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Hurricane Ship Sinking

Discussion in 'YachtForums Yacht Club' started by JWY, Oct 7, 2015.

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  1. JWY

    JWY Senior Member

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    This is a spin-off from the thread entitled Hurricane Joaquin which discusses the RoRo EL FARO, a 41 year old 790'cargo ship scheduled for retirement from the Caribbean, presumed sunk in the hurricane while enroute from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico. The NTSB is investigating the circumstances. Sounds like the USCG did a heroic job in a search and rescue effort that has unfortunately only found small debris and one body in a survival suit.

    The crew consisted of 28 Americans and 5 Poles. I just read a brief bio on some of the crew members and it's impressive and makes the losses to their families more personal to those of us who didn't know them, but it also shows that even with highly qualified and skilled mariners, the sea can be a dangerous environment. Many of the crew were from New England and Florida and there were several members who were graduates of the Mass Maritime Academy, US Merchant Marine Academy, and Maine Maritime Academy including the 2nd mate Danielle Randolph one of the few females aboard. Many/most of the crew had wives and children including one whose wife was expecting twins.

    May their souls rest in peace, their families be comforted, and lessons learned perhaps save others.
  2. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    We often hear complaints about the CG for being sticklers on inspections, etc. I've been boarded several times and have nothing but good to say about them. In this instance they sent assets into the teeth of the hurricaine. Incredible heroics! God bless them. Unfortunately the S&R effort will be cancelled tonight.
    It should be noted that, although the El Faro was being retired from Caribbean service, she was scheduled to be refit for service in the PNW.
  3. Beau

    Beau Senior Member

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    God bless their souls. I heard on the news that they may have encountered 50' waves? Is that possible.
  4. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Not only possible, but probable, and with no propulsion she'd turn broadside to them which could explain not launching the lifeboats
  5. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    I saw no reporting of 50' waves in following the hurricane closely. Still they may well have encountered some huge waves. Also, if broadside, you get a cumulative impact of several waves as you never recover from the previous one.

    Found the number 35' used in a statement by Fred Pickhardt at Ocean Weather Services.
  6. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    I did see a news report saying 50' waves. I also heard she went down in 3,000' of water, and just now heard 1,500'. 50' waves are entirely possible, but you have to take what the "News" media says with a grain of salt. That ship should certainly be able to handle 35' or even 50' waves if she could keep powering her bow into it, but that wasn't the case.
  7. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    I've seen 15,000 ft. mentioned repeatedly. I would imagine it's somewhere between 1500 and 3000
  8. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    From Associated Press http://news.yahoo.com/photos/el-far...oast-guard-el-faro-cargo-photo-144023922.html:

    El Faro, missing cargo ship, sank during Hurricane Joaquin
    • [​IMG]
    4/20
    - /US Coast Guard/AFP
    A life ring recovered by the Coast Guard from the El Faro cargo ship, that went missing during Hurricane Joaquin (AFP Photo)

    The captain of the 790-foot El Faro planned to bypass Hurricane Joaquin, but some kind of mechanical failure left the U.S. container ship with 33 people aboard helplessly — and tragically — adrift in the path of the powerful storm, the vessel's owners say.
    On Monday, four days after the ship vanished, the Coast Guard concluded it sank near the Bahamas in about 15,000 feet of water. One unidentified body in a survival suit was recovered, and the search went on for any trace of the other crew members.
    Survival suits are designed to help seamen float and stay warm. But even at a water temperature of 85 degrees, hypothermia can set in quickly, Coast Guard Capt. Mark Fedor said. He noted that the hurricane had winds of about 140 mph and waves topping 50 feet. (AP)
  9. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    If you look at the AIS plot. Wednesday night late, she was still making 18+ kts as she had after leaving Jax.
    Was she charging into the storm with out any TS/Cane updates?

    upload_2015-10-7_20-14-58.png


    upload_2015-10-7_20-18-1.png
  10. Silver Lining

    Silver Lining Member

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    I happened to be following the wave heights closely on passage weather.com. When the hurricane was near the Bahamas as a CAT 4 they showed 12 - 14 meter waves and then when it went out to open sea initially as a CAT 4 they showed 14 meter plus wave heights.
  11. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    The ship sailed with technicians from the boiler manufacturer on board. This leads me to believe they had some serious boiler issues going on that the ships engineers can't handle on their own. Every boiler has a low speed and high speed turbine, someone told me they believe the ship sailed with only one turbine working. The last report of the ship is they lost power and had a flooding and 15 degree list going on. Where the ship went down, it could go from 15,000 to 3,000 to 1500 feet very quickly. However when the ship sailed it Joaquin was simply as tropical storm and blossomed into a category 4 overnight......I believe 50' waves are definately probable in a category 4 hurricane.
  12. SMR-PILOT

    SMR-PILOT Member

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    I actually went to school with Danielle at Maine Maritime. I wasn´t close to her or anything, but I clearly remember her as a sweet girl. I´ve always admired women that go into this career and that love and respect the sea. I could not believe it when I saw her name in the news, it´s just terrible for something like this to happen nowadays. I feel even worse for the other MMA grads who had just recently come out of school and were just starting their careers aboard "el faro". I worked on a vessel similar in size to el Faro, the "Lykes Discoverer", we crossed the northern atlantic many times but there was this one time that we had to battle a storm head on for 3 days. I just can´t imagine what a terrible experience it must be to loose propulsion in a storm like that, then to start listing, making the lifeboats useless. What do you do? launching liferafts in those conditions would also be useless. Jumping into the water would mean exposing yourself to going under the ship when it finally overturns (which is what I think finally happenned). Just terrible. Just so sad for that Crew. But this confirms a theory: all accidents are a consequence of a chain of smaller events. The storm wasn´t the only cause, i´ve read somewhere that they had some pending main engine work, then take into account the fact that the vessel was quite old. I guess we´ll never know for sure. This one more lesson for all of us on how much should you respect the sea. R.I.P. to all the crew.

    Attached Files:

  13. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    Please, do everyone a favor and at least take 1 minute to read something about boilers and steam turbines before posting absurdities like that.
  14. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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    +1 on that.

    I have previously tried to point out where totally erroneous things are posted and claimed to be fact. It does not seem to be well received or understood.

    The poster you refer to is I believe the same one who reckons he or some mate of his could change pistons and liners while the engine was still running.
  15. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    The loss of the El Faro and its crew is a tragedy and the rest of the story will probably be tragic enough without ignorant speculation by those who know absolutely nothing about the ship, its operation, or the people who sailed it. Please treat the subject with a modicum of respect, and if you are compelled to speculate, at least make some attempt to make it informed speculation.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2015
  16. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Good to see you back Marmot. Between you and K1W1 we can now get some educated perspective about what may have happened. I don't know about the propulsion systems on these ships, but you do. Since the root cause of this sinking appears to be her losing propulsion, do you have any insights from what you've heard as to what might have caused it? Do you think we'll ever know or is that just one of those secrets the sea will keep, considering how deep she may be? I'm hearing talk about that the CG will be looking for her "black box" like what's on a commercial airplane. I'm skeptical. I'm sure there's a "brain" of sorts that records engine data, and we know course and speed from the AIS, but is there such a thing that records as much info as on commercial airlines, capable of surviving submergion, on these ships or is that just media talk?

    We live in an age where we expect instant answers and someone to blame for everything that goes wrong. I personally feel that this may be a case of sometimes bad things happen to good people who do the best job they can. Life on the water is dangerous, and sometimes that's all the answer we get.
  17. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    I meant to post pressure. But upon reading about them, yes they do both have a high pressure and seperate low pressure turbine and both have seperate driveshafts. Both turbines are required to run the ship, but I think the ship could propel itself on one of them. My guess is they left port on one turbine and were working on the other turbine, I may be wrong as I know nothing about turbines, just what an engineer that worked on them told me which I posted. And, considering they have been largely phased out by more economical diesel engines, I doubt very few engineers have experience with them.

    The fact is the ship left port with technicians onboard from the Steam turbine manufacturer. The fact that the ship's full time engineers needed them on board was high probable to fix something on the turbines that they couldn't fix themselves. Something that most likely should have been addressed in port. I highly doubt that the El Fero had the turbine manufacturers technicians on board for a bbq and luxury cruise.

    What we know is the ship lost power, had a flooding issue which they reportedly contained, and was listing 15 degrees and was adrift.

    NYCAP, yes ships over 3000 ITC have been required to have a data recorder since 2010, passanger ships over 100 GT have been required to have one since 2002. Usually it's mounted on top of the pilothouse and whether it's accessable or hasn't been destroyed providing they can locate the ship, is the question.
  18. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    Thanks.

    The loss of propulsion was just one of the branches that broke, the root lies a lot deeper and I believe that is why both the CG and TOTE are not saying much. The investigation will prove interesting and I believe very embarrassing.
  19. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    Aside from the info about VDRs (Google Furuno VDR for more information) the quote above is the only and I mean only thing correct in your post. Please stop posting really wrong and misleading stuff.
  20. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    Marmot, why don't you enlighten us with your vast knowledge of steam turbine powered ships and tell us how a steam turbine works and why there would be technicians from the steam engine manufacturer on this fatal and final voyage of the El Faro and why they may have lost propulsion resulting in the fatal sinking of the vessel.

    In laymans terms I'm under the presumption that you have a boiler that heats the water into steam, that steam pressure (usually around 900 psi from what I've been reading) goes into/spins a high pressure turbine that has a gear reduction that turns a shaft usually around 100 rpms and from the high pressure turbine the steam then goes into a low pressure turbine that also turns a gear reduction shaft that propels the vessel. Can you add and correct this thinking?
  21. Chasm

    Chasm Senior Member

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    What many reports miss is that the ship also had a RoRo deck.
    Several incidents in the past showed that problems on RoRo ships (usually ferries like Estonia or car carries like Baltic Ace) can escalate into a fast sinking in very little time indeed.

    To me one of the more interesting questions will be if modern covered life boats would have given them a chance. As per the opinions I've read abandon ship in open life boats was not a survivable option for them given the Hurrican situation.

    Another and more theoretical question if the fact that they had additional welders/technicians postponed the decision to punch out. Say, would there have been enough time for an airlift if they called for one immediately after losing propulsion? - Or is that just pure fantasy.
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