January 18, 2012

New Hope for Lord Jim

Although Holger and Tracy removed all of Lord Jim’s planking and did a total hull refit, that was the easy part.

© 2012 Holger Kreuzhage

It’s been five years since the Sausalito-based schooner Lord Jim hit an uncharted rock and sank off the coast of Brazil. It turned out that raising the 44-ton vessel and repairing her hull damage was easy compared to battling to free her from the seemingly corrupt owners of the boatyard in Mangaratiba where she has been held captive ever since. 

As regular readers will recall, an extensive refit was completed nearly three years ago, but after a disagreement with the yard’s owners — who literally dismantled their own marine railway in order to hold the boat hostage — Lord Jim has languished, with her longtime owners Holger Kreuzhage and Tracy Brown unable to access her.

Less tenacious sailors probably would have given up and walked away long ago. But Holger and Tracy were determined to fight back against their beloved vessel’s corrupt ‘jailer’, and recently won a game-changing victory. "The judge gave us a big Christmas present!" wrote Holger recently. "We won an enormous victory in that he ordered our opponents to repair all the damages to the boat which were caused by holding the boat hostage for the last three years, and get the boat in ‘navigable’ condition for launching at the expense of the yard." This, in addition to substantial monetary penalties, may finally inspire to the yard’s owners to act, whereas they ignored previous court orders.

Once the pride of Antigua’s luxury charter fleet, this 72-ft gaff tops’l schooner also has the distinction of having circumnavigated more times than any other San Francisco Bay-based vessel — as far as we know, anyway. Look for more details on this uplifting turn of events in future editions of Latitude 38.

On Engine Air Filters

"When I changed the air filter on my Beta Marine 1505 air filter recently, I recalled the claims of other manufacturers that their engines didn’t need an air filter for marine applications," writes Jay Bietz, who sails his Westsail 32 Pygmalion out of Alameda. "After seeing all the black stuff on my filter after only 155 engine hours, I’m glad the Beta Marine includes one on their engines. And thanks for the diesel maintenance article in the November issue!"

This black residue will quickly clog a filter but, according to Tom List, fine particulate such as this won’t damage an unfiltered engine.

© 2012 Jay Bietz

Jay’s instinct to change his filter after just 155 hours turned out to be a good one, because, as Tom List of Sausalito’s List Marine noted in January’s Letters, the denser the filter on your air intake, the more it needs to be cleaned or replaced. But the fine black residue on Jay’s filter wouldn’t be likely to damage a non-filtered engine.

"Diesels used in agriculture or in cars and trucks often are used on dusty roads, which can damage the inside of an engine," Tom explained to us. "Dust is very abrasive and will score the metal, but boats don’t normally have a lot of dust. Virtually nothing in the marine environment will damage a diesel engine, except water — even cat hair will go through just fine."

So while we’re glad Jay is thrilled with his engine — and that he’s taking such excellent care of it — we’re not worried that our Yanmar will kick the bucket any sooner for not having an air filter.

Marine engines — as with every piece of equipment we buy for our boats — are highly personal so you should choose the one you like the best, then maintain it regularly. If you do that, you’re going a long way toward ensuring your engine will run well for as long as you own the boat.

Who’s in Charge of a Vessel?

We always assumed that it was a captain’s decision whether to put to sea or not, particularly if bad weather is approaching. But that doesn’t seem to be the thinking of British Admiralty Registrar Robert Jervis Kay.

In December of ’06, delivery skipper John Anstess of Plymouth, England, and Southern Californian crew Dave Rodman and Richard Beckman, died when the 44-ft Voyage 440 catamaran Cat Shot they were delivering for Reliance Yacht Management of Farnborough, England, got caught in a horrible storm off the coast of Northern California, capsized, and washed up on the beach. Apparently the boat was in something of a rush to be delivered in time for the Seattle Boat Show, although the show was nearly two months away.

The body of Anstess, 55, was never found. His sister sued Reliance in British Admiralty Court in September of ’10. Some of the details of the case were just released, but to our mind not the most pertinent stuff. In justifying his decision, Registrar Kay said that Reliance had "pressured" Anstess, who had apparently suggested leaving the boat in San Diego for the winter, into continuing on toward Seattle. Kay went so far as to absolve Anstess, who everyone agreed was a highly trained and extremely experienced mariner, of even partial responsibility for setting sail into a tremendous storm.

Reliance responded angrily to the ruling. "Anstess was a true professional, and it would be a sleight to his character to suggest that he would allow himself to put the crew and boat in undue danger for financial reasons or was pressured to do so by management or non-sailing administrative staff."

We wish the nature of the "pressure" on Anstess had been revealed in detail by Registrar Kay. Perhaps a gun to the forehead of Anstess’ oldest son, if he had one, or a knife held to the throat of his mother. With all due respect to the dead, had we been in Anstess’ Topsiders, and had we had the weather information he had, we can’t imagine anything short of preventing the murder of our family members that could have pressured us to put to sea from San Francisco Bay that morning. "Kiss our ass!" would have been our last words to Reliance after we secured the cat to the dock and left town for somewhere warm.

We have no idea what Cat Shot crewmen Rodman and Beckman were thinking, and if they had objections to continuing. But according the report in the January 2007 issue of Latitude, the weather forecast showed a huge storm was on its way out of the Gulf of Alaska and was due to hit Washington and Oregon in just a few days. You just don’t knowingly go out into stuff like that. Particularly in catamarans, which are not immune to flipping in severe weather. After all, it hadn’t been that many years before when a Lagoon 42 catamaran departed the Northeast on a delivery to the Caribbean in winter. She got into a bad storm, and neither she or her crew were ever heard from again.

Another consideration is that it’s generally easier to go north from San Francisco to Seattle in the winter because heavy weather is more predictable and there are often generous periods of calm between storms.

Clouding the situation is a previous incident that would seem to suggest that Reliance may have asked their delivery skippers to do unsafe things. Just two months before Anstess and his crew were killed, delivery skipper Steve Hobley of Newton Abbot, England, died when the 38-ft catamaran he was delivering across the Atlantic for Reliance was overwhelmed by 45-ft waves and capsized. The two crew, American Kevin Klinges and Ollie Templeman of Poole, England, hung on for 11 hours before the U.S. Coast Guard managed to rescue them. The cat was initially to be delivered across the Atlantic to Miami but part of the way across, Reliance told the captain to change course for the much more northerly Annapolis.

Any seasoned skipper knows that you don’t deliver a boat across the Atlantic to north of Miami in the winter, and only to Miami because you can almost always quickly dive to the south if trouble starts heading your way. Call us chicken if you want, but had we been in Hobley’s shoes, and Reliance had told us to change destinations to Annapolis, we’d have had a simple two-word answer for them. The first would have started with an ‘F’, and the second would have ended with a ‘U’.

According to news reports, crewman Klinges testified that Reliance told Capt. Hobley that if he didn’t divert to Annapolis, he wouldn’t work for the company again. Shame, shame, shame on Reliance if that’s true. But that should have been an idle threat, because who would want to work for a company that would request such a change in route at that time of year? Once again, had it been us, Reliance would have gotten the same two-word response. We would have sailed the catamaran to Miami as originally planned, then chained the boat to the dock until we and our crew got paid in full.

It seems to us that the principle here is who is in the command of a vessel — and we’re somewhat surprised to learn that a British Registrar apparently believes it’s not the captain, but rather someone — perhaps not even a sailor — in a warm office thousands of miles from the boat itself. Does that seem as weird to you as it does to us?

We want to emphasize that we mourn for those mariners who lost their lives or suffered in these incidents, repeat that we’re not privy to all the evidence, and acknowledge that hindsight is 20/20. Nonetheless, if the loss of these sailors’ lives is not to be in vain, it will be because all other sailors will have learned that it’s the captain of the vessel who should call the shots on the vessel he/she commands. After all, it’s the life of his/her crew, as well as himself/herself, that is at stake.

We’re interested in knowing what you think.

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