by Des Ryan
Most of the inventions and innovations in the history of sailing have come from sailors themselves, and now Sydney sailor Bob Wright is keeping that tradition alive with an invention that could save many sailors' lives - the Sea Scoopa. What's a Sea Scoopa? Read on.
UK Halsey video image exerpt
One of the early lessons you learn as a sailor is just how difficult it is to get a crew member who has fallen overboard back on the boat.
A couple of years ago, UK Halsey produced a safety video, showing man overboard procedures, and the video showed it all. Three burly crew, ready for the task, in reasonable conditions, had enormous difficulty in wrenching their crew mate, conscious and cooperating, from the sea. With a short-handed crew - and the vast majority of cruising sailors are short handed - the difficulties are immense, if not impossible.
Enter Bob Wright, veteran sailor, with 32 years of sailing experience and a penchant for invention.
Bob beside yacht with sea scoopa
Bob says he had always been concerned about the difficulty of retrieving crew from the water. So when - after over 40,000 miles on the water - he did his yachtmaster ticket two years ago, it was very apparent to him that the current methods being taught during his training were unsatisfactory.
He decided to look further afield and found that overseas evaluations of numerous methods including the Elevator, various Parbuckles, Proprietary Lifters and the Lifesling showed that all had significant problems; but of these the well-credentialed Lifesling was considered the best. 'However, he says, 'the Lifesling is effective only as long as the victim is able to assist and this is sometimes not possible in the case of hyperthermia or injury.'
So, after giving it a lot of thought, Bob came up with the invention of the Sea Scoopa, which, as its name implies, scoops and lifts people out of the water. Instead of lifting them vertically it rolls them up the side of the boat like a barrel. By using the Sea Scoopa and a winch a small crew member with very little upper body strength can rescue the heaviest of overboard crew members. The Sea Scoopa is designed primarily for yachts as it requires a mast and a winch in order to hoist people out of the water
MOB caught in Scoopa net
This invention basically comprises two processes.
1. 'Scooping' the MOB into a net whilst the boat is still moving at a speed of up to one to two knots. With this device, the boat can be steered under power so as to pass close to windward of the victim and the engine put in neutral so that propeller injury does not occur during the scooping process. Sails should be lowered to allow more room to operate on deck. Using the engine allows greater manoeuvrability when approaching the person to be rescued.
2. 'Parbuckling' the MOB in the net up the side of the vessel so the victim can be rolled horizontally onto the deck. This revolves the victim like a 'chicken on a spit' and is an adaptation of an old technique used to lift barrels from the dock onto large sailing ships. Despite its long history and many attempts, a successful parbuckle for rescuing MOB has hitherto eluded manufacture, victims can drown in the parbuckle. Horizontal lifting is important as the hypothermic patient can collapse when lifted vertically in the 'Lifesling'. (detailed description below)
The Sea Scoopa, which was recently chosen as the winning invention on the ABC TV program 'The New Inventors', is a work in progress, and Bob, who has already spent two years on the project, is keen to progress the device, and keen for assistance and suggestions from other sailors.
As yet the Sea Scoopa has not been tested in heavy weather, because of the risk to a volunteer MOB. However it is planned to simulate this in the future using a variety of MOB manikins.
Bob is highly conscious of the issues involved. 'Violent rolling and pitching of a vessel will certainly increase the difficulty of Scooping,' he says, 'but should not affect Parbuckling once the victim has been securely netted. In theory pitching should pose less of a problem than rolling as the Sea Scoopa is positioned amidships at the pivot point. In a heavy roll a small steadying sail can be used, however it is critical to control the boom to avoid crew injury. More than one attempt at scooping from a direction that minimises roll may be necessary.
'In these circumstances a Lifesling, throw ring or the Sea Scoopa specialised boathook can also be used to help manoeuvre a victim into the net.'
However, Bob points out that many MOB situations happen in calmer weather. 'Paradoxically MOB should be less likely in severe weather when the crew are justifiably fearful for their lives and the skipper who is mindful of his legal responsibilities has the commonsense to instruct even the most macho of the crew to wear life jackets and clip on their safety harnesses.'
While Bob is keen for continuous improvement in his design, he has had interest from rescue organisations, and he also has a small manufacturer ready to go.
As Bob says, 'The Sea Scoopa offers a different and hopefully more effective approach to this difficult problem. Its development has been a continuing process of evolution and refinement over the last two years and constructive comments are welcomed.'
Below please find detailed instructions and diagram on the operation of the Scoopa. As further progress is made, Sail-World will be here to report and applaud his success. However, whatever the outcome, one thing is sure. The world needs more sailors like Bob Wright.
For more information and pictures of Sea Scoopa, and to follow its progress in the future, go to the Sea Scoopa website.
Instructions for Use - the Detailed Version, by Bob Wright:
Sea Scoopa Diagram
The Sea Scoopa can be mounted on either side of the boat but ideally it should be placed on the side where the engine controls are mounted so the helmsman can continuously sight the MOB, steer with one hand and operate the engine with the other. Bob and his crew have demonstrated a single person who is securely harnessed to the vessel can deploy the Sea Scoopa within 3 minutes. In short-handed situations the bag can be left permanently mounted on the gunwale for even more rapid deployment.
The Sea Scoopa, in its compact self-contained bag, comes with meticulously detailed instructions, as follows:
1.THIS DEVICE IS SIMILAR TO A SPINNAKER - IT MUST BE PACKED, DEPLOYED AND USED IN AN ORDERLY AND STEREOTYPED SEQUENCE
2.BEFORE YOU TRY IT 'YOUR WAY' PLEASE TRY 'OUR WAY' FIRST. READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS VERY CAREFULLY.
3.BE AWARE REPEATED PRACTICE IS ESSENTIAL TO ATTAIN AND MAINTAIN PROFICIENCY.
STEP ONE – PREPARATION
The vessel must be properly set up.
Fits into a small bag
1.The Sea Scoopa can be rigged on either side of a vessel. However it must be placed on the same side as the cockpit engine controls. This ensures the helmsman can do three things simultaneously – continuously sight the MOB alongside, steer and operate the engine controls. The greatest danger is propeller injury, which can be fatal. The engine MUST ALWAYS be 'out of gear' when the MOB is coming alongside.
Also the winching apparatus should be positioned on the same side as the Sea Scoopa so that the MOB can be continuously monitored during lifting.
2.On a yacht the device must be positioned amidships adjacent to the shrouds. This ensures the rescuers, who should be wearing life jackets and clipped on with safety harnesses, have
something extra to hang onto.
ready to deploy
It should also be positioned with its centre portion midway between tw