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Old 04-29-2009
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Oil dripping over the side ?

I was reading a short biographie of Jean Gau and came across this

Quote:
"Before Carrie struck, he had furled sails, lashed the helm, rigged a can of oil to drip over the side, and gone below to read, paint, and sleep."

Now remember I havent handled a sailboat yet, but Im getting there. I just wanted to ask yall what the "oil dripping over the side" is all about ? Thank you
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Old 04-29-2009
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Well I should say Im not really sure there's actual "oil" involved. There's the "oil can" and there's something that "drip"s . Is it some sort of system to keep water out of the cabin? Im not trying to make a scene here, but this is really diggin into me head !
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Old 04-29-2009
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50 years ago used engine oil.

Nowadays biodegradable fish oil of course.

Seriously the use of an oil bag to "calm the seas" was a standard passage in all heavyweather sailing books 50 years ago.
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Old 04-29-2009
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Oil tends to form a protective slick and reduce the chance of breaking waves, by calming the seas within the slick. BTW, this would be illegal nowadays...
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Old 04-29-2009
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Hopefully that "Oil" is either Fish, vegetable or animal... Because it major fines and jail time if it lube, mineral or diesel oil.
He probably did this in the belief that oil spread on stormy waters will calm them down. What it really does is create a surface tension that prevents most seas from breaking. Notice I said most seas, not all of them. The waves are still there, but just not breaking.
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Old 04-29-2009
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Oil actually reduced the surface tension of water. I did a research study of the environmental impact of oil on water as it related to aeration rates and we were quite surprised to find that an oil slick actually reduced surface tension. If mariners actually did this in the old days, it would have either been totally ineffective or made a bad situation worse.

This may seem counter-intuitive to some but, unless someone found a way to effectively disperse a thick layer of bunker oil over a huge area upwind of a boat, this is just another myth.

Last edited by k1vsk; 04-29-2009 at 10:07 PM.
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Old 04-29-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by k1vsk View Post
Oil actually reduced the surface tension of water. I did a research study of the environmental impact of oil on water as it related to aeration rates and we were quite surprised to find that an oil slick actually reduced surface tension. If mariners actually did this in the old days, it would have either been totally ineffective or made a bad situation worse.

This may seem counter-intuitive to some but, unless someone found a way to effectively disperse a thick layer of bunker oil over a huge area upwind of a boat, this is just another myth.
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the 'wisdom of the ages' -- it is true that many, many of the older books on heavy weather talk about this tactic. I doubt that it "made a bad situation worse" if so many old salts recommended it. Perhaps it's something that should be put to the "Mythbusters" on Discovery Channel.

The Pardeys have a theory about reducing the force of breaking waves by disturbing the surface of the water with the "wake" left by letting the boat drift very slowly down wind while lying to a sea anchor. They swear by it. My guess (and it's only that) is oil works on a similar principal -- disturbing the surface dynamics of moving water.

As for the legality of it..... believe me, if I found my boat in extremis and needed to calm breaking seas, the last thing I'd worry about was being written up for discharging a few gallons of oil. I'd let the lawyers argue the merits of the action once the boat and crew were safe.

Last edited by billyruffn; 04-29-2009 at 11:20 PM.
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Old 04-30-2009
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I too would resort to whatever worked if the need ever arose, however, on it's face, this makes no sense unless you can also explain how one would manage to disperse sufficient oil, of sufficient viscosity far enough upwind to effect the surface of the water. Rather than being "wisdom of the ages", it's just another myth of the ages.
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The boat drifts when hove-to... the oil slick remains behind... and forms a protective slick upwind of the boat, as it drifts downwind... It works better on old shoes than newer, more modern designs, as they tend to forereach more than the older designs.
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I too would resort to whatever worked if the need ever arose, however, on it's face, this makes no sense unless you can also explain how one would manage to disperse sufficient oil, of sufficient viscosity far enough upwind to effect the surface of the water. Rather than being "wisdom of the ages", it's just another myth of the ages.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by k1vsk View Post
I too would resort to whatever worked if the need ever arose, however, on it's face, this makes no sense unless you can also explain how one would manage to disperse sufficient oil, of sufficient viscosity far enough upwind to effect the surface of the water. Rather than being "wisdom of the ages", it's just another myth of the ages.

Have a look at YouTube - Oil-on-Water Calming Effect for a less than scientific demonstration of the effect.

Re methods of disbursement -- if memory serves, putting a small hole in an oil can (or plastic bottle) might be all thats necessary. (I've never tried it because, after all, it's illegal ). I've also read that putting a wad of cloth rags well-saturated with oil in a container and hanging it over the windward side works. Apparently, you don't need a big thick slick, only a film of oil to disrupt the motion of the surface water.
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