Cape Fear 38 -- Lost Keel Fatality Investigation - Page 11 - SailNet Community

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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest Forums > Boat Review and Purchase Forum > Sailboat Design and Construction
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  #101  
Old 07-22-2008
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I have had a chance to see a series of close up and dimensioned pictures, which have not appeared on the net but which more clearly shows the damage. At least based on what I saw in those pictures, I think that people are jumping to conclusions that have little to do with my current sense of the reality of the situation.

The one thing that seems true is that all parties involved are trying to do thier own thorough investigations and frankly my sense is that those investigations will ultimately tell the story as acurately as science can tell it.

At least to me, it would seem that whether Atchley should or should not be heading the sailing program based on having a criminal record is a completely isolated issue from whether his actions somehow negligently lead to the disaster. As I see this, Atchley's criminal record is a red herring. The heart of the matter, with regards to Atchley and the question of negligence comes down to his competence in terms of being a paid skipper, his navigation and boat handling skills, the reasonablness of his understanding of how hard the boat hit in its groundings and rescues, how competent was Atchley to assess and repair the damage, and would any truely competent (important word here) marine surveyor or yacht designer consider that his repair approach was a reasonable one under the circumstances. Near as I can tell that information has yet to be determined.

Respectfully,
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  #102  
Old 07-22-2008
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Jeff,
My previous concern with the construction of the boat is that I did not see the level of damage to frames and stringers I'd have expected to see. The backing plates for the keel appear to be still present on the keel. Now regardless of the thickness of the layup of the hull in way of the keel area, I'd expect that it would be laid-up in a fashion where it was integrated with those frames and stringers. That it was not would appear to me to create a potential point of stress during a grounding and not the distribution of stress we'd like to see from a semi-monocoque construction. Could you explain where I'm wrong in this assessment?
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  #103  
Old 07-22-2008
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I defer speculation as the science will determine whether builder or previous repairs are at fault, but the who knew what, when and where will be a circus as all the parties point at each other.
pigslo
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  #104  
Old 07-23-2008
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Science schmience

I had my doubts about this case from the first reports of it.

Was there any previous history of Cape Fear Yacht Works keels falling off? Not that I am aware of. So why did the keel detach from the hull? Some preexisting condition(s) the boat endured.
The initial article I read on this incident said that the donor of the boat ran it aground causing the keel damage, IIRC. This recent link says it was Mr. Atchley, who has a dubious background perhaps, ran the boat aground, causing water coming into the boat. He then repaired it himself on the cheap and received a reprimand from the university for his bad judgment in getting the boat off a sand bar.
I am not sure whether the vultures are circling or the vulture gave some bad meat to a prey. We will have to wait and see. I am not sure that the press is getting closer to the story or if the story is being changed enough to protect the guilty.
Who gives a $360K sailboat to a university sailing program? I would donate my Lightning to somewhere but I still want to sail it. I would donate a damaged boat (if I were really rich) to a school somewhere with the understanding that they took care of the problems I had caused to the structure of the boat.
My jury is still out on this one and I won't say more except that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
JMHO.
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  #105  
Old 07-23-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalebD View Post
I had my doubts about this case from the first reports of it.
Who gives a $360K sailboat to a university sailing program? I would donate my Lightning to somewhere but I still want to sail it. I would donate a damaged boat (if I were really rich) to a school somewhere with the understanding that they took care of the problems I had caused to the structure of the boat. JMHO.
The "who" is George Mitchell, an extremely wealthy Texas A&M benefactor, donated two new Cape Fear 38's to the school, the George Phydias and the Cynthia Woods - not a damaged boat. The Cynthia Woods was damaged after TAMU took possession of the boat. Members of his family have ownership in the company that makes the Cape Fear and The Cynthia Woods was named after his late wife, not sure who George Phydias was???
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Last edited by johnshasteen; 07-23-2008 at 10:17 AM.
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  #106  
Old 07-23-2008
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Sailaway,

You are correct that the transverse frames and longitudinal stringers appear to be intact. This suggests that they were properly sized and bonded to the hull. Similarly the keel bolts appear to be intact, suggesting that they were properly sized as well.

From the pictures that I saw, there appears to be a horizontal sheer tear in the hull laminate in the keel area that extends fore and aft of the keel area. A portion of the hull laminate above the tear line still remains adhered to the bottom of the transverse frame. While the hull may have simply torn at the time that the keel fell off, my sense is that the multiple groundings tore the laminate parallel to the skin of the boat probably starting at the foward transverse frame and that this horizontal tear migrated over time. This would be a very difficult condition to detect.

Also the bearing plates, while quite thick, are distorted, which may have occured in the sinking incident, but which may have occured at some point earlier in the life of the boat.

To my way of thinking, the fact that the boat was donated by the father of the boatbuilder is a red herring. Benefactors donate all kinds of expensive raceboats to schools for all kinds of reasons (you should see the cool and extremely expensive race boats that get donated to the Naval Academy, with 40 to 60 footer world class race boats not all that unusual).

Jeff
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  #107  
Old 07-23-2008
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Jeff,

Thanks for your thoughts regarding the construction and design details of this CF38. It's helpful to hear the impressions of a knowledgeable source.

Yet, I'm still inclined to reserve judgement pending the final conclusions of the USCG with regard to those details.

However, assuming arguendo that the design and construction were adequate for this sort of sport boat, there remans another larger question: I.e., whether a less robust sport boat design is a proper one for a university (or any other) off-shore sail training program where errors of judgement both in regards to boat handling and navigation are not only common but are to be expected.

My criteria in selecting a design for such a program would be weighted toward larger safety margins that could forgive the accidental groundings which apparently doomed the Cynthia Woods. There are many designs that would not have flinched at the sort of allisions that the CW is reported to have experienced. The CW's high aspect ratio blade keel, while optimal from a performance standpoint, leaves the vessel significantly more vulnerable to impact damage than a less aggressive fin keel arrangement.

I agree with your other statement concerning the donation of boats to university sailing programs -- this is commonplace practice. However, since you mention the US Naval Academy sailing program, I feel it's worth pointing out the marked differences in design approach between the vessels that Annapolis chose for it's off-shore sailing program and the vessels that Texas A&M chose.

The origins and evolution of the Cape Fear 38 have been fairly well discussed in this thread. For comparison, consider the USNA's 44' STC Mark II by Dave Pedrick designs and TPI construction:

http://web.usna.navy.mil/~phmiller/P...ation2005a.pdf

A tremendous amount of thought went into this purpose-built design to create a university sail-trainer that strikes the correct balance between competitiveness and safety. The head of any university sail team looking to procure new boats for an off-shore program, would do well to inquire as to whether the new Navy 44 STC was available for purchase by private parties, or failing that to find a design that shares many of its attributes.
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  #108  
Old 07-23-2008
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So A&M should have said no thanks and not taken the boats; or taken them and sold them both to raise money for a better design (that would go over well with the donor/builder now wouldn't it).

Sometimes you take what you are given, and that's what you've got. That being said, Atchely, as the professional here, should have used the boat appropriately.
A&M has some culpability ethically speaking - they wailed on the dude for the first grounding and threatened him if it happened again; so when it happened again he, knowing he was a felon and could not stand close observation/ another job search, took care of it. IMHO 1800 bucks in material is a lot of taking care of - and note he did take it to a MARINE yard to presumably have it eyeballed.
Let's let all the facts come out before the opinions crucify anyone.

I've been on the this forum almost a year, and that's long enough to know that MOST of you would have pulled the boat and done the repairs yourself after asking for advice. Hell we have folks that have never mixed epoxy doing more extensive repairs using the advice of some of you.
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  #109  
Old 07-23-2008
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So A&M should have said no thanks and not taken the boats; or taken them and sold them both to raise money for a better design (that would go over well with the donor/builder now wouldn't it).
It'd reduce the number of repeat donors a lot.

Quote:
Sometimes you take what you are given, and that's what you've got. That being said, Atchely, as the professional here, should have used the boat appropriately.
A&M has some culpability ethically speaking - they wailed on the dude for the first grounding and threatened him if it happened again; so when it happened again he, knowing he was a felon and could not stand close observation/ another job search, took care of it. IMHO 1800 bucks in material is a lot of taking care of - and note he did take it to a MARINE yard to presumably have it eyeballed.
Let's let all the facts come out before the opinions crucify anyone.
You take all the fun out of it...

Quote:
I've been on the this forum almost a year, and that's long enough to know that MOST of you would have pulled the boat and done the repairs yourself after asking for advice. Hell we have folks that have never mixed epoxy doing more extensive repairs using the advice of some of you.
You mean we're supposed to mix epoxy... I thought you just poured the stuff together... that explains why the stuff takes so long to cure... Hmmm... or maybe it is because I mixed it 1:3 instead of 3:1...
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  #110  
Old 07-23-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRPollard View Post
Jeff,
http://web.usna.navy.mil/~phmiller/P...ation2005a.pdf
A tremendous amount of thought went into this purpose-built design to create a university sail-trainer that strikes the correct balance between competitiveness and safety. The head of any university sail team looking to procure new boats for an off-shore program, would do well to inquire as to whether the new Navy 44 STC was available for purchase by private parties, or failing that to find a design that shares many of its attributes.
I've been an Anapolis a number of times and have the seen the Navy 44's bobbing in their slips, but always assumed by their traditional look topside, that they probably had long fin keels with skeg hung rudders and protected props. Seeing the actual underbody design in the link, I was quite surprised - the rudder is vulnerable to groundings, the prop is hung out to dry and the keel is glued and screwed on - not at all what I would have expected for those boats - they are sail trainers - they should be tough enough for students to screw up and not seriously damage the vessel.
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Last edited by johnshasteen; 07-23-2008 at 03:12 PM.
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