Thoughts on safety at sea:


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Daria Blackwell
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Thoughts on safety at sea:
The Communications Team is starting a new monthly feature based on robust discussions on the OCC Forum, mostly centred on Safety at Sea. We’ll include short snippets to provoke thought in the eBulletin and then continue the discussion on the Forum. Dick Stevenson, our diligent and thoughtful Forum Moderator, starts us off this month with a piece on tillers. Please contribute your experience and thinking for the benefit of all.
-    Daria Blackwell, Vice Commodore, Web editor & PR Officer


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Dick
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Daria Blackwell - 6/24/2019
Thoughts on safety at sea:
The Communications Team is starting a new monthly feature based on robust discussions on the OCC Forum, mostly centred on Safety at Sea. We’ll include short snippets to provoke thought in the eBulletin and then continue the discussion on the Forum. Dick Stevenson, our diligent and thoughtful Forum Admin, starts us off this month with a piece on tillers. Please contribute your experience and thinking for the benefit of all.
-    Daria Blackwell, Vice Commodore, Web editor & PR Officer

Thoughts on safety at sea:
Emergency tillers are important items that usually appear designed with little consideration to actual use and are often given equally little attention by their owners. Like so many safety items and procedures, practice is easy to postpone while at the same time practice is essential for efficient execution. I will speak to the most common design: tiller to rudder post while most comments can be adapted to other designs.
It might be observed that most emergency tillers are actually a bear to use, at least on sailboats. Many require a block and tackle to handle the loads effectively as the lever arm is so short and often slant-angled rather than right angled which makes use even more problematic. They can be dangerous when the rudder catches a wave if they whip around while being held. Finally, these emergency tillers should provide a way of securing the tiller onto the shaft rudder stock as, in the boisterous conditions these may be used in, it is best if they can be counted on to stay in one place.
Those really enterprising skippers can see whether their tiller can be out and steering in, say, 3 minutes. Then go and practice steering in waves and wind.     
Finally, if you are in the market for new below-decks autopilot, the above is a good argument for a system that is independent of the boat’s wheel-to-quadrant steering system.
Safe sailing, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Daria Blackwell
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Dick, you are so right. When we were first getting acquainted with Aleria, our Bowman 57, we went through every piece of gear aboard and studied how to deploy it when necessary. Naturally, an emergency tiller would be useful to get at quickly. But when looking at ours and trying to fit it, we realized we would have to be steering from under the berth in our aft cabin, periodically sticking our heads out the hatch to check on things happening on deck. Not an ideal situation. 

That's when we decided that the Monitor windvane steering system, with its emergency rudder configuration, would be a good backup system for us. And so we fitted the Monitor which we love. Fortunately, we have not needed to deploy it despite losing steering - twice - mid-Atlantic. Because of our sail configuration (cutter ketch), we can balance Aleria exceedingly well. While I stayed on deck and steered the boat by adjusting sails, Alex worked on the steering. The first time, a gearbox had seized; many hours of greasing and manual persuasion finally managed to loosen it. We have rod steering and several gearboxes. We had called into our Atlantic crossing net via SSB and several yachts diverted to our position to assist if needed, but we got lucky. Fortunately, it held until Grenada where we replaced the gear.

The second time, the quadrant 'jumped' off the post. I had to align the wheel precisely up on deck so that Alex could refit it below. Naturally, I was at the helm both times. :ermm: 



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Simon Currin
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Dick
We have only once lost steering - and once is enough!

In our case the ‘steerer’ seized without warning whilst manoeuvring towards the fuel dock in a harbour. The steerer is the axle of the wheel.

The result was that, in the short term, we could budge neither wheel nor use the below deck pilot as everything was jammed. The emergency tiller was of no use until the steering cables could be disconnected.

Luckily we were able to steer back to a berth using the bow thruster and then disconnect the wheel. One of the benefits of having two wheel ms was that we were then able to sail using the starboard wheel only until a replacement steerer reached us from Whitlock.

By the way I am not recommending that all boats have twin wheels and a bowthruster!

Simon
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I found and bought a Bruce Roberts 45' cutter. Her simple back-up systems drew me to her ruggedness and seaworthiness.
She's rigged as a cutter with:
1. an additional profurler forestay on the bow.  
2. monitor windvane which doubles as a separate steering system.
3. rigged emergency steering on deck.
4. 2x auto pilot systems
5. Hydraulic pistons driving her steering system.
6. Her deep central cockpit offering comfort deep sea.
7. Her 4x single berths with lee cloths
8. her vast tankage

I have yet to fully appreciate this fine vessel.
Pics to follow.
Dick
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Psy - 6/25/2019
I found and bought a Bruce Roberts 45' cutter. Her simple back-up systems drew me to her ruggedness and seaworthiness.
She's rigged as a cutter with:
1. an additional profurler forestay on the bow.  
2. monitor windvane which doubles as a separate steering system.
3. rigged emergency steering on deck.
4. 2x auto pilot systems
5. Hydraulic pistons driving her steering system.
6. Her deep central cockpit offering comfort deep sea.
7. Her 4x single berths with lee cloths
8. her vast tankage

I have yet to fully appreciate this fine vessel.
Pics to follow.

Hi Psy,
Your new vessel does, indeed, sound robust with a plethora of redundant systems. When it comes to emergency tiller use, all those owners of hydraulic steering systems should ensure that there is an easily accessible pressure relief valve for their hydraulics without which, the tiller may be unable to operate. More on this and repair of steering, both cable and hydraulic, can be found at: https://stevedmarineconsulting.com/june-2019-newsletter/.
Good luck with your new boat.
Enjoy, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick
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Daria Blackwell - 6/24/2019
Dick, you are so right. When we were first getting acquainted with Aleria, our Bowman 57, we went through every piece of gear aboard and studied how to deploy it when necessary. Naturally, an emergency tiller would be useful to get at quickly. But when looking at ours and trying to fit it, we realized we would have to be steering from under the berth in our aft cabin, periodically sticking our heads out the hatch to check on things happening on deck. Not an ideal situation. 

That's when we decided that the Monitor windvane steering system, with its emergency rudder configuration, would be a good backup system for us. And so we fitted the Monitor which we love. Fortunately, we have not needed to deploy it despite losing steering - twice - mid-Atlantic. Because of our sail configuration (cutter ketch), we can balance Aleria exceedingly well. While I stayed on deck and steered the boat by adjusting sails, Alex worked on the steering. The first time, a gearbox had seized; many hours of greasing and manual persuasion finally managed to loosen it. We have rod steering and several gearboxes. We had called into our Atlantic crossing net via SSB and several yachts diverted to our position to assist if needed, but we got lucky. Fortunately, it held until Grenada where we replaced the gear.

The second time, the quadrant 'jumped' off the post. I had to align the wheel precisely up on deck so that Alex could refit it below. Naturally, I was at the helm both times. :ermm: 


Hi Daria,
It sounds like quick, creative work, planning ahead and a flexible rig saved the day. I believe it is accurate to say that too many fail to realize that the loss of steering has doomed a far larger number of boats than those things most of us worry about: hitting containers, storms etc. One hears every year or so of otherwise perfectly sound vessels being abandoned mid ocean because of a lost rudder or incapacity of steering ability. Servicing and maintenance of this mission-critical system is not a large or complicated job, but it is an important one.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick
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To Be Seen

Checking that your navigation lights illuminate at commissioning is a good start, but may not be good enough.

Walking around a boatyard or marina; one item pops out at me: how inadequate many boats’ navigation lights are. Many, not all, were adequate at purchase, but their lenses are by now so crazed as to be mostly opaque. When was the last time you compared your lens to a new one? I would probably suggest that 10 years is about swap time for plastic lenses: sooner if in the tropics.

Now, some might say they never (or rarely) run at night, but I would contend that a cruising boat should always be ready to run safely at night. In addition to running a safe seaworthy boat, there is the fact that: were there a nighttime collision, one of the first things to be looked at will be the adequacy of your lighting. A lens heavily crazed will not pass regulation’s muster.

I say this with some emphasis as we observe poorly lit or illegally lit recreational vessels at least once a year: each time it causes unnecessary anxiety.

I believe most quality manufacturers sell lenses separately or: perhaps better yet, swapping the whole fixture ensures you have a replacement in spares. While doing, check the wiring for water intrusion and change bulbs.
Please also leave your comments, additions, thoughts, disagreements etc.: they are welcome.

My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Dick
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Dick - 8/1/2019
To Be Seen

Checking that your navigation lights illuminate at commissioning is a good start, but may not be good enough.

Walking around a boatyard or marina; one item pops out at me: how inadequate many boats’ navigation lights are. Many, not all, were adequate at purchase, but their lenses are by now so crazed as to be mostly opaque. When was the last time you compared your lens to a new one? I would probably suggest that 10 years is about swap time for plastic lenses: sooner if in the tropics.

Now, some might say they never (or rarely) run at night, but I would contend that a cruising boat should always be ready to run safely at night. In addition to running a safe seaworthy boat, there is the fact that: were there a nighttime collision, one of the first things to be looked at will be the adequacy of your lighting. A lens heavily crazed will not pass regulation’s muster.

I say this with some emphasis as we observe poorly lit or illegally lit recreational vessels at least once a year: each time it causes unnecessary anxiety.

I believe most quality manufacturers sell lenses separately or: perhaps better yet, swapping the whole fixture ensures you have a replacement in spares. While doing, check the wiring for water intrusion and change bulbs.
Please also leave your comments, additions, thoughts, disagreements etc.: they are welcome.

My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Flooding
This Safety at Sea message is a bit of a tease as I can merely introduce the subject but, follow up is easy.
Very few recreational boat bilge pump systems can do more than deal with small incidental leaks: it does not take much of a problem to start a “flooding” situation (where incoming water exceeds bilge pump capacity). A real problem: a break in a 1.5-inch raw water line say, and you have a fast-emerging emergency where sinking is on the near horizon.
So, you hear your bilge pumps get activated: the next step is…?
If your answer was to operate the manual bilge pump(s), I would suggest you think otherwise. De-watering must play second fiddle to finding the leak, repeat: Find and Stop the Leak. This is not the time to sit down and devise a plan over a cup of tea. Quick action, planned well ahead of time and practiced is required and the inspection areas should already be designated. Locating the leak is far more easily accomplished at the onset of flooding. Early, the leak’s location is easy to discern. You can still see. Later, higher water obscures and the chances of finding the leak diminishes rapidly.
Prior preparation, early warning (high water alarms), knowing where all sea cocks reside, and an inspection plan are among the essential ingredients. A complete article on the above can be found on the OCC’s Forum under “Strategies for a Flooding Vessel”.
Please come back with questions, comments, thoughts.
Safe sailing, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy


Alex Blackwell
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Dick - 8/1/2019
To Be Seen

Checking that your navigation lights illuminate at commissioning is a good start, but may not be good enough.

Walking around a boatyard or marina; one item pops out at me: how inadequate many boats’ navigation lights are. Many, not all, were adequate at purchase, but their lenses are by now so crazed as to be mostly opaque. When was the last time you compared your lens to a new one? I would probably suggest that 10 years is about swap time for plastic lenses: sooner if in the tropics.

Now, some might say they never (or rarely) run at night, but I would contend that a cruising boat should always be ready to run safely at night. In addition to running a safe seaworthy boat, there is the fact that: were there a nighttime collision, one of the first things to be looked at will be the adequacy of your lighting. A lens heavily crazed will not pass regulation’s muster.

I say this with some emphasis as we observe poorly lit or illegally lit recreational vessels at least once a year: each time it causes unnecessary anxiety.

I believe most quality manufacturers sell lenses separately or: perhaps better yet, swapping the whole fixture ensures you have a replacement in spares. While doing, check the wiring for water intrusion and change bulbs.
Please also leave your comments, additions, thoughts, disagreements etc.: they are welcome.

My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Hi Dick
We did just that when we recently replaced the rigging on our boat. I had always thought our nav lights seemed a little weak and the bulbs kept disconnecting or failing. We now have new LED lights sized correctly for our vessel, and they are VERY bright - whi we had the chance we also replaced all the wiring. We also did Mast top tri-colour/anchor light combo with a deck level backup for the nav lights - old fixtures with new LED bulbs. The latter also seem much brighter than their incandescent predecessors. I suppose it also helped that we cleaned the glass lenses from the inside. :)
All the best, Alex Blackwell, S/v Aleria
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