Fire hose test

Passages from Maine to the Caribbean in November always leave me with a few things to think about. First of all timing the trip, even aboard speedy Lions Whelp, is very much like running across a six-lane highway. This year it wasn’t pretty as a lot of boats were getting into trouble trying to squeeze through very short weather windows.

Last year we tried our storm sails out as the weather window evaporated on us. This year we had a transmission failure and used up a beautiful weather window sailing through the lighter winds of the high and just lost the race to Bermuda with a gale /storm. I am getting to really like those little day glow sails!

I came away from the experience soaking wet for three days because of a #@!!!&&!!! deck leak, thank you very much, over MY BUNK! After arriving in Bermuda cleaning all of my cloths and re bedding the #!%@@&&!! winch. I have resolved that I am going to take a fire hose to every bedded component and port light and hatch on the boat well before the next North Atlantic Passage. I knew I should have done this. How did I forget? It used to be standard practice!

When we were sailing around the world (would you believe 30 years ago) the boat was so simple electronically that you could have taken the fire hose to the inside with out serious repercussions. Try that medicine on today’s boats? We were worried then about the level of the water in the bilge against how many strokes on the 12-inch Edson every hour as the boat worked in the seas. I think that there were no fewer than four boats in our storm/gale event this fall that among other complications had potentially serious electrical issues. One Canadian boat that was sunk lost a large opening and rapidly the engine and habitability and since a crew member was hurt and the boat essentially mechanically and electronically out of service and the storm building, they were forced by practicality to accept a ride on a commercial vessel and leave their precious boat behind. (Second-hand information)

So what happens when just a little bit of salt water comes in contact with a computer keypad that was designed for an office environment? What happens if it is the navigational laptop? How many spares are there on board? It may be no big deal because you have the hand held GPS in the cookie can. But the laptop and e-mail and Sat phone has also become the preferred communications method. What happens if the leak is over the Electrical Panel? On the Lions Whelp our primary charging system for the house battery banks is 230 Volts AC. It is a GREAT SYSTEM as long as it is DRY! Now I have seen a dead short of 100 amps at 240 volts. Luckily it was on land. The point is that thirty years ago a small deck leak meant a wet bunk or soggy cloths and frankly so what in the bigger scheme of things. I remember water coming through the grubs of battened down hatches with enough force and volume to bend and bring in green light from the outside like optical fiber.

Back then contemplating the contortions of the water was a wonderment. Today a fraction of the water could be the beginning step of a serious disaster. Those days the sextant was just a normal part of the regular daily routine. H.O. 249 has nice heavy pages and can take a lot of water. There was no autopilot. Our crews then were larger by several people because we didn’t have the labor saving conveniences. Today the convenience–which are so dependent upon being dry–replace crew and so our ability to stay rested and mentally on top can quickly become compromised when those systems go down. Marchaj, in his book “Seaworthinness the Forgotten Factor,” starts by pointing out that the seaworthiness of a vessel must also consider that the crew has to be able to functionally man it. In 2006, deck leaks, even minor deck leaks can lead to serious complications. Don’t leave homeport with out subjecting the boat to the “Fire Hose Test” and taking care of those leaks!

Cheers Phin P.S. Click here to see lots more pictures of Lions Whelp.

By Ocean Navigator