Friday, February 12, 2010

Heavy weather encounter - The Satori

A U.S. Coast Guard HH-3F Pelican

In my post Parametric Rolling of a Car Carrier in Head Sea. I wrote that hidden  flaws,   are more  likely to be revealed in heavy weather. An example is the car ship Figaro - Inadvertent Release of CO 2 - in that case heavy weather was the trigger that casued the unintended release of CO2.

Another, less obvious example is the case of the Sailing vessel Satori  which was the sailing vessel in both the book and movie The Perfect Storm.

The Satori is: 
a short masted, heavy displacement rig. She weighs 11 tons and is designed for heavy seas. Eleven stays keep the forty foot mast secure. When the boat was built Ray requested heavy rigging to be certain that Satori could handle more severe storms.
When the owner and captain of the Satori, Ray Leonard, hove to in 40 kt winds and 30 ft seas he felt confident that his vessel was well within its limits but was unexpectedly  forced to abandon his vessel. Leonard's confidence in his vessel was not misplaced, the Satori was later recovered with little damage.   The path of failure  was not the vessel but the crew: From the story: He (the captain)  was unable to convince the crew that this motion was uncomfortable but not dangerous.
This second knockdown put the crew into a heightened state of panic. They began to insist that they call the Coast Guard for a rescue. Karen believed that the boat was going to break up any minute. The captain explained that there was no need for a rescue and that Satori had been through this before and would ride out this storm. At this point, Susan and Karen were not listening and kept insisting that they wanted to call. Ray agreed to let them call,
The Coast Guard required Capt Leonard to abandon his vessel and sent a HH-3F helicopter from Elizabeth City, N.C.  Rescue swimmer   Dave Moore went into the 30 ft seas and pulled the captain and two crew out of the water.

It is not only the vessel that encounters heavy weather, it is the vessel, crew and cargo. Operating vessels, and their crews, near limits increases risks and chances of failure, - but the path of failure may not be the one  expected.

The  son of Ray Leonard, posted a rebuttal to the book The Perfect Storm.


Ryan said...

I love this post. This is a communication problem. What could Captain Leonard have done? Should he have prepared his crewmates better? Did he not use clear enough arguments? What do you think could have led him to convince everyone to stay with the boat through the storm (given your own experience)?

Ken E Beck said...

Ryan, thanks for the comment. You have asked a very good question. I have never been in anything even close to a knock-down in a boat so it's hard to say.

It would be better to build confidence over a period of time before the event by explaining the preparations and showing the various features of the boat then trying to explain during a knock-down that everything is ok.

Ryan said...

A friend of mine took some sailing classes with his fiance, and then bought a beautiful 29-foot boat. He convinced his instructor to help them fetch the boat up from Southern Norway. Lucky for them, as they sailed through a massive storm. My friend and his fiancee stayed below, green in the face and convinced they were going to die. It was probably the best safety lesson they could've gotten. That was the end of any false confidence.

Velu said...

Wow! I honestly never thought of it that way. It really is a very good point. A system or equipment is only as good as the belief people have in it.

Sometimes when you are in command, you may find that you do things not because you should do them, but because you are expected to do them.

Nice post.


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Unknown said...

This was an interesting distress to handle. I was the Radio Officer on watch at Halifax Coast Guard Radio/VCS during this distress. I received the mayday call on 2182khz. I had to relay the helicopter hoisting instructions over the radio. They had become demasted, so I had to time my transmissions with the rise and fall of the vessel on the waves, as they could not hear me when they were in the trough.