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anchor lost - who's responsible

Discussion in 'Yacht Captains' started by balboa, Dec 27, 2007.

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  1. balboa

    balboa Guest

    During a storm leaving the Channel for an Atlantic crossing last November we lost our anchor and chain (165 m.).

    It obviously was not properly secured. The captain was new on the vessel (but had been there 2 weeks to get familiar). He had previously checked the whole chain to review all the shackles and paint the last few.

    I would like some feedback from on how to call this. In your professional opinions, does this fall under 'regrettable but **** happens', 'gross negligence' or what?

    Does he bear financial responsability in your opinion?

    Regards,

    Thorwald Westmaas
  2. charleskwinter

    charleskwinter New Member

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    Although I am sure there is plenty more to the story, from what you say the anchor should have been secured. Most yachts have three ways to secure the anchor, and if an anchor only had one way of being secured I personally would rig up a second. For an Atlantic crossing leaving a Florida port I might make three. But, I've seen plenty of these things and know that sometimes things just happen. Does this help?
  3. charleskwinter

    charleskwinter New Member

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    Also, what is the size of the crew? If you are crossing the Atlantic I would imagine at least a crew of five, meaning the deckhand or engineer was probably responsible to a degree. Making a captian financially responsible for a crew member's screw up seems far to me. The greater question is whether these screw ups happen often? from a particular crew member?
  4. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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    Hi,

    Balboa, You say the Anchor was obviously not properly secured.

    Did you discover this after the Anchor equipment was lost or before?
  5. balboa

    balboa Guest

    Thanks for your feedback. In this case I know the captain was the last person working on the anchor winch and securing it.

    I said 'obviously not secured' because if it had been secured properly, there would have been no way that chain could have made it to the bottom of the pond.

    The anchor winch was equipped with a rusty break and 'stopper', a kind of hook that would encage in te chain should the break not hold.

    Since the break tighening device was not very well maintained (1989 fishing trawler and trawlers don't typically anchor) it was hard to ascertain how effective the break would be under adverse conditions. So if that hook would have been properly engaged and secured to the chain the chain could not have gone down even with the break failing.

    We had 5 crew members. 2 experienced people (captain and 1st mate (who only joined a day before departure) a somewhat experienced deckhand/mate, an engineer (back on ships after a 20 year absence) and a cook.

    I - the engineer - was aware the hook was not properly secured - but didn't pay notice, not realizing how bad the weather would become and once it has so bad, I thought about other things than the chain.

    The 'fun' thing was, after the storm, the 1st mate asked me about exact path of the chain (the winch was below deck; the chain went from below, over deck and then down into the anchor 'box'. I said, just look, it goes up there and there and then down again. He was 'mm, well I didnt see it. I didn't realized at that time that he actually meant he didn't see the chain until later that day when I was in the winch room and had the surprise of the month!

    Well, I'll definitely check the anchor myself each time we may expect heavy weather!

    What kind of annoyed me was the captains reaction 'well, it was a second hand chain and you'd have to replace it anyway'. Yes, it was used (as old as the ship) but in great shape, checked during a docking 2 weeks before.

    Thorwald
  6. CaptPKilbride

    CaptPKilbride Senior Member

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    Just playing devil's advocate here.....

    Here's a question... upon inspection of the hook after the loss, were all parts of the hook apparatus still there, and able to function properly? Or is it possible the hook apparatus failed.


    If you were aware it wasnt properly secured, why didnt you take steps to remedy the situation?
  7. TSI AV

    TSI AV Senior Member

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    Hi,

    "Iiiii-haaaaa !" the chain said and followed up the anchor..."

    I know it's not funny.

    However, I had the same situation some months ago.
    The ship was at anchorage place. Only 15 m deep water...

    The swell was increasing, and a few shackles more were lowered. Totaly 7 schakcles (cal. 40 mm) were in a water (appx. 193 m)
    When the swell became very high, captain decided to heave up the anchor and move away.

    Oooops, toooo late...

    The ship moved on the swell, chain tensioned so much that brakes could not keep it...

    Stopping device. Nop ! Couldn't hold ...

    Who is the one to blame ?

    ////

    Lessons to be learned:

    1. Avoid situations like that,
    2. Develop / implement / keep up a good, simple maintenance schedule (in ISM) for mooring anchorage equipment, which has to include:
    Regular inspection of thickness and condition of ferrado brake (3 mm thick as minimum, not oily, well rivited).
    Regular inspection of stopping device (main hook is not rusty, greased, securing pins to be in a good order).
    Pre-departure inspections of equipment (can be by checklist).

    3. Maintenance to be based on a good, experienced seamanship, manufacturer instructions, class rules / suggestions.

    4. Hire a competent crew, realizing, that "competence" (=experience + attitude) is somewhat very different to "qualification" (=piece of paper)!

    I think, the last one is vital.

    P.S. In Your case - some fines can be made, let them share it (who has seen, but... ; who was aware, but ... , bla-bla-bla...).
    Good lessons for them. Tell them, that this all can happen to apprentices, not to "so experienced sailors".

    Best regards,

    Andrei
  8. balboa

    balboa Guest

    Good questions. The hook apparatus was/is still there.

    Why didn't I take steps? Well, I should rephrase what I said. In hine sight, I realized it wasn't secured. When I saw it, I figured, if the chain starts moving, the hook will engage. I didn't think ahead and thought about the possibility that movements of the ship would cause the hook to move to a position where it could not engage anymore.

    In a way, we all failed to pay attention and learned a lesson. Well, I did. Especially since I'll be paying the bill :).

    Thorwald
  9. balboa

    balboa Guest

    Thanks for your input Andrei. Yes, competence is the key.

    Thorwald
  10. calmtoday28

    calmtoday28 Guest

    1992 Saba Incident

    This story reminds me of the captain who lost his life diving for an anchor off of Saba! The anchor was lost in a few hundred feet of water and they went to recover it. Suffice to say they were not successfull. In the end I am glad to hear only a few dollars were lost and nobody's life in this one. Anybody who wants to know more about the story please PM me.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 28, 2007
  11. MYCaptainChris

    MYCaptainChris Senior Member

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    Hmm

    To me it sounds like equipment failure!!!

    You can't expect that hook to hold the anchor in a storm with the water blasting at it. (assuming the brake won't hold) However the chain end should have been secured, but perhaps the fact it wasn't may have saved your props and rudder!!!!!
  12. balboa

    balboa Guest

    No Chris,

    I was not equipment failure. That hook would have done the job just fine because of the path the anchor chain had on my vessel. On my post at http://www.expeditionyacht.org/?p=365 you can see how the chain went all the way over the deck. It was not just hanging on that hook.

    I'm not quite sure how not having it secure may have saved anything. Over 500 ft. of chain on the bottom of the English Channel :-(.

    Luckily there are a lot of used spare chains available now.

    Thorwald
  13. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    "To me it sounds like equipment failure!!!"

    That "hook" is what seamen call a "devil's claw" and it is designed to hold the anchor in a stowed position underway rather than put a strain on the windlass. A pelican hook and turnbuckle is a better way to do it but that option was not mentioned.

    By the sound of it, the equipment did not fail. The devil's claw was still there, the anchor simply had not been properly secured with the strain taken by a turnbuckle. If the "hook" was not taking a strain with the anchor fully home and all load released from the windlass (with its brake set) it was simply not secured. If there was no means fitted to tension the devil's claw they did not have a chain stopper.

    Expecting the devil's claw to leap into position by itself as the chain slips is an example of the failure of faith based seamanship.
  14. Gareth

    Gareth New Member

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    It seems Thorwald has already made his decision, I won't offer any judgement until I hear the "Captain's" side of the story.

    This thread is all about Thorwald shouting "it's not my fault" and pointing fingers elswhere.
  15. MYCaptainChris

    MYCaptainChris Senior Member

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    500ft of chain!!!! Where did you anchor??? lol

    I'll take back my comments, but would like to hear the Captains point of view.
  16. Seafarer

    Seafarer Senior Member

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    I'm guessing the yacht is under a foreign flag and you're not an employee in the U.S. (based on Panama being listed in your location field).

    It's a sticky situation, but under US employment law, an employee can not legally be held liable - financially or as a reason for employment termination - for lost or damaged equipment, provided the equipment was not lost or damaged due to malicious intent or gross negligence. Simple oversight fails to meet the standard for gross negligence.

    Depending on the employment law of the jurisdiction where you're employed, it may technically be the owners dime and a nasty lesson learned... if you're willing to go that route and potentially risk less pleasant working conditions (not knowing the owners, their attitudes, their wherewithal).

    If it's financially within reason to replace it in good faith (and for the sake of easing your conscience) then by all means go ahead and do so.

    My 2ยข as a business owner who has had to replace a lot of tools and equipment over the years.
  17. The Reverend

    The Reverend New Member

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    Firstly trying to apportion blame is not a good way to deal with safety matters on a ship.
    On a ship we all have a responsibility for safety.
    Yes ultimately the Captain is responsible however who hired the Captain? Surely he was hired because of his experience and ability.

    I feel there may be another conflict here. The engineer appears to have some kind of financial interest in the vessel and therefore feels the Captain is working for him which is not an ideal situation.

    TSIV is right the best way to deal with is to develop an ISM type approach to your routine for stowing for sea and looking after the gear.

    I strongly disagree with trying to make the Captain financially responsible (in many situations this would be illegal).
    If he is totally incompetent then he should be removed from his position however if this is a case then you should review your hiring procedures (again using an ISM type of approach). Checking references and tickets etc.
    Likewise in my opinion an owner who doesn't have faith in your competence and expects or even considers that his crew should pay for incidental damage or equipment failure is not worth working for.


    Some years ago I was on a very prestigious yacht that had undergone a survey in Marseille the anchor and chain were very thoroughly inspected by Lloyds and by very experienced and highly qualified crew.
    After leaving the drydock we had to lower anchor in Marseille harbour when it was hauled the anchor was not there the shackle at the end (I don't know the name I'm not a deckie!) had failed
    It took five days for divers to find it in the mud.
    Equipment can fail in the most surprising way.
  18. aeronautic1

    aeronautic1 Member

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    D oh!!

    Boat runs aground - captain responsible. Boat slams against the dock - captain responsible. Anchor and chain lost overboard because it wasn't properly secured for a TransAt crossing? Captain responsible. :rolleyes:
  19. Gareth

    Gareth New Member

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    Again I question Thorwald's (Balboa) role in this. Is he the owner, is the skipper "Captain" in name only, with Balboa calling the shots and apportioning blame anywhere but to the guy he sees in the mirror.
  20. balboa

    balboa Guest

    closing words

    Dear Gareth, and others,

    For the record, the captain was very much the captain, not in name only. He simply didn't pay enough attention to securing the anchor chain and forgot about it during the storm. No malious intent, just lack of experience in my view. To blame me - somebody with no nagivational training nor experience - because I had seen how the anchor chain was secured looks incorrect to me just as holding the captain financially responsible for the loss is incorrect. **** happens. Move on.

    I must admit I was a little pissed of when I started this tread. The anchor was a minor thing at that time. But I worked it out with the captain, I bought two anchors and chains with the same specs from decommissioned trawler and if I'm on board, we'll surely never will lose a chain again. And, I won't start a thread when I'm pissed :)

    Good watch to all!

    Thorwald