One might not normally compare tugs and racing yachts but both have a knack for capsizing, or girting, fast often with tragic results for the crew. Some of the lessons and suggestions from the investigation into the capsize of Rambler 100 by Eire’s Marine Casualty Investigation Board may equally apply to tugs and similar vessels.
While manoeuvring, part of the Rambler-1oo’s keel snapped off, not uncommon in one-off built yachts. Within 15 second she was laid on her side and turned turtle
in less than 60 seconds. Fortunately her crew survived. While tugs girt for different reasons the challenges of surviving capsize are very similar.
MCIB’s conclusions and suggestions are:
The failure of the keel was both dramatic and catastrophic causing the rapid heeling and subsequent capsize of the yacht ‘Rambler 100’. The reasons for the failure are not discussed in this report as the analysis of the keel stub has yet to be completed and the causes of the failure have yet to be determined.
For those trapped below decks when the boat inverted, the only means of escape was to make their way to one of the two companionways and swim through the cockpit and below the guard rails to surface beside the boat. By its nature, the cockpit would have contained many ropes – sheets, halyards etc – which would have created a tangled mess when tipped upside down into the water. This would have posed a si
gnificant problem for anyone trying to swim through without getting caught up in the tangle. An escape hatch, perhaps located in the transom such as those found on IMOCA 60 class yachts, would significantly aid escape from an inverted hull.
A grab bag containing an EPIRB, handheld VHF set and other life saving equipment located within reach of the companionway or perhaps beside the helm position would have proved easier for one of the crew to grab before leaving the
There were two liferafts stored in a box at the after most part of the cockpit. Despite attempts to launch them, it proved impossible with the hull inverted. A method of releasing them from their storage box from the rear or side would
have made it possible to launch at least one of the rafts.
The ship’s EPIRB did not automaticall
y deploy and remained in its bracket in the aft companionway. An EPIRB mounted in a float free bracket fixed to a secure point in the cockpit, on a wheel plinth or to the satcom antenna mast would have automatically deployed when it went underwater and transmitted a signal to the rescue services.
Despite the fact that each crew member had been issued with a safety pack containing a PLB and strobe light, only two were available to those on the upturned hull and the group of 5 in the water had none with them. It would have greatly aided the rescue services had each of the survivors carried their own PLB and activated it on entering the water.
Two PLBs were activated by crew members on the upturned hull. Despite the fact that both were correctly registered with NOAA Satellite and Information Service in the USA in the name of Mr. George David and a 24 hour emergency contact – Gigi Barnard – was supplied along with three telephone numbers, confusion reigned as to who ‘Gigi Barnard’ was. This led to a delay of approximately one hour before MRSC Valentia declared ‘MAYDAY’. If the PLB registration had included information such as the name of the vessel that the holder was sailing on, the vessel’s call sign and satellite phone number, MRSC Valentia would have
been in a position to launch a full search and rescue operation sooner.
The RNLI lifeboat crew found it difficult to see the upturned hull of ‘Rambler 100’ until they were within a few hundred metres of the vessel due to the poor visibility at the time. Had the underwater appendages been painted with a bright colour, they would have been visible from a much greater distance.