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Danger on Deck
Janine
Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 9:00 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 392


Dockwalk magazine's regular column, What Went Wrong by Kelly Sanford, highlights a different marine accident each month, focusing on the lessons learned. We've received feedback that some readers would like to comment on it. So we're republishing it in the forum so you can have your say.

The April 2010 column recounts two accidents caused by mooring procedures gone awry.


An accident where a snapped dock line killed a bystander due to a questionably designed wing station was the subject of last month’s column. If you read the article and thought to yourself, “What a freak accident!” think again. Injury and death frequently are caused by those innocent-looking dock lines when mooring operation procedures go awry.

 

Unsafe deck practices have become a systemic oversight in both commercial and pleasure maritime practices, punctuated by numerous horrific injuries and fatalities annually. In an ongoing study being conducted by the UK P&I Club, it was found that “forty-three percent of vessels use non-deck crew during mooring operations.” One can only assume that this number would be significantly higher if it were isolated for pleasure yachts. It’s a statistic that warrants discussion about whether nondeck crew are sufficiently trained to be aware of the dangers inherent in docking and anchoring.

 

According to one captain, who has asked that his comments be included anonymously, “When it comes to yachting, what concerns me most about people possibly being hurt or killed while docking is that the inexperienced and naïve crew are usually only asked to participate in docking procedures when the conditions are most ripe for something to go wrong. Right?” He continues, “If there is no wind or current and the boat is running one hundred percent, then a couple guys can manage the deck just fine. But if you’re limping out of the shipyard with a single engine, or it’s blowing stink or there’s a screaming current, that’s usually when you see a lot of captains ask crew to be on deck who really should not be there. They are there in case something goes wrong. But if something does go wrong, will they react with a safe or effective response?”

 

Sadly, the likelihood that an inexperienced crewmember would adeptly navigate a serious incident is unlikely. The stress of a serious linehandling situation requires a practiced hand and some forethought.

 

Capt. “C” was running a smaller (about 30-meter) boat with a single anchor. When med-moored in St. Barths, the boat deployed a second, collapsible anchor; in the absence of a second windlass and anchor chain, it was secured with lines. A large vessel (50 meters plus) was leaving the crowded anchorage; as it passed the smaller yacht, a stabilizer fin caught the anchor line. The crew of the smaller yacht was having lunch when the bow suddenly swung about 30 degrees to starboard, breaking off a large piece of the swim platform and squeezing every other vessel to the starboard side of the boat together, fanning them out like a deck of cards.

 

Within seconds, the captain ran on deck. His instincts told him to let the anchor line go, but just as he reached the windlass, the line attached to the snagged anchor snapped. The recoiling line hit the captain on the leg, leaving a wound that a crewmember says, “Looked like he had been bitten by a shark. There was so much force on the line that it ripped apart the brass hawser to the anchor well like an aluminum can.” The captain collapsed to the deck and said, “I think my leg is broken.”

 

Fortunately, the leg was not broken and the captain made a full recovery. But there certainly are a number of lessons to be learned from this incident.

 

Capt. “P” has 14 years’ experience on sailing vessels and 12 aboard large motor yachts. In his opinion, the captain of the smaller vessel was in an “unwinnable” situation. “I think his instincts were correct. Lose the anchor and worry about it later, but the situation had gone too far wrong and he’s lucky he got away with just a gash on the leg.”

 

Capt. P suggests that had the captain of the smaller yacht been seriously injured by the compromised line, it would have been the fault of the larger vessel. Having run vessels larger than 50 meters through that harbor, “Our pre-departure checklist includes checking the safe route out of a port or harbor and noting any navigational hazards or no-go areas,” he says. “For the port of St. Barths, which is extremely tight, we have one of the tenders do a run out prior to our departure, primarily checking what other moored or anchored vessels may cause concern for us.

 

“We post lookouts on the bow, stabilizer locations and on the stern. Occasionally, we have encountered similar situations as described above, i.e. a long stay on an anchor rode of a smaller vessel. In these cases, we communicate with that captain and coordinate the easing out of their anchor temporarily while we pass,” Capt. P says.

 

“Many vessels attach a buoy to indicate the ‘long stay’ of their rode but that serves as a warning only. As I mentioned, it is tight in that particular port and it goes without saying that extra care should be taken when maneuvering vessels that are constrained by their size and draft.”

 

There are many situations where a line may become compromised and pose a threat to life and limb. In an attempt to limit the number of injuries and fatalities caused during docking or anchoring operations, the International Chamber of Shipping and the UK Harbour Masters’ Association (the UK’s Nautical Institute), in a joint effort with the IMO, recently released two guides offering comprehensive insight into risk management in safe mooring practices.


http://www.dockwalk.com/dockwalkmagazine.aspx?id=9801c6af


Henning
Posted: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 12:37 AM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1053


 I cannot recount how many times over the years I have had to yell "Get the f- away from there!". I don't know what the obsession is with people putting body parts at risk to save steel or glass or.... It's bad thinking, that's the problem. Do not try to be a hero and "save" something. If it's going wrong, get clear of the area. Even if it's my fault making an error driving the boat, please, do not think you are doing me a favor by running to the scene and sticking your arm someplace stupid. The reality is, I can fix a hell of a lot of damage on a boat a lot cheaper than your arm or leg. I as captain would also much rather wear the fact that I damaged a boat over injuring a crew member.

As for the incident in Thailand, I have installed a guarded switch on my bridge wing panel that disables the shifter and throttle controls. When I walk away from the panel, I flip the guard down and somebody walking by who accidentally or intentionally moves the levers will cause no effect. If I need the station, I just open the guard and engage the switch and I have controls again.

junior
Posted: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 6:41 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


At this very minute I have a mini plastic tent on the foredeck so a carpenter can replace three teak planks. Last Oct while anchored stern too, a large motoryacht entered the harbour way to close to my bow, caught my anchor chain on its stabilizer and tore my anchor chain stopper out of the deck. It seems that many yacht captains are unfamiliar with the catenary profile of the bar tight , 10 to one , chain scope used when anchored stern too. Many yacht captains also seem to be unfamiliar with stern too harbour etiquette which dictates that before you arrive or leave the dock, you notify neighboring yachts who may be able to assist the maneuver by dropping a chain or shifting a stern line to open up a hole and avoid " AUGUST MADNESS" As for deploying a rope anchor rode kedge anchor in a crowded harbour...DONT DO IT. You are interfering with the maneuvers of all vessels using the harbour. I draw over 4 meters and will have a very difficult time clearing the harbour without picking up your gear. If you cant lie stern too under primary ground tackle, reset your gear or leave the harbour. Capt. P says. “Many vessels attach a buoy to indicate the ‘long stay’ of their rode but that serves as a warning only. As I mentioned, it is tight in that particular port and it goes without saying that extra care should be taken when maneuvering vessels that are constrained by their size and draft.” If you are implying a floating buoy to mark your anchor, bad habit...DONT DO IT. When you put a floating obstruction in the harbour it will intimidate the manovering of other vessels, get sucked into bow thrusters or stern gear and make a mess. If I see you buoy your anchor, I will break out my rigging knife, cut it off , then bring it back to you with a pencil and paper so you may sit on it at the bar while you write one thousand times..I WILL NOT BUOY MY ANCHOR...I WILL NOT BUOY MY ANCHOR...I WILL NOT......
Anonymous
Posted: Friday, March 26, 2010 5:46 PM
Lets face it. Train all of you crew for deck work and line handling, or just get down to jimmies and order a few custom T-shirts with "Human Fender" printed on them.
Matt
Posted: Saturday, March 27, 2010 12:00 AM
Joined: 17/10/2008
Posts: 2


I suppose it depends on the "interior crew member". I am a chef by trade but have more on deck open ocean experience than most of the deckhands in this industry.

Being a deckie for 2 years on a motoryacht does not necessarily qualify one to take other's lives into their hands. I have worked with individuals that I'm sure I would not trust more than I would trust myself.

One must look at another's life experiences rather than their title as a crew member.


Kelly
Posted: Saturday, March 27, 2010 11:40 AM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 40


Basic line handling skills and common sense aside, the real point here is that sometimes the unexpected happens. When things go sideways and lines are involved, I think a lot of people fail to realize how dangerous standard deck lines can be when they are snapped by many tons of force. The point of this particular story was not so much that you should not make yourself into a human fender (duh) but you should consider when it is advisable to clear the deck if something has gone unforeseeably wrong (engine stuck in gear for example) and a line is in jeopardy of becoming compromised. This was the case with the captain who was badly injured by an anchor line when it snapped. In my travels through commercial casualty reports I read about several incidents where crew lost appendages or their lives when a line snapped unexpectedly. I was even told about incident where a tow line snapped on a tug and barge and an unsuspecting deckhand was decapitated by the recoil. I once saw a mate using spring lines to assist a captain in maneuvering a boat onto a face dock when a strong wind trying to blow them back off. One of the springs snapped and the recoil took a chunk out of the fiberglass. Can you imagine if it had hit human skin? It would have been gnarly. Let’s keep in mind that lines have limits and they can be very dangerous when pushed past their limit. I think it is safe to say that there are a lot of crew interior and deck alike who have great instincts and training for handling lines in many situations, but may have no real appreciation for just how dangerous they can potentially be in that anomalous situation – it’s the kind of thing most people don’t really appreciate until they see first hand what happens. Again, these incidents are the outliers, but they do happen and people get hurt. As always, the best way to avoid duplication of an unfortunate event is to consider what you might do in that situation and hopefully learn a lesson from another’s precedent which may protect you down the road.
junior
Posted: Saturday, March 27, 2010 2:18 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


Gee Kelly, you cant expect the crew to know how the captain is driving the boat. If you actually snap a spring line, you as captain have poorly handled the yacht. If its too windy or the current is running strong, cancel or delay the maneuver. Or... monitor the weather forecast , get the hell out of bed at 0500 , calmly move her off the dock and onto the anchor...then serve breakfast. Too many times I witness impatient or lazy captains trying to pull off superhuman maneuver's....just ask any insurance company,or even better, interview deck crew who have no fingers because they got pulled thru the cleat as the yacht surged.
abouis
Posted: Saturday, March 27, 2010 10:33 PM
Joined: 05/09/2008
Posts: 22


junior wrote:
interview deck crew who have no fingers because they got pulled thru the cleat as the yacht surged.

What, and ask them why they didn't belay it properly on the cleat or why they didn't let go when the yacht surged?  Again I think this is a training issue.  Not the captain's fault for maneuvering improperly, but the captain's fault for not insisting on proper training.

Yes it is nice to say that you shouldn't be maneuvering the yacht in less than ideal conditions but we all know that it happens AND that things break.  Nothing can be stressed more than PROPER TRAINING and HABITS formed when handling lines under load!   Every time I look at a line I think what's going to happen when that line fails, or the cleat pulls out of the deck, or, more likely, the dock, and comes flying back faster than a gunshot.....  STAY OUT OF THE #$*@ WAY!!!

DUH!


junior
Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2010 3:09 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


That is nonsense, you are not living in the real world , training is not the issue. The issue is that the captain..... SHOULD know his crew , SHOULD know which docklines will need to be handled professionally during a maneuver, then assign the most skilled crew to man THAT POSITION... Once you have your number one crew in place you establish a line of communication , very carefully monitor their actions, then call off the maneuver if you sense the crew skill level is not up to the task or feel that manover is undoable. If you decide to put her all ahead full, then instruct a stewardess to.... BLOW the spring line.... she may very well become entangled in the tail and loose a limb. You, as captain , called that maneuver. This is bad seamanship.
TiffanyS
Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2010 4:43 PM
Joined: 21/08/2008
Posts: 30


I don't often see too many captains asking interior or inexpereinced crew to physically handle the lines during a dicey docking, but you almost always see them milling about the decks with a fender or radio because they were asked to stand by when the captain knew it was going to be tough to get on or off the dock. So the mate gets the spring line on and runs up to the bow to get a bow line on and there sits a 21 year old stew who has not been out of the laundry room for three days or that deckhand who has never been handed anything more than a chamois and a squeegie by themself right in the trajectory of the spring lines. They have little or no training on deck, and are supposed to be standing by. So if there is a bunch of wind or current complicating the maneuver and an over anxious deckhand makes a bad throw with that bow line...let's face it, we have all seen this exact situation many times... the boat then ends up hard against that spring line, and maybe that spring line has already been used hard and has been sitting in the sun for a few years, so if it snaps, that unsupervised crewman could very well end up hurt or killed. I think abouis has a valid point that putting crew with insufficent skills on deck "just in case" is a bad habit, but I see A LOT of boats that do it.
abouis
Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2010 7:49 PM
Joined: 05/09/2008
Posts: 22


Junior, I agree with you 100%, with the added stipulation that anyone working on a yacht should have the minimal training and experience to not get themselves tangled in an anchor warp or halyard or dinghy painter or loaded dockline, just as they are also expected not to swim into a spinning propeller or grab a hot frying pan with their bare hands or walk into a closed door before opening it!!!

Of course some people still do these seemingly stupid things, and that's when they get hurt.  Are you going to blame the captain in all those situations?

junior
Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2010 8:43 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


Every accident on a yacht is the captains fault...EVERY ONE. All yachts are sailing with a crew of unskilled seaman...EVERY ONE. The job description on yachts is entertainment and maintenence.. The crew whom you hire are not hired for their seamanship ability. I have access to many professional sailors, but I cant hire them because they don't fit into the program. This is just the way yachting goes. To compensate for my permanent lack of seaman I must always behave defensively. When lighting bolts are illuminating the harbour I will be the first yacht to pickup the hook and get the hell out of there. Then there is no need to worry about a stewardesss being caught between dragging yachts , trying to fend off, she must only peacefully keep an eye on the radar as we battle out.
abouis
Posted: Monday, March 29, 2010 12:27 AM
Joined: 05/09/2008
Posts: 22


Of course it is the captains' fault.   The captain is responsible for everything, that is our job.  I always assume the worst and hope for the best.  You have to be proactive, or as you say, act defensively.

However that was not my question, it was can you blame a captain for every crew's mistakes, for example if the chef nicks his finger chopping lettuce...???






junior
Posted: Monday, March 29, 2010 8:49 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


Don't know about nicked chef fingers, but if your at sea ,its rough outside and you send your chef down below to cook up some taste treats for the boys , they loose traction and cut themselves , I say its your fault. Yachting is full of young hardworking crew who are anxious to get the task done, please the captain and not loose face. Im at this minute watching some deck hands on a big motoryacht washing down the top deck radar arch without safety harness's on. These crew may be attempting this superhuman task because they are not aware of the risk. Its not possible to have some kind of master list available to crew describing all possible scenarios and its careless to permit crew to learn THE HARD WAY. Seamanship scenarios reside in the experience of the captain and can only be passed on as they arise.
abouis
Posted: Monday, March 29, 2010 5:00 PM
Joined: 05/09/2008
Posts: 22


It's still not as clear-cut (no put intended) as you make it.... The crew still needs to eat.... If you are on a passage and it's rough out and the chef can't chop an onion without slicing his fingertips off, then he does not belong in a galley!!  Or perhaps he should just stick to the gin palaces that spend 100% of their time tied to a dock in a calm harbor.

Agreed, that safety is often neglected, but the fact is that life is dangerous and we can't go around pointing fingers at one person for the lack of training or over-eagerness on the part of another crewmember.  We all need to take some responsibility for ourselves!!  There are a few basic skills that every person working on the water should have if they intend to have a successful career (or at the very least stay alive).  Including the ability to stay afloat if you fall in the water, tie a bowline in a line, operate a VHF radio, not sleep with everyone on the boat, etc.  That should all be part of STCW training!!

I am looking at workers unload a containership, and I'm glad they are wearing plastic hard-hats.  That will save them if a fully loaded container slips free and falls on their heads!!


Anonymous
Posted: Monday, March 29, 2010 11:23 PM
You know who are the REAL dangers on deck are the owners. My boss loves to wander out on deck after downing 6 or 7 rum and cokes and decide all on his own to start throwing lines to the kids on the dock...unbeknownst to me. It's awesome! I love it when I think the stern is free and there's my drunk ass boss with a stern line locked on short and tight trying show his friends what an adept sailor he is. I'm one lucky guy! Try telling your drunk boss he needs to stay inside or get directions first from the crew. That's always a good time.
junior
Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 7:46 AM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026


owners and guests are always on board, on deck, forming obstacles during maneuvers. I cant send them to their cabin , like little boys who didnt finish dinner, until its safe outside. It wont work... They own the boat. Best to hire a street wise stewardess who knows how to deploy standard yacht strategies....like.... calling guest mobile phones in the middle of a maneuver then watching them miraculously clear the deck to answer their Iphones ...... or... shout....Paparazzi !!!! port bow, three hundred meters !!!! and madame will instantly clear the deck and head for the makeup room.....Or...Isnt that your ex wife standing on the dock ? Or.... as you begin to go stern too, the stewardess instructs a deckhand to fire the deck water hose straight into the blue sky , the stewardess mentions to the guests...Looks like rain !!! then calmly watchs as the guests stampede into the saloon.
 
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