanking BOAT/US for

imply(ing) that recreational boating safety is good enough.

Two days later, an indignant BOAT/US couldn't resist the urge to engage in some name calling by calling Sea Tow a newcomer and an unsophisticated self-promoter...

Sea Tow Services, a towing services franchise company based in New York and a newcomer to the debate on boating safety, has shamefully distorted an on-going campaign by the 650,000-member Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) which takes issue with a US Department of Homeland Security effort to link boating safety to homeland security.

BoatUS has been at the forefront of the nation’s boating safety effort for decades and while we welcome everyone’s participation, public policy making is a complex undertaking requiring a certain level of sophistication and self-serving statements of the kind made by Sea Tow which totally distort the facts should be dismissed for what they are, blatant self-promotion, said Schwartz.


BOAT/US is correct if they are saying that forcing boaters to carry a federal ID card will do nothing to improve the skill levels of today's recreational boat operators, but so far BOAT/US has struggled to put that simple concept into writing.

I think Sea Tow took the correct position on that issue in their statement, but there are ways to make a point without picking a fight. Instead, Sea Tow couldn't resist using language like irrelevant...misleading...egregious. Those are fightin' words.

Now, everyone has egg on their face. Good job guys.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Heavy Lifting

How much does that 10,000 pound keel weigh? Divers know that the answer begs another question: "submerged or dry?" Regardless of how much something weighs on dry land, once it is submerged, it is displacing water, and because water gets denser as it gets deeper, a displacement of water by any object, no matter how heavy, creates a force towards the surface.
Of course, metals, and all materials denser than water will still sink when submerged, but the interesting question for salvors is: how much force (or lift) will it take to get this material back to the surface? The answer may surprise you.

Say you have a wood sailboat on the bottom with a big hole in it. The boat's total dry weight is #20,000s (not displacement, but actual dry weight). Assume the boat has a #10,000 lead keel. So, you have to lift 10,000#s of lead and 10,000#s of Mahogany. How much lift do you need? We know the mahogany wants to come to the surface on its own, but how much lifting force can you expect the wood to add to the operation? Will the lead need #10,000s of lift?

If you know the specific gravity of a material, you can do some calculations to figure out how "heavy" that material is when submerged in FRESH water, which has a specific gravity of 1. A number of organizations publish a table, Factors for Converting Various Boat Materials from Dry to Submerged Weight, that makes figuring this out really easy. The one below is from ABYC, but may not be very readable. [click here for a readable version]

The raw calculations aren't all that complicated, but using this table and the "K Factor" is darn near foolproof. All you need to do is find the material on the table, and multiply the total dry weight of that material times the K Factor from the third column of the table to find the submerged weight. Be careful with the minus numbers of "buoyant" materials. Stuff that has a specific gravity less than water will have a negative K factor, meaning that your result will be a negative number, aka lift.

Apply this easy math to our sailboat problem. Honduras Mahogany has a K factor of minus (-0.78), so #10,000 of submerged mahogany will weigh 10,000 x (-0.78), which equals -7,800: minus 7,800, so the result is #7,800 of lift!

Now do the same for the lead keel: the K factor for lead is 0.91, so 10,000 x 0.91 = 9,100 pounds for the keel. Add the two submerged weights together: #9,100 of lead and a minus #7,800 of wood leaves only #1,300 of stuff to lift. If you add just #1,301 pound of lift to this boat, up she comes!

Obviously, the numbers aren't so easy in the real world. Boats aren't made of just two materials. They have cabinetry, wiring, pluming, machinery...but knowing how much lift you will need just to raise the hull material is really important; why waste time rigging #10,000 of lift when half that might do the job? My example sailboat doesn't exist, with half the weight of the boat in the keel, but the calculations are all the same.

A close look at the table reveals some very useful data. Fiberglass Laminate has a K factor! So does gasoline and Ferrocement. Suddenly, raising a #50,000 Ferrocement (K factor .58) sailboat with #9,000 of steel ballast (K factor .88) and 400 gallons of gasoline (K factor -0.37) in an aluminum tank might be possible with lift bags instead of a crane barge.

Feel free to print the table out and use it. The table is based on FRESH water. As salt water is a little denser than fresh, submerged objects in salt water will actually need just a tad less lifting force than they would in fresh. The difference is a pretty small number, and using the K factor in salt water will work just fine.

Monday, July 16, 2007

24' Diesel RIB on Ebay

If you're looking for an extra towboat, this 24' RIB caught my eye. Built to Mil-specs, a 24' RIB with a Cummins 6BT is pretty rare. Hurry, auction ends soon...


Friday, July 6, 2007

Barnacle-busting technology

This story was first brought to my attention by Dave Delano (TowBoat/US San Franscico Bay/Delta).

Barnacle-busting paint makes ships' voyages greener World The Observer

Not only does this sound like a promising new bottom treatment, but I want to know how get some of the company's stock....

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Softly I Ground, Inch by Inch....

In keeping with the law of unintended consequences, the expression Soft Aground has entered the lexicon of general maritime phraseology. I'm not sure who first coined the term Soft Aground, or when it was first used. Perhaps that phrase has been around for ages, used as a way of saying "I'm aground, but remain otherwise undamaged." But I don't think the term ever had any clearly defined meaning until the towing and assistance industry came along.

BOAT/US membership will cover a "soft ungrounding", which generally means an otherwise undamaged vessel that only needs one towboat, one towline, and very little likely hood for further damage to all the boats, personnel, and environment involved.

SeaTow members will get a free "ungrounding assistance" if 5 conditions are met, one of which is that the grounded vessel must "is surrounded by water on all sides". Of all the conditions and criteria I ever heard or read about what constitutes a soft aground, that one should be included in every one's definition.

A few weeks ago, I heard a USCG SAR controller ask a mariner "are you hard or soft aground?" on channel 16. I have searched the USCG Communications Watchstander Qualifications Guide, and I can't find the words "soft aground" anywhere. Why is a SAR Watchstander even asking that? A guy calls Mayday and reports he is aground, you ask if he is taking on water, in the surf, breaking up on rocks, just stuck in soft mud, what is the tide doing, and damage to vessel.....but "are you hard or soft aground?". What actions would the USCG take if the answer is "soft aground"? How are those actions different than a hard aground response?

Which brings me to today's story: a GoodSam was reporting to the CG a sail boat aground in the Great Salt Pond. The GoodSam said the vessel looked like it was "very soft aground"....when I got over there 5 minutes later, I find a 27' sailboat laying over on her side, with about one foot of water under her full keel. I asked the GoodSam, "You call that soft aground?", and he replied,
"It looks like pretty soft sand. There are no big rocks on that beach..."

So now the CG is taking this radio report from 12 miles away. Assuming they speak to the owner (who is on the mainland also) first, are they going to tell him his boat is "Soft Aground"? And if he contacts me for service, am I guilty of bait & switch because I tell him its NOT soft aground after the United States Coast Guard told him it was?

Slowly I Turn....