Saturday, 12 March 2011

More dramatic rescues for RCR.

River Canal Rescue have been involved in yet more dramatic rescues recently. To start with the owner of a 43ft boat called for help after getting caught by the current whilst turning. As a result he ended up wedged sideways on to a bridge on the Avon at Eckington Br. West Midlands Fire and Rescue rescued the crew but by the time they got the crew off the boat the water was lapping at the gunwale.

RCR scrambled the rescue team who arrived on site approx 3.30 together with a contractor who had a Land Rover which was attached to the boat. However, unfortunately every time they tried to pull the boat against the current it started to drag the Land Rover back. So back up was called in from York which arrived at 6pm together with other team members.

The boat stern was grounded on the far bank, with it’s bow wedged against the bridge by the force of the river water (which was in flood) resulting in the boat being at a 30 degree angle. The decision was taken to attempt the rescue in two stages so, with a safely line to the bridge and two engineers on-board, the first stage began. This was to pull the boat by the stern towards the opposite bank using a line which was rigged to the Land Rover. After a number of attempts the boat was beached bow first on to the opposite shore with it’s stern wedged against the bridge.

The second stage was to reposition the Land Rover and with a shorter rope swing the stern away for the centre of the river towards the shore and use the engine power to reverse the boat to the small jetty. During a number of attempts the rope snapped, not helped by operating in the dark, the engineers knew that time was now of the essence as the boat was in serious danger of capsizing. Due to the angle it had been sitting at for several hours the outlets had been under water and as a result water had been pouring in and filing up the boat. Finally using the engine power and the Land Rover the boat was finally dragged around and secured to the jetty.

Onboard the bilges were working overtime and loosing the battle to keep the boat afloat, more bridge pumps were installed but the water was still rising. A quick decision was taken and in order to right the listing boat all personnel had to get onboard on the opposite side and use there combined weight to even the boat and lift the submerged outlets clear of the river. A small winch was rigged up to the shore to try and keep the boat level, and after two hours of pumping the boat was finally level, free of water and safe.

At 4.30 the following day RCR received another call from a 57ft boat unbelievably in the exact same location but wedged horizontally against the bridge. The only access via boat or a ladder from the bridge. RCR alerted the rescue services to remove the boaters from the vessel for their own safety. When the engineers arrived on site at approximately 6pm they set to work assessing the situation and preparing for the rescue. The boaters were looked after by the St Johns ambulance team who had been contacted by the fire brigade after RCR explined that the rescue could take several hours. The rescue team having undertaken a rescue the previous day were quickly at work and by following the same procedure - pulling the boat backwards and using the engine power to reverse the boat they got it onto the jetty. The boaters from the previous rescue were still moored up on the jetty waiting for the river waters to recede, and this has to be moved up to make space for the second boat!

It’s worth noting that RCR charges for rescues but over the last year they have rescued 12 boats from critical situations which would have resulted in capsizing or loss of the whole boat. Stephanie Horton MD said “It’s also worth noting that from an insurance point of view a boater must undertake as many measures as possible to mitigate loss or potential loss, and that generally charges for recovery, lifting and rescue of a boat from these dangerous situations are covered by your insurance policies, however taking unnecessary risks can invalidate your insurance claim, so always assess if venturing out on to a river in flood is a sensible action; if your jorney can be avoided then don’t risk it”.

A minimum of three engineers would be dispatched for all rescue activities and RCR’s thanks go to engineers, Trevor Forman for both, Kerry Horton for both, Pete Baker for both, Pete Barnett for 1st, Aaron Forman for both, Mike Adams (contractor) for 1st.

Insurer offers advice for re launching boats

Navigators & General (N&G) together with River Canal Rescue (RCR) is reminding boat owners to carry out a number of simple and straightforward checks before they get back on the water to avoid common claims.

“RCR have found over many years of attending breakdown and emergencies that conducting maintenance checks before starting off on a cruise will reduce the risk of damage to the boat and possible injuries. There is a substantial risk that you will breakdown on your first run out, and therefore it is essential that you do your best to prevent this occurring as if something major occurs remember that insurance cannot compensate for lack of maintenance and will not cover damage caused as a result of wear and tear.” Stephanie Horton MD RCR

N&G generally sees an increase in claims notifications over March and April as boats are launched, or when owners return to find their boats have suffered damage or theft during the winter. The increased risk frost damage to pipes, water systems and engines this year are likely to have caused more undetected damage that may go un detected until too late.

Carrying out a number of simple pre-launch checks, and ensuring there is good communication with the yard or launching company can significantly help reduce the risk of potential accidents, breakdowns or worse still, sinking. Wherever possible, it is advisable for the owner to be present when the boat is launched to monitor the vessel for any unusual water ingress for at least a couple of hours after settling

These types of checks are particularly important after a harsh winter where skin fittings, pipes, engines and water/cooling systems may have been damaged or dislodged by ice. Pipes split by ice can slowly leak once submersed below the waterline often leading to sinking if not spotted. N&G have seen a number of sinking claims caused by something as simple as failing to replace a through hull fitting or re-attach an internal hose. 

Even the experienced boat owner is still at risk from complacency. Taking a small amount of time to routinely go through a number of pre season checks can prove very worthwhile.

To avoid problems, Navigators & General and RCR recommend the following:
  • check all water carrying pipes for splits or leaks 
  • have a yearly pre-season machinery maintenance check, by a boat engineer (RCR Engine inspection) 
  • do not start engines until all basic checks have been completed, including opening raw water sea cocks 
  • check fuel or gas lines and cables for wear & tear and deterioration 
  • check bilges and ensure bilge pumps are working – if water found check gearbox for contamination and locate leak. 
  • check all hoses, skin fittings, through hull fittings & hose clips 
  • have your engine serviced prior to use, and treat fuel with a treatment for water contamination and diesel bug with products similar to Marine 16. 
  • check Morse controller and steering controls to ensure free movement 

Common problems include:
  • flooring, steps and handles not being properly re-attached after servicing, which can lead to injury 
  • split pipes that only show themselves hours after a boat is underway 
  • through hull fittings not being replaced or hoses not properly re-connected, 
  • which can lead to sinking 
  • not checking engines are fully re-commissioned, which can let you down at a crucial moment or be damaged when started 
  • blocked filters and contaminated fuel due to lack of servicing and standing for long periods resulting in engine failure at crucial moments. 
  • water in gearboxes, due to being semi submerged or oil cooler leaking, causing potential failure and damage. 
“Whilst it is tempting to get out on the water at the first sign of a good spring day, spending time on these simple pre-season checks will be time well-spent as the rain, damp and storms over the winter can cause wear and tear to a boat and equipment. It’s also key to ensure there is no misunderstanding about who is to complete the maintenance and prepare the boat for launch – be it the boat owner or the boat yard or a third party. ” said James Roberts Head of Navigators & General