Emergency Preparedness

(Posted 10/28/2016)

In 2011, Yachting Monthly magazine did an informative series of YouTube videos in which emergency exercises were carried out aboard a 40' fiberglass sailboat.  Emergencies included the hull being holed, a capsizing, a dismasting and finally a propane explosion (with no one aboard).  The emergencies were then responded to by magazine staff using materials that might be found on board.

Even before seeing the videos, a mental exercise we occasionally performed was to imagine the boat upside down, as in the capsize exercise.  Everything of any weight in the cabin of Minimus is secured.

A dismasting is hopefully unlikely, given the new and oversize rigging.  We'll carry a spare length of wire rope aboard and since we know how to splice wire rope, will be able to replace a broken stay or shroud. 

Of particular interest to us, was the holed hull exercise.  The test boat was in a sling lift at a boat yard.  Various tools were used to bash a hole in the hull, which proved no easy feat.  The boat was then lowered into the water, but still in the slings.  It was instructive to note how quickly the boat began to fill, despite a relatively small hole only a few inches across.  In the course of trying numerous more or less unsatisfactory techniques to stop the inflow, two successful ones stood out. 

One was covering the hole with a hastily constructed collision mat crafted from a small plastic tarp with ropes tied to the four corners.  The two crew members stood on opposite sides of the deck and maneuvered the tarp over the hole, then pulled the ropes tight.  The leaking slowed immediately.  The other method involved using a piece of plywood from the engine compartment that had sound-deadening foam attached to one side.  A rope was passed through the hole from inside the boat and caught by a second person on deck with a boat hook.  The captured rope was then passed through a hole in the center of the plywood.  The person waiting inside the boat then pulled the rope tight, forcing the board into the water and over the hole.  The leak slowed dramatically.  

We made a 5' x 7' collision mat from the same polyester fabric we used for all the canvas work on the boat.  A 20' braided nylon rope was secured through webbing loops at each corner of the tarp.  The lines are daisy-chained to prevent tangling and to facilitate rapid deployment.  We also made several collision pads from 1/2" plywood with 4" thick foam through-bolted to one side using fender washers.  A rope passes through the center of each pad for securing it.  In warm waters, I'd be inclined to jump over the side to feed the rope through the hole rather than trying to catch it from on deck with a boat hook as shown in the video. 

Boards with foam rubber attached.  We made 3 of various sizes.

5' x 7' collision mat with a 20' line at each corner. 

Folded collision mat with lines daisy chained to prevent tangling and allow
quick deployment.

Lightning Protection:
Few experiences at sea engender a greater sense of helplessness than being in a thunderstorm on a boat with a tall aluminum mast.  Given the thunderstorms we expect to encounter in the tropics, lightning protection seemed like a good idea.  Counter to popular myth, lightning experts maintain that a well grounded lightning rod does not attract lightning, but does help to protect the boat. 

We equipped Minimus with a sharpened aluminum rod at the masthead. 
If thunderstorms approach, our plan is to clamp one end of a #4 copper cable to the base of the mast.  The other end will be thrown overboard so that at least 8 feet of bare copper wire is in the water, hopefully providing a good ground.     

Lightning rod made from 5/16" diameter aluminum rod at mast head.

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