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Old 24 March 2011, 11:50   #1
Country: UK - England
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Boat name: K-OS 2
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Break Down At Sea.

Good afternoon one and all. Extremely excited to have found these forums !!

A bit of background, I have had boats for roughly 10 years, 7of which with a 4 metre inflatable and the last 3 with a zodiac Pro 9 RIB. I love it !!

However now we have the larger RIB we are moving out into waters slightly further from the beaten track and not just pootling around harbours etc.

My question is, what is the proceedure if you have a breakdown at sea. If in a crowded harbour/ at a beach etc it is easy enough to get assistance from some kind soul. Out at sea it would , I imagine be much more difficult to attract someones attention.

I am doing a VHF course at some point over the next couple of months and imagine that I may get some pointers there but a heads up would be really handy. Is it just a case of putting out a call on the VHF, if so which chanel and who do you call.....should you contact the coastguard.....should you wave your hands in the air ?

Hopefully you guys can collectively help me , if not please keep an eye open for a drifting RIB just off the cornish coastline near Fowey this summer !!


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Old 24 March 2011, 11:55   #2
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A spare engine or decent aux would be a good start ,
and a set of para rocket flares ,

Vhf ch 16 and put out a pan pan giving position and the fact that you need a tow ,or call the coastguard on the same chanel if anyones listening ,

If your broken down it does not justify a mayday call or setting of red flares unless you are in grave imminant danger ,

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Old 24 March 2011, 12:36   #3
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You sound like you are in the region Seastart ( cover. It is an option (albeit not a very cheap one) for people worried about precisely your question. The obvious answers though are: good preventative maintainence, know your engine so you can trouble shoot and fix minor issues and look at a second small (auxilllary) engine if you are worried. The most common causes of failure seem to be fuel and battery related. So make sure you have spare fuel, and no how to start your engine with the emergency pull start. Also make sure you keep an eye on fuel filters.

If you hit a problem then call the coastguard (Ch16 or use DSC) and advise them of the problem. If you have no alternative power then a PanPan call would be justified - but beware even if there are suitable boats not far away a PanPan will often result in the lifeboat being called out. If you can then anchor whilst waiting for help. If you can't anchor and are getting washed onto a lee shore then it might justify a mayday call.
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Old 24 March 2011, 15:29   #4
Country: UK - Wales
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Boat name: Poor Life Choices
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Sea anchor or drouge (not a badly priced ones on force 4 .com) will keep your bow into the waves (assuming the sea anchor is on a long piece of string and thats tied to the bow) and will slow your drift. this is good if its too deep for an anchor.

this will let you collect your thoughts fiddle with the engine (mainly swear at it allot if you have no idea about engines like me) then try the pan pan calls as you will learn all about on your vhf course.

Best thing to do is to look after your engine and keep it serviced by a good dealer.

You could find another rib friend and cruise in company.,
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Old 24 March 2011, 18:24   #5
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as someone else has mentioned, take a 2nd aux engine and this is the BEST assurance. Rope, paddles, and flares are also a must if you are going to the sea.

As for the VHF radio, take two=> One handheld is also a must. In many occasions there is a problem in wiring and because you are so stressed, you may not figure it out easily so a handheld VHF is handy.

SUDDEN breakdowns in the sea include either:

Damaged Propeller (not very common), or damaged fuse in the engine which suddenly shut down the engine (very common). Other issues appear gradually so you know you should take your engine for service before going out. Changing the propeller on large outboards is almost impossible at sea.

But you MUST take extra fuse and KNOW YOUR ENGINE (as someone else has mentioned).

But remember if you service your engine regularly and maintain it, the chance of a breakdown in the sea is quite low, so make sure you enjoy long range cruise and don't worry about break down too much!
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Old 24 March 2011, 20:47   #6
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Hi Midger….. and welcome to Ribnet!

Everything everyone has said above is right but the radio side of it might be somewhat puzzling to someone that hasn't done their VHF exam or who hasn't got a VHF radio despite hours in a boat. I feel particularly well qualified to answer your OP having had to put out two pan-pan calls in as many years. I even got an award at the belated Ribnet Xmas dinner for the last one that I made

Although waving arms up and down, shouting, flying flags, burning barrels of tar etc may work in a harbour, these (apart from the barrels of tar which aren't that practical on a RIB!) rely upon someone being around to see you but if you are going outside a harbour (and even inside if it's a big one) you should have a VHF radio. This can be hand-held (max 6W transmission power: couple of miles distance) or fixed (max 25W transmission power: as much as 10 miles or more) and should be tuned to monitor Ch16 (although you can set it to monitor other channels as well at the same time). You can then tune it to other channels to talk to other people once you've established contact with them on Ch16.

With everyone outside the harbour (theoretically) therefore listening to Ch16 at the same time, they should all be listening if you put out a call on that channel. Apart from using the channel to call up someone you know (and then switching to an agreed alternative working channel) a call on Ch16 announcing that you are in trouble should be heard by everyone within range.

Your call can be a 'Mayday' (after the French: m'aidez - help me) which should only be used where there is grave and imminent danger to you, the boat [or some other important object] and you require immediate assistance. The call is made according to a set formula and I (along with many others) have it printed out and stuck on the console so that, if needed, it can be read without thinking overly in situations of stress.
Trouble in situations that do not warrant a Mayday call are covered by a Pan-pan (after the French 'panne' - breakdown, rather than 'pain' - bread). This is less formulaic but still requires specific details and is broadly in the same form as the Mayday.

Either call is likely to be answered by the CG although in the absence of a response after four minutes any station may answer either directly or by way of a 'Mayday relay' (see your VHF course for more details).

The CG will then ask for assistance to be given by any other vessel in the area able to help (by way of tow, petrol, spares, more tar for the burning barrel etc) but failing this (or additionally) will task the RNLI or other appropriate resource.

You then wait whilst taking what action you can to make the best of a bad situation: put the anchor down to avoid drifting into danger, try to mend the electrical fault, throw the wife overboard to lighten the load etc.

If a stranger gets to you first, agree the terms of the rescue (most help for free on the basis of 'there but for the grace of God' or 'karma', but beer or cash are both good incentives) and if it is the RNLI (and there are other volunteer organisations out there), a suitable donation is considered appropriate.

You can, however, avoid all the above by (1) keeping you engine regularly maintained and serviced (2) investigating anything that goes wrong (no matter how small) (3) knowing your boat (4) training your crew (5) acting sensibly by checking weather, tides, sea state and equipment, assessing the ability of both you and your crew and not being afraid to say 'No' or turn back.

(Oh ….. and also checking how much fuel you have left in your tank! )

Sorry that the above is somewhat wordy but it is a subject dear to my heart and is made with thanks to those that came to my help on each occasion that I asked for it and, hopefully, my own reciprocal help to those requesting it has been appreciated.

Good luck with the VHF and let me know if you're out any time between Weymouth and Cowes.

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Old 24 March 2011, 21:22   #7
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my advice...even if you have alternative means of propulsion, I would contact the coastguard on channel 16, and advise there is a problem...they will make judgement if you need help.

depends on you aux. outboard you might be lucky to get 4 knots out of it, and if you were travelling at 40 knots it will take you 10 times the time to return, of course in this situation you would head to nearest safe haven.

planning is important, when planning look for safe haven locations and incorporate this into your plans.

I been banned using the 7 Ps - proper planning and preparation prevents p&$$ poor powerboating! not PC so it's now 6 P's ...

If concern you want to chat you options over, you can contact your local lifeboat sea safety officer, who will arrange for a free confidential chat with a sea safety advisor, who will meet you at your boat and discuss your needs.

The issues I had in past have been picking up things that foul your prop. ,

if you think you need may need to call for help, this is the time to call for help, if you get yourself back up and running you can always cancel it....


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Old 25 March 2011, 01:03   #8
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This is a good thread with really helpful and consistent advice. Is anyone able to give some clarity around the rules/protocols of salvage rights? It was briefly touched on in one of the replies above. The reason I ask is that on a recent training course, we were advised not to give a rope from the craft being recovered as that impacts on salvage rights. Is there any advice on what one should or should not do, either as someone requiring assistance or someone offering assistance? Many thanks. David Mc
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Old 25 March 2011, 01:41   #9
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Originally Posted by Midger View Post
However now we have the larger RIB we are moving out into waters slightly further from the beaten track and not just pootling around harbours etc.

I can highly recommend an RYA powerboating course, aside it being a very full and relevant curriculum it is also a good excuse to play with boats.
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Old 25 March 2011, 03:01   #10
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Originally Posted by RRIBS View Post
This is a good thread with really helpful and consistent advice. Is anyone able to give some clarity around the rules/protocols of salvage rights? It was briefly touched on in one of the replies above. The reason I ask is that on a recent training course, we were advised not to give a rope from the craft being recovered as that impacts on salvage rights. Is there any advice on what one should or should not do, either as someone requiring assistance or someone offering assistance? Many thanks. David Mc
Oohhh now your opening a can of worms..

Generally speaking, the leisure side of the market (especially ribs and small pleasure boats) need not concern itself too much with salvage law as, unless you start going into large mega yachts sailing with a PC (passenger certificate) and enough fuel on board to cause a nice pollution incident, then the cost of persuing a salvage claim through the courts will outweigh any potential award.

Salvage law is VERY complicated but the sheer fact you have 'accepted' a line from someone does not neccesarily entitle them to claim slavage. For a start, the salvager or salvaging vessel must make it very clear through verbal communication (recorded on either a dedicated tape recorded or through a monitored and recorded VHF channel 12, 16 etc..) of his intention to claim 'Lloyds open' or full slavage rights on the vessel in distress. It is then upto the Master of the vessel in need of assistance to decide whether he has no other option but to accept the agreement.
Probably 90% of initial slavage claims finish up settled as a 'contract tow' or other form of contract service.

You have to understand the calculaltions used to determine a potential reward before you can understand why it is not really practical to pursue a small pleasure boat in need of assistance....
The underwriters will look at many things before they will agree on a reward figure (often disputed for years on end), mainly the type and value of vessel, potential loss of life should the vessel not be assisted, potential cost of polution incident if the vessel were to continue unaided and possibly run aground, value of cargo on board etc...
In most of these cases, a pleasure craft will have the means available to evacuate the crew (RNLI, RAF S&R, liferafts etc..) so the potential loss of life is avoidable. Cargo carried on boat has no value as, by nature of it being a pleasure craft, it carries none. The risk of pollution and the cost of the clean-up is small as only a very small amount of fuel is kept onboard. So were left with the insurance value of the vessel itself...
Now if we were talking a fully loaded supertanker carrying 2000000 barrels of oil and about 3000m3 of bunkers that just lost his engines as he was going round the West Brambles then that is another story...

We have a salvage lawer 'on our books' as we deel with potential slavage cases five to six times a year but believe me when i say that salvage cases dont pay out very often....they get bogged down in the courts as both sides argue to value of the reward and weather it was really a case of 'salvage' in the first place.

Hope this has shone a little more light on the subject......


C'est pas l'homme qui prend la mer, c'est la mer qui prend l'homme....
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