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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A tale of two ships

First, the Bounty. No, not HMS Bounty as much of the media insisted on calling her; just the Bounty, a film-prop ship built for the 1960 film. Not quite a replica of the original she was 180' long with a 30' beam, compared to 90' length and a 23' beam, increasing her hull-speed and enabling her diesel to get her from builder's yard to film location a bit quicker. She also probably had a much higher centre of gravity than the original - a draught of just 13' compared to at least 18' in the original. I've no idea how functional the sailing rig was, but I suspect that unless she had a thick lead bolt-on keel any real press of sail may have capsized her. It's also reported that her owners were in financial difficulties and had been trying to sell her since 2010.

Four days ago her owners decided to send her from Connecticut to Florida, across the path of the fast-approaching storm. She foundered and sank off the North Carolina coast, somewhere off Hatteras Point. A video shot by a surviving crew member shows a completely bare upper deck - not even the compulsory lookout in sight - as she rolled in the 18' swell under power, the wind hard on her starboard beam and the wheel lashed. The crew were reportedly all below not feeling well. I shall comment no further as the USCG inquiry will be as thorough as our own MAIB investigations are and we must wait for the outcome.

The second is the SNCM ferry Napoleon Bonaparte, now flooded and grounded in dock at Marseilles with a 30' gash in her hull as she broke her moorings in 60mph winds at the weekend. In harbour. Inside a breakwater. The cause is obvious - her high centre of gravity and huge slab sides. The effects of even moderate winds on stability are great, and combined with the potential for free-surface effects if there is any flooding at all of the vehicle decks makes these vessels, and all similar 'cruise ships' in my view, the new coffin ships, unsuited for anything but short inshore and coastal passages in good weather.


Ian Hills said...

If it had to be a French ship I'm glad it was the Napoleon Bonaparte. Hopefully they've got a tall ship in dock called the de Gaulle, too.

G. Tingey said...

I wonder how long it would be before anyone else noticed!
I'm no seaman, but I have looked at pictures of the modern cruise monsters, & wondered.
There is such a thing as too much freeboard, isn't there?

Weekend Yachtsman said...

All true.

But one assumes, in this regulation-ridden age, that all these vessels must have passed some sort of safety and design scrutiny permitting them to operate on the high seas.

So are the regulations inadequate, or is the enforcement corrupted? In the case of the French I would naturally expect the latter.

Bearing in mind what's come out about the acceptability of brass (BRASS!) seacocks under the EU's RCD, it's quit possible that the regulations themselves are a crock of shit.


Not that I ever intend going near a cruise ship - I'd rather stick pins in my eyes.

G. Tingey said...

Indeed I have fond memories of my first cross "Shannel" crossing, in 1965.
Harwich-hook in the "Prinses Beatrix" ...
now THERE was a ship:
Blow your mind reading that lot.
As for seaworthy, well, she rode very well - which is not a suprise, given her previous history.

Anonymous said...

Bounty was a coastal collier, short and fat, must have been a pig to sail in, rolling around. Bounty 2 was longer and thinner, probably sailed better.
Bounty might have been better built, Bligh tried for 4 weeks to sail her around the Horn, I doubt if Bounty 2 would have put up with such punishment.
Take a look at, "Proceedings of the 10th International Ship Stability Workshop, SOLAS 2009 – Raising the Alarm", by Dracos Vassalos, Andrzej Jasionowski.
In it they show that in a multi-compartmented vessel even a small amount of free surface can have catastrophic effects upon a ship's stability.
The Italians have long had short, fat, high ferries, but they fit them with sponsons, eternal buoyancy tanks which run alongside the ships at the waterline, and thus effectively increasing the beam.
Peter Melia