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Old 16 May 2011, 10:49   #1
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Irish Sea Crossing - General Questions

I think this could be quite a long one – apologies in advance.

The nutshell is that I’ve been asked to provide a safety boat cover to a work friend who wants to cross the Irish Sea in a man powered craft; this will be a a charity event which I expect may attract some press attention. I can’t yet say much about the craft itself, but the bloke himself has an impeccable track record in ‘extreme / ultra’ events, and so in some ways he’s the least of my worries.

But one key issue is that he’ll only be capable of averaging around 2 kts.

He is also thinking in terms of the ‘longer route’ from e.g. Anglesey to Dun Laoghaire (as per the sea kayakers) or perhaps Morfa Nefyn to Wicklow – we’re all still studying charts etc. So this will easily involve a night phase.

I’ve already told the guy that that I think we should aim for two RIBs in support, but I’ll be honest and say that I’m beginning to feel attracted to do this ‘solo’ if necessary; I’m in that once-in-a-lifetime thinking mode. Please feel free to tell me I’m bonkers thinking about doing this in a 5.45m boat; all replies will be carefully considered, but might be ignored ;-).

Clearly we’d need a very settled weather window, with nil headwind / ideally a light easterly tailwind (for him). It can be done – read how lucky these guys were with the sea states: (we’ve recently also spoken directly to one of them).

IRISH SEA CROSSING

The plan would be to leave my friend (with his craft) over there in Ireland (he will have land support) and return at ‘normal’ speed in the RIB.

At the minute, I’m making upgrades to my RIB, including a better radar reflector, searchlight and decent hailer / fog horn. I already have a DSC radio, VHF hand-helds, Garmin plotter (with all necessary charts), hand-held GPS, decent drysuits and LJs (with lights), nav lights, flares, paper charts, etc. We’re also in the middle of fairly formal risk assessments. But with only a 20 gal internal tank, jerry cans will be required. I’ve used these successfully before, but I’ll need a few more actual cans!

I am also planning on having 3 (total) crew in the RIB – subject to certain dates the two others are already known – with a decent mix of rough weather, fog and night experience. One to rest, one to drive, and one to keep watch etc, all in rotation. Thoughts on having 3 crew duly welcomed.

We’ve got a 'serious' shakedown planned currently for the last week in June. Going for real maybe as early as July if all is well.

Here’s some of the points I’m not certain about – as far as possible we’ll assess these at shakedown time. However, again any thoughts would be welcomed.

Does anyone want to come with us? – either one or both ways – else perhaps could help with berthing / fuel / etc on the Irish side? (I guess the worst case would involve me leaving the RIB and taking a ferry back to Wales to get the trailer!).

At 2 kts would I be better using the aux (Suzuki DT4) engine? I think I would jury-rig remote steering for this via the main engine.

How best to rig a second battery if I’m going to use it to power the electrics (lights, nav and comms) when only the aux engine is running? Nightmare scenario would be to drain the main battery (110 Ah, new last year).

Otherwise the main DF90 is going to be at or close to tickover. Will the DF90’s alternator charge ok at tickover? (I’m assuming a 4.5A drain otherwise - tbc). Do bigger engines respond ok to long periods at idle? What fuel consumption should I expect on the DF90 at 2kts?
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Old 16 May 2011, 15:06   #2
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Hi Neil,

Your project Interests me

I've done a bit of this cross channel stuff - but without the babysitting
However, I have a friend who has covered a cross channel swimmer from Donegal to Scotland - his RIB is a 5.8m Humber with a 115 Suzi. I'll touch base with him to get advice.

Anyway - I don't have any specific wisdom to offer, but I'll throw a few suggestions at you anyway.

1: Do be worried about your bloke - he's the only reason you'll be there.

2. Go mad - do this run first without him - it's only 60Nm, travel back the same day. You really need to be comfortable out there. You don't sound comfortable - this is not criticism, but you will need to be be able to cope with any crisis out there, his AND your's together.

3. Take a second boat on the actual attempt. You owe him that much.

4. I'd use the main for the whole trip, but be sure the aux is ready to deploy. I don't like the idea of covering a slow boat with an aux that can't be easily slowed/stopped.

5. Given the weather that you need, your boat is not too small, but look carefully at the loading of fuel and supplies. Where will the resting party rest with a load on board? Can you take the bloke on board and tow his whatever in the event of a washout?

I'm sure some of the Dublin wretches (I'm far away) would be happy to assist with fueling, etc. It's not like they've anything else to do. Tonymac might help

You might consider posting on Powerboats.ie too, although I'm not sure if there's anyone home....
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Old 16 May 2011, 15:36   #3
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You seem to be fairly well advanced in planning for the unforseen - I'd also make sure you take support items for the person attempting the challenge, including foul weather gear and hot drinks / self heating can meals in case they have to pull out.

An absolute essential - I can't emphasise this strongly enough - is talk to the Coastguard with details of your plans - you'll probably be asked to arrange reporting points, etc so that assistance can be arranged if you get into trouble. Milford Haven CG cover the south Irish Channel (01646 690909) or Holyhead cover the northern part (01407 762 051). You shouldn't have to do the same for Dublin, as they'll get the details from HMCG.

Otherwise, the two rib option would naturally be better, or dare I say a cabin boat as well.

Drop me a note if you want to go into further detail.
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Old 16 May 2011, 16:05   #4
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58 degrees 20 minutes North +/- circa 2 miles N/S is the Holyhead< > Dublin track for ferries between the South Stack & the Kish light. It would certainly be advisable to be very radar conspicuous if leaving from Anglesey. Total distance between these points is 47.7 miles & total distance Holyhead breakwater to the Poolbeg breakwater light is 58.6 miles.
The tides off Anglesey need serious consideration & the seas in the Holyhead deep off the Stacks can be very "lumpy".
I assume your friend is rowing, you might get some useful advice from the people at The Ocean Rowing Society International
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Old 16 May 2011, 16:14   #5
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Whilst I have no experience, logic would suggest a 5.4 rib with three people, fuel and provisions, would not then be big enough should the person need recovering half way across. Nowhere to lay him down and give treatment etc. For the duration involved I'd imagine a diesel cabin displacement hull to hold emergency gear, your fuel and your 3rd man resting, together with your rib with two on at any time for driving/spottter close support/shadowing would be ideal.

Despite that, those kayakers did it alone. Better you're there prepared than him go alone! Depends on his "method" of transport. If likely not to make it, are you big enough for four plus gear/fuel etc in a force 4-5 to get back?! I guess that would likely be the worst scenario if you had a good expected weather window.

Only my tuppenth worth.
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Old 16 May 2011, 17:53   #6
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A big window at that speed! There is a great possibility of other vessels/ruddy big ships so coastguard help and radar reflectors essential. You could cross higher up as it is only 20 miles or so from south west Scotland.
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Old 16 May 2011, 18:38   #7
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Hi Neil,

Your event sounds very interesting and I would like to begin by saying well done on your preparation so far, and for seeking advice on best practice.

I have done some similar events in the past and the last was a crossing of the North Channel which took 20hrs and a few more steaming back.

The crossing from Dublin will take much longer and there are a few things to consider. If you are going to use your 5.4m I would suggest having at least another rib with you for support. I would use the main engine; the power is always there if you need it. We found no advantage to using an aux.

You need to carefully plan your weather window, in your risk assessment think about weather triggers, that is what weather conditions, sea state will make your crossing impractical/too dangerous, do not depend on one date, be as flexible as possible so you can go when the weather window is right. If you get tunnel vision into having to go at one particular date it may result in you taking a chance in poor weather. So don’t get pressured by weather.

3 in the rib of that size is fine, we had 2 in Zeb (5.8m) for the North Channel but too other vessels in support. Fatigue will be a factor and cold during the night so hot drinks and good under suits are a must.

The Coast Guard are very important, for your info and others on here, HM CG does not run SAR for the whole Irish Sea, Dublin CG take TRs direct on channel 83, the operations room number is 00353 1 7751602 call them and set up a calling schedule every 2 hours.

Would also suggest tx a securtie call on ch 16 with your details every 4 hours or so, to make larger vessels aware of your position, course, speed, type and number of your craft, this would be helpful if you don’t have AIS fitted and when operating in the dark. Good Nav lights essential and a signal flash light, (5 short flashes for vessels not taking avoiding action).

Also remember to chat with port traffic if approaching busy ports like Dublin.

Passage plan every hour add in expected drift with tide, at 2 kts this will mean your course made good will not be a direct line across, but will look like a saw tooth so have this worked into your plan as it will add time and distance onto the event.

The last thing I will say is don't be afraid to pull the plug if you feel it is not going as planned or the weather is getting close to your trigger point, bail out for the nearest safe haven. So have a plan if all goes pear shaped.

The best of luck and enjoy every minute of the planning and the voyage it’s all part of the Journey. Bligh once said "If you want think of the distance we have come, but never let your mind wonder further ahead than your vessel"
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Old 16 May 2011, 19:16   #8
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Out at sea at the moment overnight (its now 0010 )on the cat swilling about on a very dark Irish Sea! I have been in more restful places! My thoughts from the centrally heated wheelhouse with a mug of tea in m'hand and a bacon butty are-
spare outboard portable tanks and a second fuel line from a changeover valve would be better than trying to refill at sea-.
A 5.4m rib with three people on that route is a notable and possibly perilous trip in itself without the complication of somebody in your care.
Who is going to care for him, and you, if you lose both engines- i suppose you could paddle and become two man powered craft.
Are you, or he, going to be sea sick? And thats not meant as a "put down"-I think I might be eventually. Different matter rolling about and being bored than razzing along at 30 knots.
That bit of sea can be rough on a windless day-we delivered a 26ft cygnus cyclone back from holyhead on a windless day but with a big tide and water was sweeping over the length of the boat for the duration of the trip.

Basically I can't think of anything I would rather less do than swill about at two knots for what could be several days in a small boat making myself a hazard to shipping.
We are forever being asked to provide rib safety cover for some crossing to IoM or Ireland. Some schemes are completely hare brained others maybe not but they all ignore the point that the Irish Sea is an unforgiving place for a small boat, never mind whatever the person in care is on.
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Old 17 May 2011, 04:19   #9
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Thanks folks

Thanks v much for the carfeully considered and impressively long responses. Lots of food for thought there - I shall respond properly in slightly slower time when I find a quiet corner at work - I'm away on busness today.
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Old 17 May 2011, 12:46   #10
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We use our rib of SW Scotland every summer and rarely do you get 2 days of settled weather and the sea can really kick up in a short period of time. The Atlantic can pick up as Ireland nips it against the mainland and I would not like to have to carry three and potentially four and whatever contraption that your man is using in what is quite a small rib. The more I think about it the more I would suggest the thoughts of those with great experience, on this board, should be listened to and I don't count myself in that group, but as a user of the Irish sea, I know to treat it with respect having been up a wave front and come down backwards ending with a rib full of water and thank goodness the engine had not failed so I could power on and get the water out through the elephant trunks...and the day started so well and full of optimism. Plan for every eventuality and go with more support.
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Old 18 May 2011, 06:33   #11
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A couple of thoughts-

As well as your radar reflector, what about a class B Ais transponder ?- then preople could watch your progress online as well!

Solar charging?

If you use "hulk" type tanks, I have a set-up where I have swappable fuel lines - don't be p!ssing about decanting fuel in the middle of the Irish Sea. You know s*ds Law says you'll be trying to decant, look up and see the bow of a seacat approaching and there's you with nothing in your carb, tank or fuel line.......

Bouncing off the "use the main" reply, I assume your main lump isn't a premix beastie?
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Old 18 May 2011, 07:05   #12
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I just had a thought, 2Knots is very slow so the question is what speed will your boat do on tickover as you may need to change the prop (I can't spell proppelor either)for one with less of a pitch.

I have a Ribcraft 585 with a Honda 90 which has a 17P. This does about 4 knots at tickover. I have a 14P in the my garage which you are welcome to borrow.

I've did a trip to the Isle of Scillies back in April everyone said I was mad, like you I made the preparations and enjoyed every minute of it. Its good to push the boundries
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Old 18 May 2011, 09:53   #13
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Quote:
I've did a trip to the Isle of Scillies
not on anything like a comparison with this
Quote:
see the bow of a seacat approaching and there's you with nothing in your carb, tank or fuel line.......
y'man in the self powered contraption will likely do more than 2 knots for a short time so he will! Do you think you can get yourself and the contraption out of the way in the very short time you will have?

3rd crew member resting--not on that size of boat he won't be

Securitee every 4 hours? I can do 100 miles without breaking a sweat in the cat in that time and I aint gonna hear you til I get within your very short transmission area-just a few miles on that size boat.

Earlier this year that french fishing boat got run over by a SeaCat doing what 36??? knots. At your size and that speed you're a sitting, and nigh on invisible, duck mate.
And has been said you are useless to him (sorry dont mean to be rude). You are vulnerable yourself, you are not big enough to give him any useful help and basically you just become two vessels on a very dangerous and completely pointless trip which may result in you becoming casualties which is your choice but the poor s*d that runs you over or sucks you thru the jet intakes will have nightmares for life
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Old 19 May 2011, 07:08   #14
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Thanks again ...

Thanks to all for the responses. I shall try and remain detached at this stage from the overall wisdom of taking on what is clearly a challenge. I shall share your thoughts on the general wisdom with the other crew and ‘solo’ guy involved, such that at least nothing is being glossed over, and try and use the same to tamper my own enthusiasm.

Some specifics we have considered:

The shipping lanes, esp the ferry crossings, have been / continue to be researched, including ongoing learning via the live AIS data. MMSI numbers are being stored etc. The kayak guys have given us some positive vibes on e.g. CG involvement. We will, of course, be talking to the CG well beforehand, and, if they recommend it, to the ferry companies.

From the sea kayakers, the message was that this crossing is a ‘recognised’ challenge, for which the use of support boats wasn’t ethical (!).

Any launch from Anglesey will prioritise an initial southerly current (ebb tide) to minimise the ferry interactions. Avoiding the ferry routes is why I personally prefer Morfa Nefyn. Both crossings are roughly 60nm. The much more northerly and shorter crossing is still an option depending on the trial runs. Just like the diving I’ve previously coxed for, I see one main aim of the (fast) support boat being to spot / track, intercept and head-off approaching vessels. The solo guy has his own interim ditching options if necessary.

The Icom MA500TR AIS unit is at the top of kit being considered but not yet bought. Icom because it will interface with my radio. Again I can’t give too much away, but the other craft in question will have a radar return significantly higher than that of my RIB. He can get up to 5 kts for shorter periods.

Question: can anyone give a heads up on what roughly what proportion of the smaller (<300 Tonne) vessels likely to be out there have AIS fitted?

I agree that the concept of rest is somewhat of a token gesture, but even with 4 trimix divers** (i.e. with up to 4 cyls each) and Cox I have previously created enough deck space for one person lying prone (spewing diver). We’ll have vehicle support to meet the other craft on the far side, so most of what we will need to carry will be for the actual passage only. But l draw from this a reminder to make the shakedowns as fully realistic and comprehensive as possible – i.e. with a full load even of not needed at that time.

(**Open circuit trimix diving to depths up to 70m and up to 40 miles offshore possibly gives you a an insight to my personal risk levels. I can’t imagine I would spend every minute of any eventual crossing thinking about not dying, like I have done down there!).

There is nil history of sea-sickness or any other travel sickness from the key players involved. But we will obviously go armed with what mitigations we can just in case.

Jerry cans will help me preserve that deck space better than I think bladders would. It took me a several years to get a transfer method I was happy with, but now reckon I can get 20L in in well under a minute. But we’ll play more with this on the shakedowns, and I am continuing to research fuel options.

You’re right to infer I’m cautious about this, and that it’s a jump up from what I’ve done before. Fortunately, my crew will be more experienced.

I like the idea of the RIB only passage first. (But nearly didn’t admit to that because of the likely reaction here!)

Looks like the consensus is to plan on using only the main engine (4 stroke, not premix). Happy to go with that. Still wish I knew more about the prolonged low speed behaviours and consumptions – but that’s what shakedowns are for.

I already have 2 props and will check pitches etc – but clearly thought is also being given to the return leg.

The original plan was for a Channel crossing – but despite nearly 2 years effort, the (mostly French) bureaucracy wasn’t cracked.

Finally, ‘proper’ / better support boats would clearly be better. Indeed paying for the same on a professional basis isn’t completely out of the question. I’m self funded by the way. We’re definitely open to listening to constructive and more concrete options for actually achieving this.

Thanks again for all the feedback.
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Old 19 May 2011, 10:02   #15
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Every two years there's a rowing challenge from Arklow to Aberystwyth - I seem to remeber their support vessel criteria were quite sensible - and included at least 2 boats - a RIB type vessel to enable the Longboat crews to swap, and a larger (cabin) vessel to allow crews to recuperate and to protect them if required. It would be an idea to have a chat with them about their experiences - bearing in mind that the Celtic crews move a lot quicker than 2 kts!!

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Old 19 May 2011, 11:01   #16
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Having played devil's advocate on this thread, if ya go I wish you good weather and all best luck. One way or another it will be an experience and I hope it all goes ok with you and the man in his contraption. We will of course all expect a full report and loadsa piccies afterwards.
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Old 28 August 2012, 03:56   #17
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We're still here ...

The challenge I previously referred to in this thread suffered for the last 12 months or so when the main man (Chris) got a work promotion, and his vastly increased work hours precluded adventuring (although he did squeeze in a successful Devizes to Westminster 'ultra' canoe race!).

However, Chris has now removed those work barriers, and for the last few weeks things have moved on consideraby.

This includes a dedicated website which is now up and running - so the full details of his highly unusual (unique?) craft be found here:

Irish Sea Crossing for WBA, RNLI

A 'go' date will, of course, be completely weather dependent - but as of 1st Sep, the two of us at least (plus non sea-going helpers), will be standing by fully ready to go at only a few hours notice.

The plan has reverted to launching from Trearddur with a notional aim point of Greystones (mainly due to the long shingle beaches either side). Roughly 55nm.

The two main 'non-ideals' at this stage remain that a) my small-ish RIB is still the only support boat, and b) even for my RIB we might have a showstopper in springing other experienced crew (we have a list already of about 10 'known' volunteers) from their normal lives at such short notice. Plus of course it's not now mid June ...

So needless to say we'd still love to hear from anyone who thinks they could play a part. If any other RIB fancies joining us, even partial distances would be hugely welcomed.

I'll be honest and say I've thought quite hard before posting this update - so please keep any flak constructive (or at least amusing). And please give generously to the two named charities!
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Old 28 August 2012, 04:16   #18
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I wish you all the greates of luck - Hope everything goes according to plan.

If i had a bigger RIB and more experience I'd have come ...
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Old 28 August 2012, 04:30   #19
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well after the summer we've had you should be due some good weather. Did you ever do your solo test run?
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Old 28 August 2012, 04:55   #20
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Solo test run: I've done lots of 'daytime' testing for fuel economy* and electrical load at idling type speeds. But not yet anything so epic - I have resurrected the idea with my potential crew though. The big Irish trip on here a while back unfortunately clashed perfectly with other hols.

*measured at only 0.25 galls per hour at 800 rpm (idle speed), i.e. almost trivial compared to the assumed 'Plan B' scenarios.
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