Lifeboat As Rescue Platform?


#1

I’m a sailor and wrote an article on AMVER rescue that recently ran in Cruising World magazine. GCaptain’s own JohnK was one of the helpful folks I interviewed for the article - so I thought this was the best place to come for some feedback.

On one of the sailing forums, we’ve been discussing the case of a man who was rescued in 2011 by a large tanker in 10’-15’ seas. During the alongside hoist attempt, he errantly jumped from his boat into the water (not tied in) and was quickly separated. It took the tanker over 3 hours to finally get back to him and pull him out.

He is convinced that one of the ship’s lifeboats could have been launched to pluck him from the water, then towed for the couple of days to port afterward - since it was too rough to re-cable the lifeboat and bring it back up. More concerning to me, he is actively promoting this as a technique distressed sailors should “forcefully request” in an AMVER rescue.

Can you guys give me some feedback on this technique? I’m very skeptical that it’s a sound technique, but I certainly don’t have the experience to know for sure one way or the other. I knew this was the place to get real answers.

My goal with the article and with my continued interest in AMVER rescue is that we sailors take far more responsibility for understanding how you guys do things so that we are better partners in the rescue. AMVER participants definitely go way above and beyond. And we sailors should be willing to do whatever we can to make your job of rescue easier and safer.

Thanks.


#2

In a rescue on the high seas you better accept and be grateful for whatever method the responding ship proposes and executes. If you don’t like it, get rescued by someone else.

Amazing shit like this from blow boaters refusing inconvenient rescues like the clowns on the Catamaran out of NY refusing an eastbound ship for convenience.

The ship ultimately will do whatever is least riskiest for the ship and the ship’s crew. That maybe not the best for the person in distress.

What happens if they’re towing a lifeboat and suddenly NEED that lifeboat? Now the ships crew suffers.


#3

Agreed. We’ve talked a lot about that Alpha 42 (the Cat) as well. That one had some very, very experienced sailors aboard - so it makes even less sense than the one I’m referring to now. “Convenience” in a rescue?

How feasible is it to actually tow one of the tanker lifeboats? Especially for hundreds of mile and/or in 10’-15’ seas?

Thanks for the feedback.


#4

Considering that many (most?) modern tankers have just one free-fall lifeboat, requesting the crew to launch their only means of escape in an emergency in order to pick up someone from the sea because it’s more convenient for the castaway sounds just… wrong. The lifeboat may also be damaged or simply lost in heavy weather. However, throwing out some of those inflatable life rafts could be a solution if there’s no other way to pick up people from the sea. That’s what the ships that answered to the distress call did when the car ferry Estonia sank in the Baltic in 1994.

In my opinion, the person being rescued doesn’t really have any right to decide how he is going to be rescued. Of course, he can suggest a method and if he’s very experienced, at least I (as a volunteer SAR boat crewman) would welcome any advices how to carry out the rescue operation in a better way.


#5

The lifeboats are not designed to maneuver. No rudders. Underpowered. Just as likely it would have come crashing down on the guys head as it was to rescue him.


#6

[QUOTE=smackdaddy;130688]

How feasible is it to actually tow one of the tanker lifeboats? Especially for hundreds of mile and/or in 10’-15’ seas?
[/QUOTE]

It’s probably possible. I’ve seen a big tanker towing a sail boat. Big low-speed diesels don’t take kindly to running long periods at slow speeds but it can be done. Getting a line over would be an issue in rough seas and involves risk to the crew.


#7

[QUOTE=PMC;130691]The lifeboats are not designed to maneuver. No rudders. Underpowered. Just as likely it would have come crashing down on the guys head as it was to rescue him.[/QUOTE]

LifeRAFTS don’t have rudders.

LifeBOATS do have rudders.


#8

I completely understand the sentiment (and agree with it) that the rescuee is not in a position to dictate anything in these rescues. A Tups says, it’s a matter of[I] discussing the options[/I] prior to the ship’s arrival - and the rescuee knowing enough about those options to be able to evaluate what might work or not based on the condition of his crew, the boat, etc. So it’s a far more complicated issue than most sailors understand…hence the article.

What I’m trying to focus on is whether this lifeboat technique is a sound option. As mentioned above, many of us blowboaters don’t think it is for many reasons. First, you’re exposing more of the ship’s crew to far more risk to board that lifeboat, do the drop, then the pick-up…then what? If the conditions are too rough to re-cable - how do you get everyone back on board? You’re still in a bad spot. Do you leave them in it and tow it?

So - lots of questions. But because this discussion effects how us blowboaters who have just completely screwed the pooch will be talking on the other end of that VHF - it’s important we know what you guys think…before the pooch screwing.

BTW - here’s the ship that was involved:

And the type of lifeboat it appears to carry:

Thanks again.


#9

[QUOTE=Kingrobby;130696]LifeRAFTS don’t have rudders.

LifeBOATS do have rudders.[/QUOTE]

if they do they’re tiny. most have steerable nozzels. useless either way.


#10

I guess my number one observation is that when someone comes to rescue you, you don’t get to decide how they do it. As others mentioned, they are not going to do anything which needlessly endangers their vessel or crew.


#11

[QUOTE=z-drive;130686]In a rescue on the high seas you better accept and be grateful for whatever method the responding ship proposes and executes. If you don’t like it, get rescued by someone else.

Amazing shit like this from blow boaters refusing inconvenient rescues like the clowns on the Catamaran out of NY refusing an eastbound ship for convenience.

The ship ultimately will do whatever is least riskiest for the ship and the ship’s crew. That maybe not the best for the person in distress.

What happens if they’re towing a lifeboat and suddenly NEED that lifeboat? Now the ships crew suffers.[/QUOTE]

Not to mention that if it’s too rough to recover the boat or take persons on board the ship from the lifeboat, the ship’s crew manning the lifeboat would have to stay in the lifeboat for the entire tow.


#12

[QUOTE=smackdaddy;130698]What I’m trying to focus on is whether this lifeboat technique is a sound option. As mentioned above, many of us blowboaters don’t think it is for many reasons. First, you’re exposing more of the ship’s crew to far more risk to board that lifeboat, do the drop, then the pick-up…then what? If the conditions are too rough to re-cable - how do you get everyone back on board? You’re still in a bad spot. Do you leave them in it and tow it?
[/QUOTE]

It’s hard to say without knowing more details. If they were able to get him on board ship from the water that’s strong evidence that that was the right move. The ship’s crew deserves a lot of credit for maneuvering that big ass tanker around and picking him up.

As far as using the lifeboats for rescue in 10-15 foot seas; there is considerable risk to launching. I would not even consider trying to recover in seas that rough unless I could make a good lee with no rolling. Not likely it could be done safely.

If the person in the water is able to assist in his own rescue probably a ship rescue is better.

I agree that criticizing successful rescuers is bad form especially in public.He should STFU.


#13

Understood Kennebec. I agree. So another facet to this is how towing would affect your “bottom line” consideration. For example. it’s already been mentioned that you’ve compromised the safety of your own crew by putting a lifeboat at risk. But then if you’re towing, I would assume that you’re going to have to take it slow and easy the rest of the way to your destination. So now it’s drawing out the risk and hardship for a much longer period - and slowing you way down. I would assume that would affect how you, as the Captain, think about what’s feasible and what’s not.

The guy talking about this incident was saying that the speed of the tanker (laden) was around 8 knots and that it would have not been an issue to tow the lifeboat. That may be, but I certainly wouldn’t think of this as a standard method of transfer.


#14

In July of 2007 the Horizon Falcon was able to rescue 2 crew members in the water off the 420’ log/bulk carrier MV Hai Tong #7. The Hai Tong went down in Typhoon Man-Yi about 375 miles northwest of Guam. They were able to launch their port lifeboat to effect the rescue, but after getting everyone back aboard ship they had to abandon the lifeboat. Recovery of the lifeboat in the prevailing conditions was just too dangerous.

Other ships in the area rescued additional survivers but a number were lost. I have no idea what rescue methods the other vessels used.


#15

The guy that gets rescued has no say in what the Captain of the rescuing vessel judges to be safe or prudent in regards to his vessel & crew. He’s floating down there at the surface trying to stay alive and in who knows what kind of physical/mental condition. His hindsight about the best way to be rescued AFTER his life has been saved by the other vessels crew is of absolutely no value. He needs to say thank you to each and everyone one of those crew members and like everyone else says STFU.

Does the rescued guy have the first clue about being a tanker Captain?? If he doesn’t be has no right second guessing him.

How did he end up in the water needing to be rescued anyway??


#16

King - again, I agree with you. And most every other sailor on that forum has hammered this same message home to him. So, he’s on his own with that attitude.

That said, he’s so convinced that this lifeboat technique is a no-brainer (although he has absolutely no experience with it) I’m just really trying to get all the pros and cons from the guys who actually know - and would be making that call. This way, we blowboaters can put what he’s advocating in some context.

I’m not going to out the guy. And I honestly don’t think many sailors buy into what he’s saying. But because he actually went through an AMVER rescue, and because many sailors are reading the thread, I just want to make sure the information is as accurate as it can be. All the other stuff is just bluster as far as I’m concerned.


#17

[QUOTE=smackdaddy;130706]Understood Kennebec. I agree. So another facet to this is how towing would affect your “bottom line” consideration. For example. it’s already been mentioned that you’ve compromised the safety of your own crew by putting a lifeboat at risk. But then if you’re towing, I would assume that you’re going to have to take it slow and easy the rest of the way to your destination. So now it’s drawing out the risk and hardship for a much longer period - and slowing you way down. I would assume that would affect how you, as the Captain, think about what’s feasible and what’s not.

The guy talking about this incident was saying that the speed of the tanker (laden) was around 8 knots and that it would have not been an issue to tow the lifeboat. That may be, but I certainly wouldn’t think of this as a standard method of transfer.[/QUOTE]

I can see someone working themselves into a situation where they ended up having to tow the lifeboat, and it’s possible to do it. I can’t see coming up with a plan that required towing, especially given the fact they pulled off a successful rescue.

As as been pointed out up-thread it also involves leaving the crew in the boat for extended periods. That’s not good. Safest place for everyone is aboard the ship.

I can see circumstances where towing the lifeboat until more help arrived might be the best option but that’s a stretch. The idea that that would be “plan A” seems bizarre. The big issue is not having your crew aboard ship.

EDIT: if you google my user name and “lifeboat” you can see what I think about them.


#18

I think Chief Seadog has it right. Get everyone aboard ship and abandon the lifeboat. Assuming you can’t do a ship rescue.


#19

Not knowing the situation, what were the circumstances that necessitated this guy needing to be rescued? More and more, and not just with recreational boaters, I am seeing a trend of people that call for help not because they are 100% in danger. However more because they simply lack the ability to deal with the conditions any longer and want off the boat/mountain/etc. If the boat isn’t sinking, and she still has enough sail to make way, and a way to steer, then he should have dealt with everything his fucking self.

As for towing the lifeboat, I fail to see how that is the best option for him the rescued. Honestly I would rather attempt to tow my beat to piss sailboat and be on that then bouncing around in one of those orange puke factories. Seeing as many tankers do have the single free fall life boat, that is fully enclosed, how does he recommend getting a bridle and towline set up on the bow? As others have said, how does he recommend the crew of the tanker abandon ship if they need to? Honestly he sounds like a selfish prick. Like my father once told me about not getting a girl pregnant, if you are man enough to get her into that situation, you better be man enough to deal with everything that comes with it.


#20

One reason using the lifeboat is a bad idea is the lack of medical equipment onboard it. If he goes into shock or has serious unforeseen medical issues then your options are extremely limited.

Also, in 10-15ft seas everyone will be being tossed around a lot, therefore they should be strapped in for their safety. But being strapped in is a horrible position if someone has injuries.