Seamanship is Hard to Do

For reasons I won’t bother you with, we were late getting out on our much-anticipated cruise this season. So when we finally did get going, we were both frazzled from the work and rush of preparing and provisioning the boat for a three-month cruise (much of it to remote places) and excited to finally be back out there.

On the second night of the cruise, in an anchorage close to home—we always try to start slowly to “get our cruising chops back” before we take on more challenging stuff—I managed to run us lightly aground while scoping out a snug, but poorly charted, anchorage.

No Big Deal

Now, if we don’t run aground occasionally we figure we are not really cruising, and as long as we do it slowly, in smooth water, and on a rising tide, we don’t regard this as a big deal or a failure of seamanship.

In this case we backed off easily and then anchored for the evening.

Details Matter

But we did notice that the log/speedo was no longer working after the contact, and when I pulled the sensor it was slightly deformed, indicating that a protrusion extending up from the rock we hit had brushed it—surprising because it’s in a relatively well-protected place and we have never damaged it before, even when pushing through loose ice.

I managed to get it working again by straightening the ears that hold the impeller with a pair of pliers, and thought no more about it that evening.

Worry Can Be Good

But at three in the morning (the time my worry-demons always come to visit) I started to wonder what else could have been damaged, and resolved to put our waterproof camera over the side on the end of a boathook to take a look in the morning—going for a swim in 7˚C water did not particularly appeal.

This we did first thing; however, the results were inconclusive, although generally encouraging, with nothing but a small scraped area in the paint, only down to the barrier coat, showing.

But that scratch did lead to the log sensor…and then I got to wondering about possible damage to the flange of the plastic through hull that I couldn’t see really well with the camera.

(Since our boat is aluminum we can’t use bronze for through hulls, so the options are either plastic or custom-made aluminum.)

Finally, after some discussion, and with several long-suffering sighs—this was not what we felt like dealing with on the second day of our cruise—we dug out my dry suit so I could go over the side and take a look without freezing anything vital.

Oh, Hell!

A quick inspection showed that about a third of the flange was missing, but with no sign of any further damage and we were not leaking a drop.

Time for a cup of tea and further discussion about:

  • Possible failure modes.
  • Options for reinforcing the log through hull from the inside.
  • Likelihood of a failure at all.
  • What we would do if it did fail.
  • How much this sucked.
  • The meaning of life.

Decision Time

After much deliberation we:

  • Motored 30 miles back to Base Camp into a sea breeze-reinforced wind of 20-30 knots, to see if we had a spare through hull.
  • While doing that, bugged a friend (via phone) who owns a marine store to see whether he had one, as well as calling three other businesses on the same quest.
  • Found that we did have a spare.
  • Called our friends at East River Marine and begged and pleaded for a haul ASAP.
  • Hauled the boat next morning. (Thanks to all at East River Marine.)
  • Replaced the through hull.
  • Were back out there 48 hours after my initial blunder.

Yikes!

All good, but here’s the scary thing: the barrel of the through hull was cracked through over three quarters of its diameter. 

Would it have:

  • Failed leaving a 2” hole in the boat, perhaps when the bow came down hard when punching to windward?
  • Started to leak, giving us warning?
  • Failed when we were off hiking resulting in us coming back to a sunk boat?

I’m guessing none of these things would have happened, particularly since I needed the assistance of a vice holding the remaining flange and a lot of force to completely break the barrel—without it being in situ, reinforced by the 1/2″ backer plate and a bunch of goop, which would have been even stronger—but none-the-less, all of the above are real possibilities.

So Close

Now here’s the point of this story:

I would love to tell you that we came to the right decision (hauling the boat) quickly and decisively. But my nose is already bigger than average, to put it kindly, so I don’t want to risk further enlargement by lying.

The reality is that at each step of our troubleshooting and analysis process, we seriously considered not hauling and either doing nothing, or doing some kind of kludge-reinforcement from the inside of the boat, and going on with our cruise and only dealing with it properly when we hauled in the fall.

Now, I guess that some will say that this admission just proves that Phyllis and I are poor seamen. And if they want to think that and go on with their cruising life smug in the knowledge that they would never even consider such an error, that’s fine too.

But before anyone does that, understand that we were faced with this decision after a hard winter of work, preceded by several years of cruise-limited health problems. And that we were deliriously happy to be starting our cruise but sad to be later than we wanted to be.

All the sorts of situations and mental states that many cruisers (perhaps most) are in when starting a voyage.

Also, the impact was very gentle and the damage appeared minor, at least to a pair of eyes belonging to someone desperately wanting it to be minor. And further, there was no knowing how long a haul and repair was going to take.

All of this reminds Phyllis and me that seamanship is the fine art of doing the right thing even when so doing is a huge pain in the ass.

For example:

  • Sailing an extra 10 miles at the end of a long day to a safer harbour, or an extra 5 miles to access a weather-shore entrance to said harbour instead of the closer lee-shore entrance.
  • Going on deck in the middle of the night when it’s pissing rain and blowing stink to check the lines for chafe.
  • Leaving a snug cockpit when at sea in nasty weather to tour the deck looking for problems.

Seamanship is hard to do.

Comments

We can talk about through hulls and such if you want, but personally I’m much more interested in your experiences with making seamanship decisions in difficult circumstances. Please leave a comment.

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Meet the Author

John

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

47 comments… add one
  • Russell L Aug 31, 2017, 3:05 am

    I grew up on a farm where we saw close up the law of the harvest, you reap what you sow. It sounds like sailing and farming are alike,

  • Neil Mc Aug 31, 2017, 4:17 am

    Hi John
    Great Website.
    Being the Devils advocate, what decision would you have made if you were a days sail or more from a haul out? There are always so many factors that lead us down one path or another.
    Regards Neil

    • John Aug 31, 2017, 7:55 am

      Hi Neil,

      I guess it would have depended on a whole bunch of variables, but I did have a plan to backup and strengthen the through hull from inside the boat using stuff we had aboard that I think would have worked. Of course if we had been in a remote place, that would have been the only option.

      • Dick Stevenson Aug 31, 2017, 5:46 pm

        Hi Neil and John,
        Were I in a remote place, I would consider the underwater epoxy that I carry, but have never had occasion to use. I have 2 kinds, one that seems more liquid-y/paste-y and one that is in sticks like Play-Do that you kneed together. This might have compromised the transducer, but this might be the price paid for greater peace of mind. I would also have done some good slathering of epoxy from the inside and made sure my high water alarm was functioning.
        My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

        • John Sep 1, 2017, 9:08 am

          Hi Dick,

          In our case, although we carry it, underwater epoxy would not have been a lot of help since it does not stick worth a damn to aluminium inside the boat and I would not trust it to stick to paint outside.

          My thinking was more along the lines of fabricating a reinforcing block out of wood to go over the through hull from the inside liberally speared with polysulfide and mechanically fastened to threaded holes in the backing plate. Polysulfide kicks from water, so all good in a wet area like the bilge.

  • Tristan Mortimer Aug 31, 2017, 4:20 am

    I think the seaman like thing was to do the inspection that you did by entering the water. Armed with proper facts the best decisions can be made. I too had a grounding, a very hard one, in a canal of all places and I too decided an underwater inspection was the only correct decision. The outcome of my decision was different,deciding to continue the trip and have the damage professionally surveyed upon hauling out. My decision was vindicated by that survey.

    • Tristan Mortimer Aug 31, 2017, 5:54 am

      John,
      As side note, does this event not lead you to consider a bespoke through hull from aluminium? Having worked in the leisure marine industry I have seen the failure of at least one other plastic through hull. Granted there are many millions of them out there but no doubt something from metal will be more robust.

      • John Aug 31, 2017, 8:03 am

        Hi Tristan,

        Sure, that’s an option going through my mind. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by how hard it was to break this through hull even though it was cracked almost right through. The point being that if we custom made every fitting where there was a single failure among millions we would never leave the boat yard. Getting this balance right is just another part of seamanship.

  • Stein Varjord Aug 31, 2017, 5:46 am

    Hi John

    We just got back from our summer cruise on our new to us catamaran from Amsterdam to Southern Norway and Sweden. Shake down cruise in a very beautiful and benign area i know since childhood, so easy going. Longest passage was two days across the North Sea in perfect weather.

    I was making lots of small improvements and repairs continuously but not much of if concerning safety. One exception was the engines and related systems. I’ve previously cleaned the diesel system extremely thoroughly, including the tanks, but still found I now needed to change filters prematurely on one engine as it stalled at high power. Working on a diesel system is unpleasant work so I didn’t wish to dive into it again and hoped that the new filters would be enough and it was some remaining dirt that had hidden some mysterious place. In the back of my mind I knew that was impossible, but still…

    The problem didn’t go away, so I had to look further. I did of course wait quite some time before doing anything. I had changed all the hoses so that was the last suspect, but after lots of hours looking, that was the only option. I found the problem near the end of one hose. A small piece of rubber was partly loose. It looked fine when inspected, but with high flow it could partly block. I think the problem was there when I bought the hose…

    A few weeks later, on the Swedish west coast, we rescued a motor boat from hitting the cliffs in high waves. The notorious Gule Humpen just south of Havstensund. The only exposed spot on the otherwise completely protected inner route. Definitely a life threatening situation. We got there just in time and got a rope on board when we were both literally in the breaking waves. Last chance. I really needed full power on both engines to be able to manoeuvre in the big waves and 40 knots gusts. (It would have been impossible to do this with a normal boat. Two diesels 6 meters apart can do amazing things. )

    The family on board had rented the boat and the engine had stopped because algae in the tank blocked the intake tube in the tank. I spoke with the owner on the phone and he did not believe me. I know for a fact he’s wrong since I changed the filters and drained a bit from the tanks and pumped air back into the tank to remove the blockage. It opened like a champagne bottle. A boat owner who is too lazy to look at such an important issue is no good. He will keep renting out the boat. I’ve decided to help the family squeeze him with a lawyer to stop the idiot.

    I still do recognise his resistance to do something unpleasant. It did indeed influence my own actions on this same trip. I’ve long suspected that I must be a specimen of the weak minded emotionally challenged animal called Human. Maybe we are best at seamanship when we appreciate our own weakness and look at our decisions with much suspicion?

    • John Aug 31, 2017, 7:58 am

      Hi Stein,

      Great story that really illustrates the point, and your last sentence sums it up perfectly—we should not trust ourselves too much.

  • Marek Aug 31, 2017, 10:42 am

    Good story…In the situations like this I always ask myself what I will do in a perfect situation i.e. in this case: the shipyard is 10 miles away and I have spare on board. I have Marlon through hulls too …

  • richard s Aug 31, 2017, 10:46 am

    my test pls

  • Bill Attwood Aug 31, 2017, 10:53 am

    Hi John
    Sorry that the start of the cruise was delayed, but glad you took the decision to return and replace. The Worry-Demons can go back in the box and you can relax and enjoy yourselves. I have a question about the “plastic” thru-hulls as I have replaced most of min with TruDesign. They are actually glass-filled nylon, but could be described as plastic. What material exactly were/are your thru-hulls? No prizes for guessing what I hope your answer is.
    😉
    Yours aye
    Bill

    • John Sep 1, 2017, 9:11 am

      Hi Bill,

      The through hull in question was the standard plastic one that comes with Airmar sensors. Not sure exactly what it’s made of.

  • richard s Aug 31, 2017, 11:01 am

    another wonderful post…cannot recall any outing that did not involve seamanship decisions…some minor…some major…my basic guidelines in no particular order for minimizing these decisions:
    – keep decks cleared for action above deck and below

    – my schedule is only a guide

    – hope for best, prepare for worst

    – keep up on food intake and hydration

    – stay focused on watch

    – always anchor securely esp when feeling tired

    – keep it simple (stupid)…kiss

    – guard all footing esp on deck

    – stay away fm lee shore lines as much as possible esp when tired…this often requires advance planning

    – always remember john’s big three…keel down, mast up, crew stays on board

    cheers,
    richard s

  • Reed Erskine Aug 31, 2017, 12:30 pm

    Surrounded by the sometimes benign beauty of sea, sky and sails, we let our hopes become beliefs and allow our vision to omit things we’d rather not see. A boat is a perpetual puzzle of cause and effect. Good seamanship is using all the senses all the time, in a state of constantly heightened awareness.

    • John Sep 1, 2017, 9:14 am

      Hi Reed,

      Very well put.

  • Dick Stevenson Sep 1, 2017, 7:18 am

    Hi John,
    Your request for thoughts about seamanship decisions has caused me to coalesce some notions that have been kicking around for a while.
    Seamanship can be thought of as a creative imagination mixed with good reality testing. The creative imagination addresses the question: what can go wrong and how? The good reality testing addresses the likelihood of what your imagination conjures up actually occurring and assesses the ante: is the down side loss of life/boat or is the down side a pin-hole leak, a pain, but no big deal. Experience can make these decisions far more informed, but probably not much easier.
    The next step in defining seamanship has to do with one’s character: will you do the hard thing?
    As to the midnight worries (what I call fretting): a whole essay might only start to address where one draws the line between “productive fretting” those thoughts that emerge at 3 in the morning and lead to evaluation and action and “un-productive fretting”, the kind that just leaves you unsettled with your stomach in knots.
    My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • John Sep 1, 2017, 9:16 am

      Hi Dick,

      So true, and I really relate to your fretting analysis.

      • Marc Dacey Sep 4, 2017, 12:54 pm

        Similar to, I suspect, many readers here, I am approaching the age where getting up in the middle of the night seems necessary. I find I have trouble getting back to sleep because I run “what could go wrong with this idea or process on or around the boat” obsessive thinking, and it keeps me awake longer and more frequently than I would like. I suppose the only upside is that once we actually go on passage, I will be on a watchstanding schedule, and will already be up to muse on deck “do I need to check this?”

  • Drew Frye Sep 2, 2017, 10:13 am

    I believe a wet suit or drysuit is a safety basic in cold waters. There have been many occasions over the years where I have either snagged a line or struck an object and needed to lay eyes on the problem. I also like a drysuit for use as foul weather gear in cold weather with a lot of spray, and I like the MOB safety factor. I did an article for Good Old Boat in which I tested my dry suit against the US Coast Guard immersion suit standard line by line–with certain logical exceptions (not one-size-fits-all, diesel fuel immersion, not self-insulating, and certain destructive tests), it passed, and would keep you safe in the water for well over 8 hours. I spend over 4 hours in 32F water, and at the end of the test, my body temperature had risen a few tenths. Love my dry suit.

    • Dick Stevenson Sep 2, 2017, 11:51 am

      Hi all,
      I echo Drew’s recommendation of a dry suit. I found, with a wet suit, in waters below 14C/55F, I could not sustainably work in the water without getting clumsily cold even when I doubled up with a 3/2 mil below and an old larger 3 mil above. Thicker than that might have compromised movement/work, but I never tried thicker.
      A couple of points:
      Mine is a river rapids suit (NRX Crux) and not a dive suit. That saved a good deal of $$. If a diver, please note that all my advice has been that one needs special training to dive with a dry suit safely, so I have not tried to do so.
      Your undergarment largely determines the temp range. Mine is a Whites Thermal Fusion that I bought used from a dive outfit and thought would be overkill. Not so. It is essentially a thick one-piece fleece.
      I wear a regular 3 mil wet suit helmet and have been fine and my hands do not seem to get cold.
      If you are a diver, you will need far more weight than expected to achieve neutral buoyancy (32 pounds vs. 8-15). My well-designed weight belt I have used for years diving with wet suits was difficult to use with that much weight. With difficulty, I found a weight belt that has shoulder straps (Tech Weight Harness, http://www.beaversports.co.uk).
      There is a tendency to go feet up (air migrating to the feet when doing bottom work) that is disconcerting/potentially dangerous so some of my weight is ankle weights.
      As for sailing with a dry suit, I would worry that I would snag it on something and compromise its watertight integrity. It would not take much of a hole/abrasion to make the suit essentially useless, so even working in the water, I am quite careful.
      I have some thoughts on cold weather above deck apparel I will share in another post.
      My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

      • Dick Stevenson Sep 2, 2017, 12:06 pm

        Hi Drew, John and all,
        This stream seems to evolved sideways, John, so please move this if it fits better elsewhere. The following is a spin-off from Drew’s comments about deck apparel in cold waters/conditions.
        I was of two minds about a lot of the preparations necessary to spend cruising time in Greenland and Iceland. The issue was where to draw the line on items that would likely get one season of use, but were expensive and hard to store. In this category was a Satphone (yes) as well as were reels of shorefast lines (no) and survival suits (no). We did get one exposure/flotation suit. My main imagined use for it was in getting lines ashore from the dinghy; an exercise always giving excellent opportunity for stumbles, inadvertent swims and the like.
        I bought a First Watch (AS-1100-HV-L) suit. Its competition was a Mustang suit. I tried on both at Landfall Navigation and felt like it was a coin flip as to which to buy.
        The FW suit proved to be an absolute joy in many respects. It was easy to do work in and did not interfere with any aspects of running the boat including sail handling etc. It was quite warm and dry and best, it was padded (the flotation). It is nice to have padding built in for the stumbles, bumps, kneeling and sitting that accompany my running a boat.
        I used it primarily for day sails around Greenland as, for the most part, we were able to free anchor. The suit’s one drawback is that there is no harness attachment for tethers, so for offshore watches alone, it would not do for me (I could get my old adjustable Lirakis harness over it, but this was awkward with all the flotation padding). And, as this is a response to Drew’s piece, the FW would not be nearly as life sustaining in cold water as a dry suit. One un-expected benefit was that it, being one piece, built in warm and well designed, was very quick to put on and was great for occasional fire drills on deck where you wanted to be out quick. I could be quite comfortable (for reasonable periods of time), operating in close to freezing temps just throwing the suit over a t-shirt and underwear.
        I have continued to use it in Newfoundland when conditions deteriorate with rain or salt water spray as a quick way to get kitted. Its other drawback is that it is quite bulky and a bear to store, so it may not find a long-term home on my 40 foot boat, but I would like to if I could.
        My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

        • Charles L Starke Sep 2, 2017, 3:21 pm

          Dear Dick,
          Thanks for the good recommendations.
          I love the Wiggys deck suit with built in harness. https://www.wiggys.com/clothing-outerwear/insulated-floatation-suit/
          It’s one piece, light, floats and very warm.
          The sweater is also excellent, warm at sea or in Antarctica (x3) and does not absorb water so it stays warm at sea or in fog.
          https://www.wiggys.com/clothing-outerwear/supplex-sweater/

          Best wishes,
          Charles Starke
          s/v Dawnpiper

          • Dick Stevenson Sep 3, 2017, 6:51 am

            Hi Charles,
            Wiggy’s: what a terrible name for what looks like a great outdoor apparel and gear designer/maker. The exposure suit does look like it checks many of the boxes. The sweater looks similar to my Arcteryx “sweater” w/ hood which I think is just a marvelous piece of kit. Patagonia makes one also, mine is w/o hood. Thanks for the heads up.
            My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

        • John Sep 4, 2017, 8:55 am

          Hi Dick,

          Interesting analysis of what to buy for the north.

          One item I strongly disagree with is the decision not to buy survival suits. I would not cruise anywhere with water under 10C without full on SOLAS survival suits aboard for all crew members. Fishing and commercial accident inquiries have shown repeatedly that the survival suit is the most important piece of safety gear on the boat. In an emergency those who get into the survival suit and get the zipper up properly live, those who don’t die.

          Dry suits or working exposure suits (we carry those too) are not an adequate substitute for a real survival suit.

          More here: https://www.morganscloud.com/2007/05/19/survival-suits-for-boats/

          • Dick Stevenson Sep 12, 2017, 4:03 pm

            Hi John,
            We may have to agree to dis-agree on my choice to not have survival suits. I have reviewed my thinking during the planning of my crossing and would, at this juncture, not have changed my preparations in this regard.
            You are, of course, correct in all you say about survival suits and I would not wish to undermine your recommending them strongly to boats operating in cold water. Your preparations are also very admirable: taking a course on their use and having the swimming pool practice with the suits that you describe and then the practice of getting into a life raft in the suits. Very valuable. I would hope that a course such as you describe would be take by every skipper/crew who buys survival suits as part of their safety gear.
            I will share my thinking on survival suits for Alchemy:
            In essence, I saw and see survival suits as have too narrow a range of survival usefulness to be included in our gear for dealing with our recent Atlantic crossing from the Faroes to Iceland to Greenland and into Canada and to areas covered by your 10C water cut-off.
            As to narrow range, I am referring to:
            Survival suits are designed to keep a person alive in cold water. Laudable for sure and all testing indicates their effectiveness. But I saw them as having a very limited applicability for a recreational sailboat. More practical, perhaps far more practical, in my estimation, would be a drysuit. Recent articles supporting this idea include: https://www.practical-sailor.com/blog/-11605-1.html.
            Survival suits are not of use in a MOB situation because no one would wear them in the everyday running of the boat (dry suits allow easy running of the boat). They are for catastrophes: the boat is sinking. And it had better be a catastrophe of the slowly evolving kind as one needs to allow time to access the suits and get them on for them to be of any use. And the particular circumstances of the catastrophe has to push the crew to the choice of donning survival suits rather than get the life raft launched and the grab bag ready. (Unless the protocol is to always first don the suits and then get the life raft ready—a lot of time in an evolving catastrophe). And once on, any real work at rescuing the boat, handling a radio or satphone, launching the raft, grabbing a grab bag etc. would be limited by the cumbersomeness of the suit. I also wondered whether, from the water, one could wrestle one’s way into a life raft. I know you practiced this in a pool, but I wonder how easy it would be in larger seas in an emergency situation.
            Our plan, in a catastrophe leading to a sinking situation, was that we would light up the EPIRB, grab the Sat-phone and the grab bag and launch the life raft, and with whatever time left, grab fleeces to augment those already in our grab bag. We would probably be pretty warmly dressed already. Were there time, donning a dry suit would be wise, or taking them with you on the raft. Short of a catastrophe, in a survival situation: in a hurricane or storm, donning a dry suit would not interfere with working the boat and would punch most, if not all, of the buttons that a survival suit does while allowing freedom of movement to work.
            A few contributory thoughts:
            I like reports from other sailors on the use of equipment I buy. The more the better. Testing is good, but field reports are best. In my preparations, I found no reports of use of survival suits by recreational sailors (you speak to a yacht below Iceland where a survival suit was used to good effect, but without citation). I suspect there are reports, but I did not find them.
            And your cut off of 10C/50F water temp covers a lot of water and a lot of recreational sailors, so I would expect to find reports on survival suits use etc. by these boats. (Survival times are pretty dismal across the board for cold and cooler water without protection, even well above your 10C cut-off.) Much of early season sailing from NY north is likely around that water temp. Much of Northern Europe where I have been these last 5+ years is around or below that temp and may not get much above at any time. There are lots of sailors on these waters and I suspect there are sailboats who carry survival suits, but very few. I know of none. I do not remember hearing of them nor any reporting of their being carried nor any of the magazines or stores flogging them as they do other safety equipment. More importantly, I could not find incidents reported where survival suits were used to good effect by recreational sailors (besides the one instance you cited) nor were there reports of incidents where tragedy occurred and later analysis thought survival suits were a missing ingredient for potentially averting tragedy. Now, I am clear, that all of the above in no way means you are wrong, just that you are on your own in the recreational boat realm: at least to my researches. I can see your reasoning, for sure, but I do not see it having more than a very narrow applicability.
            At some point, practical considerations did play a part in my decision, storage and, far less the case, money. About storage issues: Mine is a 40-foot boat, and by modern standards, the interior volume is far smaller than almost all modern 40 footers. If you were you to take my boat and cut it in ½ at its beamiest point and then add 16 feet of that beam and height to the middle, you would add a huge amount of interior volume. (My companionway ladder to forepeak bulkhead is only 16 feet in an aft cockpit boat). You would then have a boat the same length boat as yours. And this still would still not approach the interior volume of Morgan’s Cloud as I am adding the 16 feet based on my smaller beam and height. We had enough trouble storing a Jordan Series Drogue and the one exposure suit, let alone 3 survival suits. One has to draw the line (and cross one’s fingers, knock on wood etc.) somewhere and that cut realistically comes sooner on a smaller boat.
            That said, I would choose dry suits over survival suits even if I had a bigger boat. Perhaps survival suits if I were running an expedition boat doing high latitude runs regularly but not for my boat doing the sailing I am doing.
            My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

          • John Sep 12, 2017, 4:23 pm

            Hi Dick,

            I guess we could argue the details on this for days, but in this case I’m coming down firmly on side of listening to people with decades of high latitude experience who pretty much unanimously require survival suits.

            As to the problem of mobility, the mustang ocean commander pretty much solves that problem (we own two).

            And further, for every day use in cold weather, I prefer working exposure suits (another Arctic standard) over dry suits since the latter, particularly recreational ones, are quite fragile and one tear or busted seal robs them of their effectiveness.

  • Drew Frye Sep 2, 2017, 5:28 pm

    I was not trying to push any specific sort of suit. Just something that can get you under the boat. I use a sailing/wind surfing suit that works well for deck wear and kayaking (not very good for diving). I have also used wet suits (swim better, not as comfortable in the water, horrible out of the water).

    The main trick for using a dry suit to dive is to work out a way to get ALL of the air out of the suit. With mine, since it zips across the shoulders, going 3/4 down the swim ladder and ten zipping works well. The water pressure pushes the air out.

    Just pick a compromise you can live with.

  • Dick Stevenson Sep 3, 2017, 6:57 am

    Hi Drew,
    I included details of what I used not so much to push any particular item, but to give a better idea of what I mean by looking it up. Agree about getting the air out of the suit. I crack the wrist seal with my hands just out of the water and the rest of my body in the water and the air goes whooshing out.
    My best, Dick

  • Erik Snel Sep 4, 2017, 5:25 am

    In my mind, a good decision to repair this.

    It does remind me of a tip someone gave me to avoid just this type of damage: to bond (or in your case weld) a ring around the flange with the same thickness that protects the flange from side impact. I have never followed up on that advise, but I might reconsider when hauling out Dutch Rose this winter…

    • Patrick Genovese Sep 7, 2017, 7:36 am

      A ring is probably not a good idea because it will cause turbulence that will most likely cause the log to read inaccurately. A straight skid type of arrangement on either side of the log would probably work better as it would not disturb the water flow over the log, and you can taper it off at the ends.

      This reminds me of an incident that a friend of mine once had when crewing on a race boat. They had been beating into a F6 gusting F7 with 2 to 3m waves and the boat was pounding badly when the depth transducer blew in. Luckily they managed to plug the hole in time, bail the boat and get home safely but it was a mighty scare.

      The owner subsequently built a small box glassed to the hull around the depth & speed log transducers with watertight glands for the cables and secure access panel to allow access to the transducers. They also added a water sensor to detect the presence of water in the box. Perhaps a bit of an extreme measure but understandable after such a scare.

  • Bill Attwood Sep 7, 2017, 10:33 am

    The two items which I don’t consider essential on my boat are the paddle wheel log, and the wind speed/direction instrument. When either eventually give up the ghost they won’t be replaced. Is the value of a “speedometer” and possible water temperature measurement worth the potential risk of the hole in the hull? Aren’t both these instruments nice to have rather than essential? I do appreciate that water temperature can be useful, for example when crossing major ocean currents.
    We use a trailing log for measuring distance covered, and can estimate speed accurately enough by eye.
    John’s experience has strengthened my opinion. Have I missed something?
    Regards
    Bill

    • John Sep 7, 2017, 3:31 pm

      Hi Bill,

      No, I don’t think you have missed something, I would agree that neither are really required.

      That said, we used to race the boat (two Newport Bermuda races) and in that case this stuff becomes vital.

      Also, back in the day when I was doing a lot of Arctic trips with crew I didn’t know very well, it was very useful to say “call me if the true wind gets over 25 knots”. And you need speed for true wind speed.

      But you are right, If I were doing a pure cruising boat from scratch, I probably wouldn’t bother with this stuff.

  • Neil Sep 11, 2017, 6:47 pm

    We do have a ring welded and faired to hull, around our standard Airmar transducer fitting – just as Erik suggests. There is no noticable accuracy concern for us – Boat Speed through the water and GPS SOG read the same in non-tidal conditions.

    In the interest of minimising risks, we opted for a single transducer combining depth, speed and temp and this does serve well.

    • John Sep 12, 2017, 9:37 am

      Hi Neil,

      Good to have confirmation that the ring idea works. Thank you.

  • Dick Stevenson Sep 12, 2017, 5:21 pm

    Hi John,
    I agree about the relative fragile-ness of drysuits. I do not believe I had given adequate weight to that consideration when thinking about working the boat in one.
    My best, Dick

  • Leif Drabløs Sep 27, 2017, 4:27 pm

    About seamanship is hard to do.
    I think it is the state of mind of constant questioning combined with investigation to get the facts, and then decision/action basen on the facts and the risks of not counteracting.
    Evaluation of your options, also the easy way out options is part of it, as long as we, based on the risks, have the courage and determination to cut through and do the necessary.
    So, I think your actions after the grounding, John, fits right into this as good seamanship.
    Hilsen Leif

  • Leif Drabløs Sep 27, 2017, 4:50 pm

    About survival suits. I have som experience of wearing them, having worked on the Oil production platforms in the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea for many year, and we were wearing survival suits on the helicopter flight, to and from the platforms, which could take up to an hours each way. I do not think they are so clumbersome to use. IT did not take long to donn them either. So, I would think it is realistisc to have them in a Cockpit locked and take them on when severe weather is encountered, or when a emergency is there.
    Best regards, Leif

    • John Sep 29, 2017, 9:27 am

      Hi Leif,

      Thanks for the real world endorsements of survival suits. The fact that they are the standard in helicopter flights over cold water must tell us something.

      • Dick Stevenson Sep 29, 2017, 12:15 pm

        Hi Leif,
        Agree with John and particularly interesting that you describe being able to function in them. Thanks, Dick

        • John Sep 29, 2017, 1:41 pm

          Hi Dick,

          I have always admired how open you are to new views—truly a mark of good seamanship.

  • Leif Drabløs Sep 30, 2017, 3:57 am

    Hi Dick and John. Coose a type of survivalsuit that have a seal by the armwrist ,and loose gloves( attached to the suits with a line and stored in a pocket in the arm.),and also see to that the boots are not too big, alternativly the type without boots but a sack to put the feet into other shoes.
    Regards Leif

  • Chris Oct 11, 2017, 9:08 am

    John, Phyllis,
    As we prepare our boat for a summer 2018 blue-water launch, and we face our last dark MN winter, you fill my days with the small (and large) details to help ensure a safe journey. Your vibe is more supportive mentor (did you pack your baseball glove young man?) than nagging parent (DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!). Your first-hand extensive knowledge, delivered with humility, is incredibly helpful and very approachable. I am thrilled to have found your site. Thank you both.
    Chris Hartnett
    S/v Morning Winds

    • John Oct 13, 2017, 4:40 pm

      Hi Chris,

      What a loverly comment, thank you! Makes it all worth while.

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