December 12, 2001
Ocean Planet Investion Test
Nelson's Yard, Alameda, CA
We've all read accounts of boats turned upside down in monster seas. The esoterica of measurement rules highlight the safety of the "limits of positive stability". In short, that range where an upside down boat wants to stay upside down - "turtled".
If you're going to go racing around the world today, you have to prove that you can get your boat back upright when it's upside down. Bruce Schwab put his Open 60 Ocean Planet through the drill on December 12th - it was quite a show.
First, the mast was removed (it's tough to find a place with 85 feet of water where you can turn the boat over!), and all loose gear topside and below decks was removed or secured. The engine exhaust was plugged and she was towed into place for the test. A large truck mounted Navy crane (this being the old Alameda Naval Base) did the honors of pulling up on the keel bulb with a pair of straps to get Ocean Planet upside down with Bruce inside. Getting her back upright was up to Bruce.
On the first attempt to capsize Ocean Planet, the straps slipped off the bulb when she was only heeled about 40 degrees. The second attempt got her nicely upside down.
The pictures below tell most of the story, including Bruce's own words in quotes that he put out after the test. Islander Past Commodore Art Fowler rounded up Treasurer Harry Farrell and photographer Rick Van Mell to witness the event - it was a great day with little wind and warm sum. Enjoy - and hope you don't ever have to live through your boat being upside down!
For those of you who would like to know more about Ocean Planet (or even sign up to sail aboard as she leaves San Francisco Bay to sail to Florida), try: www.oceanplanet.org
Pictures are compliments of Rick Van Mell. Click on images to enlarge, click "Back" to return.
Last Dockside preparations. Art Fowler & Harry Farrell ready to watch. The bow camera takes those thrilling pics. The divers wanted their pics too! Bruce Schwab instructs tow boat. Casting off for the test basin. Under way. Cockpit shot & small hatch to be closed. Bruce at the helm. Spectators fill the barge as Planet comes around. Here she comes. Backing the stern toward shore. Bruce checks the straps. Everything looks OK. Diver going in. Diver placing 1st strap. Now the second strap. Ready to flip. First try pulling up. It got about this far and slipped back upright! Trying again. Look how she floats! Crane holds 9,000 lb bulb, 7,000 boat hardly dents water. Almost over. Stable as a church! San Francisco in the background. Ok, now what???? "I opened the deck air vents for the starboard water ballast tank (usually used to let the air OUT) to let the tank start to fill. It filled some and I also started to pump water in with a manual pump that is set up for filling the ballast tanks while upside down." "I pumped for quite a while, about 45 minutes or so, before I realized that the water I was pumping into the tank was just draining out of the air (now water) vents." (Still straight as the light pole.) Harry & Art on barge, each side of keel. Harry & Art supervise. Diver checks to see if radar mast in in the mud. Sorry Bruce, there's 8 feet of water under radar mast. "After closing them (vents) I made much better headway. However, the pump is small and the tank very large..... It seemed like about 500,000 pump strokes before we were getting close. I wanted to hurry since the companionway hatch was leaking just a little... enough to get kinda deep in the sump, er, coachroof...." A little helper. Gunwale above water, but not enough weight aloft. Is this more help? "Every so often I would go up to the sail locker and walk back and forth across the floor, er, cabintop, to get the boat rocking and see if she would go." "When she didn't it was back to the pumping, this went back and forth a few times." "Finally, with the ballast tank about 1/3 full, I got her rocking enough to go over." (Ballast tank is 800 gallons.) The keel hit the water with a mighty slap - note the keel line in the water and the expanding wave ring around the boat. "It was strange, one moment I was standing on the cabintop on the LEFT side of the boat, then taking a couple steps on the side as we rolled up, then I was standing on the RIGHT side of the boat. Kinda fun, really. The whole thing took about 2 and half hours I think." "Thanks to everyone who came to watch! You encouraged me to pump faster... Also a big thanks to Trident, the folks running the big crane to flip us over, and Nelsons boatyard for all the help."
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