Good info on collision, what if it's an overhead electrical cable? - SailNet Community

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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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Old 10-07-2007
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Question Good info on collision, what if it's an overhead electrical cable?

Latest "Seaworthy" bulletin has a couple of examples of sailors taking a wrong turn on the ICW (wound up in St. Juliens Creek, he was the 4th boat to make the mistake, survived but after a lengthy hospital stay)and running into overhead power cables, the bulletin doesn't say what, if anything you should do to maximize safety. Obviously begs the question, if you do screw up and make contact is there any "best practices" for minimizing physical injury, I guess the boat is a goner under any circumstance.
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Old 10-07-2007
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When I see a cable coming up that looks the slightest bit iffy, I stop and re-check the chart, maybe even make a call to double check things. If you hit it, grap a PFD and get the heck out of the boat and swim for shore...!
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Old 10-07-2007
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Chart height is not always correct. A friend of mine hit a 75 ft high cable with a 70 ft mast close to Hilton Head. It was a Spring high tide and the temperature was close to 100. Luckily all he lost was his VHF antenna, not high carbon fiber mast or hislife.

An number of years ago a small Oday hit a power line; the crew jumped off the water and were electrocuted.
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Old 10-07-2007
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That's exactly what concerns me, staying in the boat which most probably is going to catch on fire (as these boats did in St. Juliens Creek) or jump in and swim and risk an electrified water field. I'm hyper cautious about this but, in the event you do contact a high voltage over head I still don't know what I and my crew should do. USCGRET1990 should be speaking from one of the best knowledge bases...
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Old 10-07-2007
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If your mast hits an overhead powerline, unless you get caught up in it somehow the boat would presuambly drift away after a bit.. (maybe?)

Things to do:
1. Stay on the boat.
2. Best not to touch anything metal - cabin cushions and lifejackets make reasonable insulators so sit on them or cover bare metal metal rigging with them.
3. Freeze. (Pretend you've got a rattlesnake in front of you! ) Don't move unless you have to and stay there until help arrives or the boat drifts clear.

If the boat is on fire, then obviously you have to move to grab the fire extinguisher. Modern fire extingushers are supplied with insulating plastic holders, so you can get them without fear of electrocution.

Over here (down under) the powers-that-be usually plastic-sheath any power cables that might be hit by boat masts - it's not idiot proof but does help. You guys don't do that over there?

It's a shocking experience, but one that is possible to live through

--Cameron
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Quote:
Originally Posted by speciald View Post
Chart height is not always correct. A friend of mine hit a 75 ft high cable with a 70 ft mast close to Hilton Head. It was a Spring high tide and the temperature was close to 100. Luckily all he lost was his VHF antenna, not high carbon fiber mast or hislife.

An number of years ago a small Oday hit a power line; the crew jumped off the water and were electrocuted.
As a good sailor, you should already be taking into consideration the affect of a spring high tide. With a high mast and a low keel, sailboaters need to keep themselves well informed and on high alert. Otherwise, go get ya a power boat...
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Old 10-10-2007
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Another important point to remember is that you should report any such incident involving a power line, asap, to the power company and to the appropriate law enforcement authority. The line might be damaged and represent a severe hazard to others. Also, it can be a very serious criminal offense to leave the scene of an accident without reporting it and identifying yourself. I hit a power line years ago, when I first began sailing, and the cop who arrived assumed I didn't report it, and he began to get very aggressive about arresting me until I finally persuaded him that I had already done so. The power company didn't make a claim against my insurance company for damage to their line, so, it didn't cost me anything to do the right thing. I suspect they were happy that I didn't sue them!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by speciald View Post
Chart height is not always correct. A friend of mine hit a 75 ft high cable with a 70 ft mast close to Hilton Head.
I don't think I'd be prone to trusting charts, or anything else other than absolute measurement, for 5 feet of clearance from high-tension lines. I don't know as I'd want the top of my mast clearing such lines by only 5 feet, anyway.

Jim
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Old 10-11-2007
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Yeah; 5-Ft clearance is not enough. The VHF might take a few feet if not accounted for in addition to high tide. If you are within a few feet the electricity might just arc across if it is high voltage. We sailed beneath a train trestle here in No Ca that had a minimum clearance to the mast of about 10 feet. It was VERY nervous until we passed through! Read your charts carefully; the mistake of hitting a power line is and should be preventable.

If hitting one is imminent you should not touch anything metal that could conduct to the source of power (like the rigging, lifelines, helm) and hopefully the decks are dry. If you are not instantly killed you are probably best to stay aboard until the power gets shut off; if you go in the water the electricity will most likely paralyze you and stop your heart (it only takes something like 50 milliamps to do that). A boat can burn for a long while before sinking; I would wait to be sure that the electricity is shut down before abandoning.
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Old 10-11-2007
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BTW, if it is a power line you it...it is an Allision, not a Collision.
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