Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gulf Coast Sailing Accident

I’ve been reading as many of the news releases as I can find this morning regarding the sailing accident during the Race to Veracruz involving a Texas A & M sailing team. One man lost his life and everyone wants to know why.

No conclusion can be drawn yet, but evidence is surfacing indicating the boat, Cynthia Woods, had been run aground between 3 – 10 times prior to being donated to A & M in 2005. In 2007 the ship was run hard aground doing damage to the keel again. It us unknown at this time how well that damage was repaired prior to the offshore race this June.

The keel was found in ~110 feet of water by the same offshore salvage company that towed the boat out of the gulf. The U.S. Coast Guard and A & M will use the keel to try and determine why the keel separated from the boat.

Those are the facts as I understand them from the available news this morning. First, no boat that gets used along the Texas Gulf Coast is going to avoid running aground. The inland waters are shallow and it is going to happen. I’ve been aground two or three times since I’ve been sailing here the past two years. However, Cynthia Woods is a Cape Fear 38 and has what is knows as a bulb keel. It is bolted onto the boat and has a long stretch of material before it connects to a bulb at the bottom with the majority of the weight that acts as ballast.

This design is a great, fast design for boats operating on deep, open water. I don’t think it belongs in a fleet sailing in shallow Gulf Shore water or going far offshore. This design is the polar opposite of the full keel design I wanted for my cruising boat and found on my Allied Mistress. Bulb keels cannot take repeated grounding and maintain structural integrity.

I want to make it very clear, every boat design is a good design when it is used for sailing where and how it was designed. There is nothing inherently wrong with this design, but I think it was a donated boat put into service in a region unsuited to it. The builder has stepped up and is helping extensively with the investigation.

Changing tacks for a moment, I finally got my boat out of the slip again. Something happens when this boat gets out of the marina and out sailing or lying to anchor. I love this boat. I’ve been confusing everyone calling the boat by both the names Romance & Jargo. I haven’t formally changed her name yet because I want her to be mine, not the boat I bought, before I rename her. I think I am getting close. I am making a list of projects to do that include a few new items. One of them is finding and installing low oil pressure and engine temperature alarms to let me know before major engine damage occurs. I am looking forward to a two week vacation where I can do nothing but focus on boat projects.


Anonymous said...

The boat was delivered brand new to the school. The boat ran aground that many times when the school owned it. I was on the offshore sailing team.

OleGunny said...

The author apparently is not familiar with sailboat racing or Gulf sailing. The accident did not occur in shallow water. There is no shallow water out three to ten miles off shore along the TX coast - the water depth will be several fathoms. It is the inland water way where grounding are a frequent occurrence - mostly on mud bottoms and rarely damaging the vessel.