Those of you who don’t follow the British sailing comics may have missed the Crash Test Boat series of articles that ran in Yachting Monthly a few years back. It was a brilliant premise, cooked up by then-editor Paul Gelder: lay hands on an average plain-vanilla cruising boat and test it to death, carefully documenting everything that does and does not work when coping with various simulated emergencies. Over a period of eight months, YM systematically “tested to destruction” a 1982 Jeanneau Sun Fizz ketch and created an extremely useful series of articles and videos. All that material is now available in one book, appropriately titled The Crash Test Boat, published by Adlard Coles.
In all the book covers eight carefully crafted simulations: running aground, capsizing, a dismasting, creating a jury rig, sinking (hull breach), major leaks (failed seacock or through-hull fitting), fire onboard, and a propane explosion. The last, inevitably, wasn’t really a simulation. They actually did blow up the boat (see photo up top), sort of like blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, as a magnificent denouement to Paul’s career as a yachting journalist and editor.
It’s impossible to summarize all the useful information in this book, so you really do have to buy it. The lay-out is very succinct and user-friendly, with lots of useful photos and well thought out conclusions and recommendations on how to prepare for and cope with each emergency situation. There are even QR codes prominently displayed for each chapter, so you can quickly access the relevant videos online.
My advice would be to read the book closely, study the videos, make your own conclusions about what information is useful to you, equip your boat accordingly, then keep your copy of the book onboard your boat.
The dismasting. The book includes detailed tests and recommendations on what tools work best to clear the rig
Fire onboard! Find out what extinguishers work best for what sort of fires
High and dry. Tips on how to get off again and how to survive the ordeal if you don’t
Rolled in a capsize. There are very simple things you can do to minimize the damage
Paul Gelder admires the aftermath of the propane explosion
The section on major leaks give a good sense of how creative the YM team was in testing different solutions to different problems. In addition to trying to stem the leaks they created with various commercial products–the proverbial soft wood plugs we all wire to our through-hulls, Forespar’s Truplug synthetic bung, etc.–they also tried potatoes and carrots, which worked pretty darned well.
Each section also contains “real-life story” anecdotal accounts of actual emergencies and how they were resolved, so you can compare simulated experience to the real thing.
The Crash Test Boat (2013, Adlard Coles Nautical); Forward by Mike Golding; Edited by Paul Gelder; 176 pp.
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