Please select your home edition
Edition
Festival of Sails 2017

If all else fails read the instructions!!

by Stuart Carruthers, RYA Cruising Manager on 5 Aug 2014
A power boat catches fire and explodes near Alicante, Spain. Paul Todd/Outside Images © http://www.outsideimages.co.nz
'If all else fails read the instructions'. I am sure that many of us have heard or even used that phrase, particularly at times when we have bought something new and can’t wait to get it home, unpack it, plug it in, switch it on and expect it to work like clockwork.

When nothing happens we grab the instructions and try to work out what went wrong. That may be fine if it is the latest must have gizmo, but it is definitely the wrong approach when it comes to using items that may not have been made for the intended purpose you have bought it for.

I have been involved in the analysis of two accidents very recently that have been caused as a direct result of improvised modifications. Both modifications were to the exhaust outlets; one caused death by CO poisoning, the other a fire which lead to the total loss of a vessel.

Recent accidents

The CO poisoning accident happened on a Bayliner 285 motor cruiser on Lake Windermere, Cumbria on 1 April 2013. On investigation the MAIB found that a portable petrol-driven generator had been installed in the motor cruiser’s engine bay to supply the boat with 240v power.

The generator had been fitted with an improvised exhaust and silencer system which had become detached from both the generator and the outlet on the vessel’s side. As a result, the generator’s exhaust fumes filled the engine bay and spread through gaps in an internal bulkhead into the aft cabin where a mother and daughter were asleep.

When the owner of the boat awoke in the boat’s forward cabin, he was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning but was able to raise the alarm. The mother and daughter could not be revived.

More recently, on 14 January 2014, a 14m wind farm support catamaran caught fire 11nm east of Lowestoft. Three crew members on the vessel were unable to extinguish the fire, which spread rapidly throughout its GRP structure forcing them to abandon to a life raft.

Detailed examination of a similar vessel revealed that the heater exhaust pipe from a diesel fired air heater had been modified to route through a single walled, uninsulated, inverted U-pipe on the main deck to prevent sea water ingress through the exhaust overboard. As originally built, the exhaust pipe was of a fully insulated twin wall construction to prevent the hot exhaust gases of around 450°C from overheating the surrounding area.

Initial MAIB findings suggest there is compelling evidence to show that the source of the fire was caused by the uninsulated single walled section of exhaust pipe which ignited the surrounding plywood structure.

Closer to home

These are two of the more extreme examples, but there are others much near to home! How many of us buy some natty piece of electronics at a boat show and for simplicity wire it to the battery or some convenient terminal because there is no spare or convenient fuse? Does this look familiar?

Correct fuses and the correct wiring are important and yet are often paid lip service. A fuse prevents excessive current being drawn by an electric circuit when the current exceeds a certain limit. This protects the circuit from overheating and the surroundings from fire or damage in the case of an overload or short circuit.

Correct size cables are also important for low voltage systems. If the cable is far too small to carry the intended current then the cable will heat up and potentially cause a fire. Generally the longer the cable-run, the larger it needs to be. I could give other examples but I hope I have made a point about improvisation.

Simple lesson

The lesson is really quite simple; read and adhere to the manufacturers’ instructions.

In the cases above, the manufacturer gives clear, detailed instructions on how to use the equipment and how to install it. Clearly some equipment is just not designed to be modified and if it is then you run the risk of operating it unsafely. Where equipment has been designed for the purpose you intend to use it for then a qualified installer should be fully conversant with the installation instructions and a competent DIYer should ensure they are fully conversant with them before starting the work. RYA Cruising

Fremantle to Bali Race 660x82InSunSport - NZWildwind 2016 660x82

Related Articles

Olympic Gold medalist and Volvo Ocean Race winner up for WS Board
Torben Grael (BRA) is amongst the 15 nominations for one of seven places on the Board of Directors of World Sailing Torben Grael (BRA) is amongst the 15 nominations for one of seven places on the Board of Directors of World Sailing in November. The five times Olympic medalist, Volvo Ocean Race winner and several times America's Cup competitor will bring a much needed sailing edge to the Board of World Sailing if he can navigate the politics of the controlling body of the sport.
Posted today at 6:03 pm
Amel - Do you fit the bill?
Perhaps it is equally as fascinating as the many features that go into either the Amel 55 or 64 It is certainly an interesting set of criterion. Perhaps it is equally as fascinating as the many features that go into either the Amel 55 or 64 and make them a definitive part of the quintessential bluewater cruiser armada. We’ll come to all of those in due course, but firstly we’ll tackle the hero image and why in so many ways, this explains, so, so much.
Posted on 21 Sep
Knowing Harken takes years and years (Pt.I)
You could imagine that being familiar with all that Harken produces and stands for is a lengthy process. You could imagine that being familiar with all that Harken produces and stands for is a lengthy process. So if you were going to be the person at the top in Australia, it would be best for you to have immersed yourself in sailing from an early age. When you grew up, being one of the technical service team would be more than a handy apprenticeship, as it were.
Posted on 19 Sep
Brookes and Gatehouse Videos with Knut Frostad
Navico, the parent company for Brookes and Gatehouse (B&G), Simrad and Lowrance have prepared some terrific videos Navico, the parent company for Brookes and Gatehouse (B&G), Simrad and Lowrance have prepared some terrific videos with Knut Frostad, the legendary Volvo Ocean Race sailor and former CEO. See him talk about sailing in general, the B&G product choices and placement he made for his own boat, and then why he loves his Outremer 5X.
Posted on 8 Sep
Boat Books of the Month - How to Read Water and False Flags
How to Read Water: Clues, Signs & Patterns from Puddles to Sea & False Flags: Disguised German Raiders of World War II. This month the Boatbooks Australia: Boat Books of the Month are How to Read Water: Clues, Signs & Patterns from Puddles to the Sea and False Flags: Disguised German Raiders of World War II.
Posted on 6 Sep
Soft Padeyes – light, strong and versatile
Several types of soft padeyes are now available and are proving increasingly popular over traditional stainless steel pa Several types of soft padeyes are now available on the market and are proving increasingly popular over traditional stainless steel padeyes. They all capitalise on the incredible strength to weight ratio and abrasion resistance of Dyneema® which offers a reliable, robust, flexible and safe termination.
Posted on 6 Sep
The X Factor starring X-Yachts
X-Yachts do indeed have plenty to sing about. X-Yachts do indeed have plenty to sing about. Testament to that is the three-year-old Xp38 on display at the recent Sydney International Boat Show still looked brand new. This was no mooring minder either, but rather a boat that had gone up to Hamilton Island Race Week for each of those years and campaigned hard.
Posted on 31 Aug
The C Beetle Project
Every now and then something comes along your way and you just have to read it. Every now and then something comes along your way and you just have to read it. Such is Phil Smidmore’s tale of Mick Miller and if I could be so bold as to implore you to read, then I know your life will be the better for it!
Posted on 30 Aug
Zhik sailors win 17 sailing medals at 2016 Olympic Regatta
The 2016 Olympic games are over and what a Games they have been - Zhik sailors dominated Zhik sailors won almost 60% of the medals contested at Rio de Janeiro. It was a regatta which tested sailors and gear - with one day being the most severe conditions ever experienced at an Olympic regatta. For the Zhik team riders on the waters of Rio, four years and more of hard work and dedication have paid off for many.
Posted on 29 Aug
Kids Polarised Sunglasses from Barz Optics
Barz Optics have developed a quality range of junior polarised sunglasses ideal for sailing and fishing. Barz Optics have developed a quality range of junior polarised sunglasses ideal for sailing and fishing. Each pair are supplied with a neoprene case and sunglass retainer.
Posted on 4 Aug