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Tartan34C 09-15-2007 05:34 PM

A formula for seaworthiness?
John Vigor knows what seaworthiness is and can certainly decide if a given boat is or isn’t. I have a great deal of respect for him and his great fund of knowledge on the subject and in fact his fund of knowledge on all aspects of boating. Recently he had an article in "Small Craft Advisor" where he proposes a system to rank the seaworthiness of small boats where numbers are assigned to different criteria to come up with a comprehensive "Seaworthiness Score." The score includes things such as a companionway bridgedeck getting 5 points more than an open companionway.

But I think he is doing a disservice to everyone by trying to reduce this decision to a simple formula. Of course a bridge deck is desirable but a successful offshore boat is a blend of many factors some of which are a tradeoff between conflicting things. But more then that it’s the entire package that needs to survive the trip. Just because a boat has some good point in the design doesn’t mean the package will successfully make the trip. A good score isn’t enough and you must pick a boat that is ready or can be made ready no mater what the Seaworthiness Score says. It only takes one fatal (and fatal might be the correct word) flaw to sink the ship.

This isn’t about any boat in particular but instead this is about how we are trying to substitute other people’s judgment for our own. Before you head offshore learn what you need to know and pick your own boat based on real experience and skill instead of trusting someone else who will not be available to help when things get bad.

What do you think? Can everything be reduced to numbers? Can the numbers replace skill and experience so that someone with little or no understanding of the underlying principles can now safely venture offshore?
All the best,
Robert Gainer

Giulietta 09-15-2007 05:39 PM

I believe that "ranking" saeworthiness is a blunt way of standardization of several aspects, that may apply to certain boats in favour of others, based on the "point" scheme.

The fact that Mercedes have anti-skid brakes, traction control and gps guided maping does not compensate for unqualified drivers.

Many boats may have large safety and seaworthiness values, that can be reduced to zero in the hands of an idiot. Comparatively a less seaworthy vessel could perform better in the hands of a good sailor.

Seaworthiness should be evaluated having in mind an average "driver" seaworthines...and that does not exist yet.

Prevailing sailing conditions are part of his numbers?

bestfriend 09-15-2007 06:19 PM

Two things come to mind. First, the seaworthiness of boats usually outlasts the seaworthiness of sailors. And second, Sailors usually get their boats into trouble, not the other way around.

Valiente 09-15-2007 06:35 PM


Originally Posted by Giulietta (Post 193201)
Prevailing sailing conditions are part of his numbers?

You're right, because boats vary in strength and stability. Probably only the Southern Ocean racers are at the cutting edge of "seaworthy" and "fast", because they get rolled, dismasted and sometimes inverted, and yet only a couple of sailors (by definition among the world's best...most of us couldn't even do the qualifying races) have died or gone missing.

For the rest of us, prevailing conditions play a big role. Alex, up to 40 knots I would take your boat, but higher than that I would rather be in mine. Part of that is simply that a pilothouse is a better place to be when the spray is like nails hitting you in the face...another part is that your boat is engineered for speed and CAN be broken (remember your exploding boom?). If you have the right boat in the wrong conditions, all bets are off. If you have the right boat in harsh but survivable conditions, but only one guy knows how to sail the boat, after 36 hours, that guy will collapse from fatigue.

For anyone interested in the topic, I recommend strongly a book called "Rescue in the Pacific", about a 1994 "weather bomb" that hit a cruising rally between New Zealand and Fiji. Fatigue, and not seaworthiness, were the biggest problems: People who simply couldn't continue (or who were injured in capsizes) had to be rescued from boats that were seaworthy enough to eventually be found intact or run aground.

Here's some sample pages. I found the last chapters (what worked and what didn't) very informative.,M1

bestfriend 09-15-2007 06:39 PM

Along that line V, I just read a short National Geographic article about the '75(?) Fastnet race that ended in disaster. Did you see that one? I think there is a book or two on it also. I would also like to add to my post above that I am not condoning disregarding build quality.

camaraderie 09-15-2007 07:09 PM

Hey BF...welcome back...hope all is well!

Faster 09-15-2007 07:11 PM

BF, that Fastnet was in '79, and it's a fascinating story. Many abandonded boats were later found afloat, lending credence to your "sailors fail before boats" theory.

RG, I agree that such a scoring system is not going to provide a equalized rating that can be taken on its own. There are too many variables (and subjective views) for a universal code to determine a vessel's appropriateness for whatever purpose is intended.

And, as Giu points out, no matter how "idiot proof" someone may make a boat and its systems, somewhere, somehow a "better" class of idiot will turn up.

bestfriend 09-15-2007 07:16 PM

Hi Cam! Yes, all is well, kind of....a little stressful coming back to reality full force. The Yucatan is a wonderful place. I will post a thread on my findings a little later, with photos. The admiral had no idea that I could just "check out" forever. She thinks that just because I worry about all the details here in the states, I can't just walk away from it all. Hah! little does she know it has been a life long dream. So, today I made fresh salsa (a recipe I will post too) homemade tortilla chips, and am washing it down with a Negra Modelo. Mariachi music on the itunes.:)

sailingdog 09-15-2007 07:37 PM

So much of the seaworthiness of a vessel depends on the captain and crew IMHO. I'd rather go to sea with an experienced captain in a Hunter 37C than in a Swan 45 with a complete newbie, unless I got to keep the boat.

Faster 09-15-2007 07:44 PM


Originally Posted by sailingdog (Post 193233)
So much of the seaworthiness of a vessel depends on the captain and crew IMHO. I'd rather go to sea with an experienced captain in a Hunter 37C than in a Swan 45 with a complete newbie, unless I got to keep the boat.

Gasp! Can this be? SD is coveting a lead-mine monohull?!?

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