Tuesday, November 20, 2007

3 stories, 1 thread

Hmmm....my Google news search came up with three very different news articles today, but as I perused them, I began to wonder how these situations are connected in some way. First off is the story of a 70' SkipperLiner that floundered along the Gulf Coast. (link to story) Basically, a brand new boat sinks because of waves hitting her broadside and the air vents are way too close to the waterline, and the bilge pumps in this brand new boat can't keep with that, and the delivery captain doesn't point the boat into the waves, and on and on....meanwhile, I assume that this boat is insured, and the underwriter is probably going to suffer a huge loss after only collecting one or two premium installments (it was a new boat, so a new policy).

Next up is a story (link to story) about a really nice little sailboat that was uninsured and ran up into some shallow water, and her owner appears to be walking away from the whole thing. Officials are contemplating fines, and even though the boat has fuel and oil onboard, the Coast Guard is quoted as saying "The case is closed...." Meanwhile, a salvor already has some time invested, now with very little hope of getting paid, and the shores of Milwaukee risk spoilage from the wreckage.

Finally, the last article (link to story) is about a company that is just finishing up removing 73 derelicts from Florida's waters, getting paid with public funds. And I wonder, how many of those derelicts were insured? Did the insurance companies pay off a claim for loss? The story indicates that most of these boats were lost as a result of 2004 & 2005 hurricanes, so HIN #s or registration numbers could possibly lead to finding the owners? I think of 73 derelict boats as the same as an oil spill from a huge tanker. Its a public hazard that was created by private interests, and the taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for clean-up. When the oil industry has a spill, the funds to clean it up come from them and their pollution underwriters (more here). Why should recreational boats be any different?

All three stories in one day. The common thread is somewhat tortured I guess, but somewhere in all this is a theme that is destined to become more familiar as time goes on. When a boat is uninsured and worthless, who should pay to dispose of it? When a boat is insured and worthless, who should pay to dispose of it? Why do insurance companies continue to write policies for boats like that SkipperLiner, or at the very least demand some competent operation, so that those boats don't become part of the second or third story? Unlike automobiles, whose parts can be harvested from even total wrecks and therefore almost always retain some economic value, sunken & derelict boats are almost instantly worthless, and certainly not worth the effort to raise them.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Proof the K factor works

Remember this blog back in July where I posted a chart and the formula for calculating submerged weight? The chart shows a simple mulitplier, called the "K Factor". Well, Ham Gale and I had a perfect opportunity to prove out the theory back in October up in Annapolis. A Soling sank in about 30 feet of water. According to this spec sheet

the Soling displaces 2277 lbs. Because Soling's are usually dry sailed (stored on a trailer), they are equipped with four short cables that remain attached to the keel bolts, and the entire boat is designed to be lifted by these cables (how handy for us salvage divers, huh?). So, I was able to access the lifting cables down there in 30 feet of cloudy Chesapeake Bay, and attach a single 2000lb lift bag. Both Ham and I were pretty confident that the 2000# bag would bring the 2277# boat to the surface.

Guess what? Here it is, after the initial lift, hanging by one single 2000# lift bag, just barely submerged. Notice that the lift bag is well out of the water, which means that at this point it is generating significantly less than 2000# of lift. Solings do not have any internal floatation, other than two small compartments (one fore, one aft under the decks) that are supposed to be kept closed. The reason this boat sank is that the skipper had failed to close the forward one. They are not really water tight compartments; but it would take a while for water to seep in there in the event of a capsize. When we hauled the boat at the crane, we found both compartments totally flooded.
Lets do the math. Unfortunately, I don't find a seperate listing of how much ballast they carry, but lets say its 1/3 of the total, which means that the keel weighs about 750# The K Factor for lead is .91, so 750# of lead submerged will only need 682# of lift. Lets say the mast, boom & rigging weighs 200#. In the picture, you'll notice that virtually all the mast and rig is out of the water, so we'll leave its weight at 200#, because we're going to lift it completely out of the water.
Now, the remaining fiberglass hull would weigh 1327# dry. Multiply the K Factor for fiberglass of .33, and the hull only needs about 440# of lift.
Lets add it together: 440 for the hull, 682 for the lead keel, and 200 for the rig = 1322# of lift calculated to bring this mass to the surface. Look once again at the picture; doesn't it look like about one third of the bag is out of the water? That leaves two thirds of a 2000# bag creating lift. Lets see, two thirds of 2000 is 1320!
IT WORKS! (thanks to Capt Cory Deere of TowBoat/US Annapolis for the nice picture. And thanks Ham for the nice day's work!)

Monday, November 12, 2007

File under "Challenging Tows"

Here is a picture of the USCGC DEPENDABLE towing the Nantucket Shoal Buoy, which was blown off station by storm NOEL...imagine the difficulty just getting the towline hooked up between a large steel buoy and a 210' Cutter? How fast can you tow a buoy? The crew of the DEPENDABLE did an excellent job of improvising in a situation that is probably not covered in the ops manual.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Run-a-way again in FLA

Yet another story about boaters and a run-away boat.


Hats off to the SeaTow captain who did the rescue. Now, if can only find out how the Sherriff stopped the runaway....