A story from Japan (about an incident in NY)

As part of preparing for our trip to Japan, I’ve been following the Japanese cruising message boards. Overall, they haven’t been particularly interesting, and have generally been in Japanese. I now get 20-30 spam emails a day in Japanese!

Today was an exception. There was a posting on a “Sail Japan” board that was interesting reading, and in english! It’s written by someone who had their boat in the marina during a fire.

Here it is:

6:40 am, walk out onto my aft deck and get a whiff of something burning, but no smoke so I go shower and shave. 7:15am, walk out of office after shower and smell a lot of smoke and someone yelling a boat was on fire. Drop off toiletries, tell Admiral to take some pictures just in case we need them. Run from D Dock to E dock to help as most of the boats now are liveaboards. Along the way, I help a fireman carry his equipment to the scene as well.

E Dock: See smoke pouring out of the pilot house, pitch black and rolling (not good). Immediately start to work with the aft lines to allow the firemen easier access to the Viking 63 MY. I also look to see if the boat next to it Across the finger too was pulled away. It was now at a 45 degree angle in the slip as the previous tenent had left his seadoo storage things there.

Watch the firemen start to layout their hoses and try to enter from the aft deck as well. At this point, we still do not know if anyone is inside. Other Firemen by this time had gone on the bow and started to break the windows in the pilot house (not sure why, but…). They also opened the other pilot house door, allowing oxygen (third leg of the triangle) in. So far no orange or flames sited. Dockmaster in the meantime is trying to call the owner of the Viking on his cell phone.

I notice smake coming out of a clamshell vent (tiny) at this point right next to the windows for the aft cabin where the masters suite is. I point this out at this time. By now, firemen have entered the saloon with a fire hose as well. But since the water is not on (or whatever) the hoses are useless. I am about 20 ft away right now. So far no fire too.

A fireman then decides to break the window to the aft cabin. Right afterwords the aft cabin lit up fast and furious (remember what I said about the third leg…) and the conflagration has started in earnest.

I start yelling about the aft cabin being engulfed within seconds. The man in charge starts to get all the firemen off the boat (there is still no water in the hoses). I start to loosen up the rest of the docklines a bit to get them off faster as they were in full equipment. After they were all off i was pushed away to the south, as the viking becomes engulfed. There is no water coming out of the standpipes and a firehose is hung up inside the yacht as well.

I am now maybe 30 ft from the yacht with no way to get back to my family on the other dock as the flames start to consume the yacht and explosion inside happen at odd times as well.

I watch the wind pattern and start to yell across to the friends on my dock (D Dock) to get my wife and kid out of our boat. By this time, the dock was lit as well so there was no way i was getting through.

They ended up having to call in a third fire company and running hose from the street to the dock (a very long ways) to get pressure to use the fire hoses. By this time I notice my wife and kid flying off our boat and they disappear into the black smoke.

Neighbors of ours on E Dock by this time had woke up and jumped off their sailboat with some cameras and video cameras and started to work even though their boat was only one empty slip away from the conflagration.

I start to look for a way off E Dock now as well. But the only way to go is up by the fuel barge and to the T Dock there. Nope I am now stuck on the wrong side of the dock big time (it was nice and warm though).

By this time the dockmaster had confirmed that no one was aboard and had spoken with the owner. I then mention to the 2 taking pictures that maybe they might want to think about moving their boat as well. So the guy starts the engine on the sailboat while still taking many photo’s.

I jump on to help them toss off lines etc… And they get stuck going out of the slip at low tide (I think) and in the end even though we got out of the slip we were pushed into the pilings on E Dock. After a bit of trying, the NYPD Harbor Patrol threw us off the baot when the transmission blew and we tied up across the end of a slip and were sent to a fireboat to be put on D Dock. I never even noticed the second boat go up, but dock boxes were burning on both sides of the dock and another Liveaboard (who has a Hatt 53 MY and knows us here was next to the other yacht as it went up.

He got off safely, and while there were no signs of damage to the boat last night…

I run down D Dock and thank my Friend Chris for helping Yukari and Erin get away. and then wait until we were told by the fire department to leave the dock. I then go to find them.

On the street I finally run into them in the parking lot across the street. Erin is okay, though a bit smudged, and in her PJ’s with only a jacket. Yukari runs off to work now.

After hanging out for a bit in the coffee shop next door, I decide to get Erin some clothes off our boat and take her to Daycare (routine for her is soothing). Wherein I get into arguments with the OEM GUy, give up my MMD and TWIC Card to be copied and finally get some blankeys to cover the baby up from the EMT’s. I then am told to head into the Command and Control Center (the office where my day started) and get into an argument on the way there to with another firefighter but finally make my way in. I am taken with Erin in to the conference room where I am interviewed by NJ State Police, 4 USCG (2 males, 2 cute females) and Erin is then checked out by the EMT”s as well. After a bit, I am told we have to go, and asked if we have a place to go to. The answer to that is yes, but ERin needs some clothes so I have to get back on my boat.

After a bit I am escorted to my boat by a marina employee, I grab my laptop, cell phone charger, clothes for Erin, and the ever ubiquitous diaper bag and head up to the office so we can get out of there.

We got in last night to the boat at about 7:30 pm but Yukari made the decision to go to a Hotel and turned up our HEPA air filter with Ozone to high before she left the boat. So, we shall now see….

As for me, Yesterday I stank of from the fire, ended up with chills starting at 3 pm until about 4 am today and had a miserable nights sleep, but we are all okay.

Noel, Yukari, and Erin

And, on a different topic:

I mentioned a few weeks back that I had an interest in trying to monitor the flow in and out of my seachest. The seachest is a single point of failure on my boat, and in warm water, or shallow water, it can be difficult to keep the hoses, through-hulls and strainers clean and unobstructed. In fact, I’ve heard an unconfirmed rumor that Nordhavn is “rethinking their strategy” with respect to sea chests, and may not be doing them on the newer models. I am a big believer in sea chests, but also understand they need special attention. They can be your best friend, or your worst enemy, subject to the respect you give them. On my list for this winter is to increase the size of the hoses, increase the size of the through-hulls, provide a bleed vent to the sea chest, and monitor the flow in and out of the sea chest. I have only had a problem one time with my sea chest, but it was painful enough to convince me that I don’t want a repeat episode.

-Ken W

8 Responses

  1. Bill: You’ve lost me. What hot water piping are you referring to?

    I’m fairly certain this isn’t what you are talking about, but I did spend some time this week focused on the exhaust for my Kabola diesel heater. Currently, the exhaust vent for it is too close to the water line, and I can’t use it while underway. I’m moving the exhaust much higher on the boat.

    -Ken W

    PS I just re-read your message, and now understand that you are referring to the pressure relief valve on the hot water heater. I do know that it is there, and even had an “incident” with it once. I accidentally bumped it, causing all of the water in my fresh water system to quickly empty into the bilge. Within 30 minutes I had a good foot of water throughout the bilge. At first I wasn’t sure what happened. I thought the boat had sprung a leak! Once I figured it out, it was an easy fix.

    Why would I ever want to relieve the pressure from the hot water tank?

  2. Ken,

    There is an automatic vent used on hot water boilers to bleed air out of the piping.

    Not sure if you know about this or not

    Bill Kelleher

  3. Ken,

    Two subjects. First the story is related by a Japanese man in the NY City area. I say area because he mentions both the NYPD Harbor Police and a NJ state trooper. I think he is on the Jersey side because of the trooper and the inferior performance of the fire department. NYFD would have pulled water from the harbor and run lines from the street. There is the concept of “venting” a fire, but I don’t understand it.

    Second subject is intake fouling. GROCO make removable screens to be mounted as scoops over thru-hulls. If you bought extra screens, you could, when it is safe, dive on the boat and change screens. Then you could clean the screens at your leisure and store them for the next time.

    Ron

  4. Jeff… There are certainly less-expensive sensors, but I’m not sure they would work for me. I want to be able to monitor the flow precisely, so that I can spot even minor decreases in through-put. Let’s say that I am monitoring the intake to the seachest, and I am seeing a value of 20gpm, and it drops to 16. This would tell me that the line is becoming clogged, even though it might be functioning fine. My goal with this is to spot potential problems early in the process.

    I worry about any sensor that is immersed into the water. Sea water, especially in warm climates, can cause crud to build-up that can quickly disable a sensor. The sensors I’m looking at are 100% external to the fluid being measured.

    Lastly, I want these sensors to talk to my Simon Monitoring System, so that I can quickly pop the readings onto the screen in the pilot house, and set trigger points for alarms. The sensors I’m looking at put out a signal that Simon can interpret (Or, so they claim).

    Overall, I’m not happy with the cost of the sensors, or how bulky they are, or all the wiring they require, but if they do the job, they will be well worth the investment.

    Thank you!
    -Ken W

  5. David: You may be right. The story was posted on the Sail-Japan Yahoo forum, so I assumed it occured in Japan, but it didn’t seem quite right, because of the size and type of boat. -Ken W

  6. Ken, regarding your monitoring of water flow for your sea chest, I have on my boat an on demand hot water heater, and it only fires up when water is flowing through the coils. So obviously it has a sensor that tells the propane solenoid to open and fire up when there is a flow of water. My guess is that this is a fairly simple, inexpensive sensor that detects water flow. Maybe the concept could be applied in reverse to activate an alarm when water does not flow. Just a wild guess.
    On another note I enjoy reading your blog, though your cruising lifestyle is quite a bit different from mine I look forward to reading your blog, especially when you are on the boat and on the move. Merry Christmas, Jeff

  7. Hello Ken,

    I think this event happened in New York. There was a reference to this fire on the PUP forum yesterday, with a link to the Hatteras website as several of the listees knew the Father telling the story. I always enjoy reading your forum and look forward to going home to Seattle next week.

    David Evans

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