Abandoning Ship

sinking_ship_crop

09/23/14
To Do Today:

  • PT – Cardio – 1hr run // Strength – Back and Shoulder group / abs.

 

Abandoning Ship

The decision to abandon ship is usually very difficult. In some instances, people have perished in their life raft while their abandoned vessel managed to stay afloat. Other cases indicate that people waited too long to successfully get clear of a floundering boat.

Once the decision is made:

  • Put on all available waterproof clothing, including gloves, headgear, and life jacket.
  • Collect items for a survival kit.
  • Note present position.
  • Send out MAYDAY message.
  • Launch life raft attached to ship.
  • Launch dinghy attached to life raft.
  • Try to enter life raft directly from the boat (if impossible, use minimal swimming effort to get on board).
  • Don’t forget the EPIRB (emergency position indicator radio beacon).
  • Get a safe distance from the sinking vessel.
  • Collect all available flotsam. The most unlikely articles can be adapted for use under survival conditions.
  • Keep warm by huddling bodies together. Keep dry, especially your feet.
  • Stream a sea anchor.
  • Arrange lookout watches.
  • Use flares only on skipper’s orders when there is a real chance of them being seen.
  • Arrange for collecting rainwater. Ration water to maximum one-half quart per person per day, issued in small increments. Do not drink seawater or urine. If water is in short supply, eat only sweets from survival rations.

Be Calm

In emergency situations, crew and passengers look to a leader in an almost unconscious way to determine their own level of anxiety. If the captain projects a calm and confident attitude, the crew will be reassured and since an anxious crew means poor judgment and performance, a captain should do all he or she can to keep the crew calm. The idea here is not to lie to your crew, and certainly not to fake a fearless, macho manner, going down with the ship is a pretty dumb plan. The idea is that, by maintaining a calm, deliberate attitude in the face of a dire situation, you can help your crew remain effective and perhaps help save lives. If you need to fake that attitude to some degree, so be it.

Emergency Communications

When trouble strikes, there are many ways to communicate your distress and seek help. Use your VHF or single-sideband radio and follow the procedures for distress.

There are three levels of priority communications: distress, urgent, and safety, identified by MAYDAY, PAN-PAN, and SECURITE. Panicked radio communications can confuse a rescue effort. Learn the proper procedures. Try to stay calm.

Why Ships Sink

Ships and boats are made to float on top of the water, but there are quite a few things that can go wrong to turn your boat into a swamp. Taking on water is inevitable — large waves often break over the sides, and tiny leaks are common. This water will usually find its way to the lowest point of a boat — the bilge area. For this reason, boats are equipped with bilge pumps to usher the water back out once it’s reached a certain level. Boats often sink while docked, but unless you’re like Sonny Crockett and you live on your boat, that’s not a life-threatening scenario.

Common reasons a boat might sink at sea are:

  • Low transom — The transom is the flat vertical surface that forms the rear, or stern end, of the boat. For outboard vessels, the motor is mounted onto the transom. For larger inboard vessels, you’ll find the boat’s name on the transom. The idea is for the transom to be high enough that it won’t take on water. Sometimes, simple design flaws can leave your transom too low. Improper weight distribution can also lower a transom to the point that waves can come over it and flood the deck. To keep this from happening, don’t store all your heavy gear in the stern of the boat. Scuba gear, coolers, fishing equipment and bait should all be distributed evenly along the ship to keep the transom at a safe height. You should also never anchor from the stern side — it could pull the transom down even further.
  • Missing drain plugs — This one seems like a no-brainer, but boats sink all the time because of missing drain plugs. When a boat travels forward, the entire vessel sits higher on the water than it does at rest, with the front higher than the rear. Water collected from waves or sea spray is allowed to exit the boat through a drain located at the rear of the boat at about deck level. Once you’re traveling forward, the boat tilts up and the water will flow toward the drain and back out. The problem arises when the captain forgets to stop the drain once the boat is at rest with a small, watertight plug. When the boat stops moving, it sinks lower and begins to take on water through the drain. Carry extra drain plugs and try keeping one near the ignition as a reminder.
  • Cooling system leaks — Boat engines are water cooled, pumping about 30 gallons of water through the system per minute for a 300 horsepower engine. If a hose bursts or isn’t tight enough, this water can collect in the bilge and once again, you could find yourself sinking. Check for corrosion or obvious splits and breaks in the hoses and fittings of the cooling system before you depart. Replace anything that looks suspect, and you should be fine.
  • Navigation error — Simply put, this means striking an object with your boat. It could be rocks, ice, reefs, logs, or anything else large enough to do damage to the hull, or body, of your boat. The best way to combat this is by being careful. Slow down if you see debris and be especially cautious after storms, which can wash in a great deal of foreign objects. If you see something floating, there’s a good chance there’s more under the surface. If it sounds like you’ve hit something, stop the boat immediately and check outside and below for holes or leaks. Stick that plug in the drain and click forward to read about what safety equipment you should have on board.

Boat and Ship Safety Equipment

Having the proper safety equipment on board is just as important, if not more, than being a well-schooled captain. Even the best captain doesn’t have a shot at surviving a sinking ship without a life vest or raft. The first piece of gear you’ll want to have in working order on any boat or ship is a bilge pump. Unwanted water is supposed to drain from the deck through openings on the side called scuppers, but oftentimes the water finds its way to the bilge.

The bilge pump sucks up the water from the floor of the bilge area and pumps it out through a hose. There are many types of bilge pumps and it’s important to get one that’s sufficient for the size of your vessel. If a boat has a 2-inch hole a foot below the waterline, nearly 80 gallons of water can pour in per minute. Once that same hole is 3 feet down, the flow can increase to more than 135 gallons per minute [source: boatus.org]. Many boats sink because the pump they have can’t get water out faster than it’s coming in, or because the pump is damaged. Regular maintenance of the bilge pump is vital to keeping your boat on the water.

The majority of power boats shorter than 35 feet either have too few pumps or not enough battery power to run them. Most sailboats, regardless of size, have only one pump on board. Bilge pumps are prone to failure because they’re so overworked and sometimes improperly maintained. Experts recommend a backup pump for every two you have on board, just to be on the safe side. You should also have several manual pumps in case of an extreme emergency. Bilge pumps are typically triggered to turn on automatically by a float switch. Once water rises to a certain point, the switch floats up and turns on — crisis averted. Oil, sludge and debris can affect the pumps’ ability to operate, so keeping the bilge and pump clean is important.

Life vests and flotation suits are also mandatory for any boater. In fact, at least one life vest per passenger is required by law. Keep the vests handy but secure so they don’t have an opportunity to go overboard. Flotation suits are a little more advanced than your average life vest. They’re full body suits, with built-in shoes that keep you afloat and insulated — even in icy waters — depending on your needs and how much money you can spend. Top-of-the-line floatation suits that will protect you from hypothermia run you about $1,300 to $1,600 [source: chetcomarine.com].

Life rafts have come a long way in recent years. Modern rafts have canopy covers, paddles, insulated flooring, bailing buckets, ladders and a variety of emergency items — flares, water pouches, signaling mirrors, reflective tape, fishing kits and much more. They’re packaged with all the bells and whistles in cases that look like luggage and are self-inflating. But a good life raft isn’t cheap. A deluxe four-person model costs about $4,000 — well worth the price if you ever need to use one.

Life rafts are packed by the manufacturer and require regular servicing to ensure usability. Unfortunately, even the most expensive life rafts aren’t always leak-proof. The ocean is tough on a small vessel, and you may end up with water coming into your safe haven. All modern rafts come with pumps and repair kits for this reason.

Good Tips for Sinking Ships

You’ve maintained your boat inside and out. The bilge pump is pumping, the motor is humming and you’ve steered clear of all rocks. There isn’t an iceberg in sight, there’s no Celine Dion playing — all is well. Enter Mother Nature — a storm comes along, sending your vessel crashing into a shallow reef and before you know it, your boat is sinking.

If you find a hole below deck and you’re taking on water, the first thing you need to do is try and plug it. Your goal here is to be able to pump out more water than is coming in. Be creative — use cabinet doors, table tops, seat cushions or sails. Start with the largest hole if there’s more than one. The last resort in any sinking scenario is to abandon ship. Your boat is safer and more visible than a life raft.

Try and stay calm and listen to the captain’s directions. If you’re the captain, assign jobs to your passengers. Someone should immediately gather all flotation devices and get the life raft ready. While others block the holes, radio for help and give your exact location coordinates. Have another passenger gather up emergency items for the raft, including:

  • flashlights
  • flares
  • fresh water
  • food rations
  • mirror for signaling
  • Sunscreen
  • Batteries
  • radio
  • matches
  • first-aid kit

If everyone remains calm and works together, you have a chance of keeping the boat above water or safely making it into the life raft. The captain’s evacuation notice should only come when it’s certain that the boat is going down.

If you’re on a cruise ship, it’s even more important to stay calm. Panic leads to pushing, shoving and trampling, which can lead to other injuries, like broken bones or concussion. Studies have shown that 70 percent of victims of a maritime accident are bewildered and have impaired reasoning, 15 percent exhibit irrational behaviors and only 15 percent stay calm and alert [source: mcga.gov]. Larger boats take longer to sink, so there should be plenty of time to get everyone into the lifeboats. Modern lifeboats are large, often fully covered and sometimes come equipped with motors. Once full, they’re lowered into the water mechanically by large davits that hang over the edge of the ship. The International Maritime Organization’s guidelines require that all cruise ships be able to get passengers lowered into the ocean in lifeboats within 30 minutes of passengers being gathered on deck.

When a large ship sinks it will probably tilt, making it difficult to make your way to the deck. Hold handrails and go slowly to avoid slipping. Also keep an eye out for objects that could be sliding around. The last thing you want is to be near evacuation and get plowed by a grand piano. Try to stay behind large, fixed objects for protection. You’ll know it’s time to evacuate when you hear the signal from the captain — seven short horn blasts followed by a long one. The crew of the ship should be the last ones off the boat and assist each passenger in getting to their preassigned lifeboat.

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