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Be better prepared for adversity

Published on May 5th, 2022

Sailing legend Donald Street, at 92 years, has little tolerance for boats being abandoned at sea. When the grand prix Infiniti 52 was recently lost in the North Atlantic, Street pulled out his soap box, took a step up to this familiar perch, and preached for boats to be better prepared for adversity. Here he goes:

When the Infinity 52 was abandoned by the crew while on delivery from Portugal to the United Kingdom, their actions indicated an expectation that the boat would continue floating for a fair period of time with no one pumping. Why else would they have commenced a salvage operation with a high-powered tug and spotter plane?

About 30 years ago, Peter Haward wrote a short article for Yachting Monthly regarding the safe delivery of boats. At that point Haward was considered by senior yacht underwriters at Lloyd as the number one delivery skipper in the world, and was the go-to person for any questionable deliveries that sought insurance.

In his article, Haward’s advice on why he was successful could be summarized in three words: have adequate pumps, as his experience was that failure occurred when the pumps were either found to be inadequate or do not work.

If the Infiniti 52 had been properly equipped with big hand operated 35 GPM (gallons per minute) pumps, one on deck, one below decks, they would have been able to pump 70 GPM which would take care of a large leak, would have enabled them to find the leak, and ascertain whether the boat could be kept afloat until a salvage crew arrived or should be abandoned.

In 1995, I was en route from Bermuda to the Azores on my 46-ft. engineless yawl Iolaire, hove to in a gale but enjoying a roast beef dinner with Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes, cooked in a gimbal stove, eaten off a gimble table, when we discovered a bilge full of water.

We finished the dinner, got to work with our two 35 GPM Edson diaphragm bilge pumps which quickly cleared the water, allowing us to start tracing the leak which was eventually found coming from the stem.

We discovered that by having someone pump five minutes out of every 30 minutes, 700 GPH kept the bilge under control. We did this for me 36 hours until we reached Horta. There we semi-dried out on the tide to discover a broken stem bolt which we replaced.

Had the Infiniti 52 been equipped with pumps as per Iolaire, she might have been saved or would have ascertained that the damage was too severe for a salvage tug to tow toward safe harbor. Two proper manually operated 35 GPM pumps would’ve saved the expense of the search by the tug and air.

What Peter Hayward said so many years ago is still true today.

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