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Old 09-02-2019, 11:03 AM   #1
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Emergency escape hatch

The fire in So Cal. reminds me to suggest that anyone buying a larger boat insist that it have two exits from the sleeping area.

IMO the main passage from an aft or mid cabin is not sufficient. There needs to be a second exit not requiring using the main passage.

Forward berths often have a hatch overhead that would serve as a second escape point but other cabins frequently have only one way out.
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Old 09-02-2019, 11:13 AM   #2
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When we bought our aft cabin sundeck boat the escape hatch in the sundeck had been removed and decked over by some PO. The very first thing I did to the boat was to cut the deck and install a new hatch. The only other way out of the aft cabin is through the salon which is over the engine room. Hopefully we would never have a fire but if one were to happen it would be in the engine room. The disaster in California is heartbreaking. I personally would never stay on one of those boats due to this type of situation.
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Old 09-02-2019, 12:08 PM   #3
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The fire in So Cal. reminds me to suggest that anyone buying a larger boat insist that it have two exits from the sleeping area.

IMO the main passage from an aft or mid cabin is not sufficient. There needs to be a second exit not requiring using the main passage.

Forward berths often have a hatch overhead that would serve as a second escape point but other cabins frequently have only one way out.
Good point! alternate ways of escape from compartments is huge.
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Old 09-02-2019, 12:10 PM   #4
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Yes, I had to sleep in the aft cabin for one night before I could get the hatch installed and I was not very comfortable thinking about what could happen.
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Old 09-02-2019, 12:19 PM   #5
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We were close to buying a Seahorse 52 prior to buying Sonas. One of my issues back to the selling broker was there was only one way out of the main cabin. He said you are right, you would have to come up with another solution if you bought the boat.

I even looked at the forward bulkhead in the ER to see what was possible and it would have been hellishly expensive.

Sonas has the stairway exit and roomy exit through ER and lazarette.
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Old 09-02-2019, 12:29 PM   #6
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When we bought our boat, the dinghy was in tip-up brackets on the swim platform. Lashed in place, it made an effective exit out the escape hatch at least unlikely, maybe impossible. One of my first changes was adding a Hurley bracket that stores the dinghy flat on the swim platform, uncovering the escape hatch.
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Old 09-02-2019, 12:43 PM   #7
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Truth Aquatics dive boat "Concepcion" just burned and sank off Santa Cruz Island. estimated 35 passengers missing. Appears as though the bunkroom was on the bottom deck. Bunks are stacked 3 deep. One bow stairway leading up to dining area. Might have been a second exit near engine room. Deck plan isn't detailed enough. Dining area exited out doors on aft end.

Capacity of 46. Fire happened at 4AM. 5 crew members are only survivors. USCG hasn't released any details. First impression is a fire and heavy smoke at 4AM in a crowded belowdecks bunkroom is going to be difficult to escape. Divers are usually trained to keep their head on straight so it may have been a pileup at the exit. If it was a galley fire on the deck above they were doomed.

I predict a big overhaul of charter boat industry requiring not just more exits but better lighting and fire fighting equipment. Crew of captain, 2 deckhands, and 2 cooks probably weren't trained in firefighting or evacuation. They bailed.

Conclusion, have a plan and practice it.
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Old 09-02-2019, 12:50 PM   #8
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Do people put fire sprinklers in boats? Just like in buildings, they are life savers, washing smoke out of the air and cooling the fire down.
Imagine trapped below decks its dark, no lights or little light to see, mass panic, screams, bodies piled up in the way, the air is thick with acrid smoke, you can't breathe and raging fire is blocking your path out.
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Old 09-02-2019, 12:59 PM   #9
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Fire on a boat is the worst case scenario because you have nowhere to go. My plan is not to go on head boats or cruise ships because I have no control over the plan or equipment on board. My wife always wants to go on cruise ships and I say no thanks. Yes you do need a plan. And brief everyone on board where the emergency equipment is and how it works.
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Old 09-02-2019, 02:15 PM   #10
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I agree with the need for a plan, and the multiple escape points. But as or more importantly, actually practicing the plan and use of the escape points.

On our old Hatteras, we had two big oversized portlights over the MSR bed on the transom. The forward SR had a big hatch overhead. Getting out through any of those was not easy at first. The MSR ones inspired some dieting on our part as well as some repair; the first practice was some real slapstick comedy. Would not have been funny in the least if our first attempt was in an emergency.

The next thing I'll point out is, OK, you have the escape points. Do you have a PFD handy too and all the accoutrements?
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Old 09-02-2019, 04:46 PM   #11
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One of the first things we did after we purchased our used boat and before we brought her home was to have the ER fire suppression system inspected for proper operation. She does have a hatch in the v berth but we never thought to try to climb up thru it. We will have to give that a try
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Old 09-02-2019, 05:16 PM   #12
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We have our halon bottle certified every year. The only way to be sure if it is really charged is to take it out and weigh it. It costs me $10 for peace of mind. My friend just sold his boat and the surveyor was amazed that the halon cert was within date. He said that it was the first one he had found that was current.
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Old 09-02-2019, 05:18 PM   #13
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The better half insisted that our boat have a door leading out of the aft cabin onto the cockpit- best idea ever!
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Old 09-02-2019, 05:32 PM   #14
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Let me add something to the hatch discussion. The Master cabin in my boat is all the way forward. There is a hatch over the end of the island queen. Standing on the end of the bed, you can sort of throw the hatch open. At 60 with a loss of muscle mass in my shoulders, I can't pull myself up and out. While I'm sure there will be some adrenaline rush to help, still didn't feel confident. I keep 4' a A frame step ladder in the closet. It takes 30 seconds to pull it out, open it, and start climbing.

My point is simple. Most of us are old, many are overweight, and some of us don't have the strength we think we have. Before you think you have an escape hatch, prove everyone can climb out of it unassisted.

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Old 09-02-2019, 05:36 PM   #15
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My wife and I are able to climb out of the escape hatch. I have not tried to lift my 85 pound black lab up and out. But he is really good at climbing so I think that I would be able to get him out.
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Old 09-02-2019, 05:42 PM   #16
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We have our halon bottle certified every year. The only way to be sure if it is really charged is to take it out and weigh it. It costs me $10 for peace of mind. My friend just sold his boat and the surveyor was amazed that the halon cert was within date. He said that it was the first one he had found that was current.
Also one of the first things we did - all new fire extinguishers and recertification of the Halon ER auto system (15 yrs since last re-cert). Was told by the tech that Halon is the best extinguishing gas ever - can't get new one's with Halon now due to it being a member of the 'freon' family. Now to just lose enough weight to get out of those large hatches above our bed on the aft end - lands us on the swim platform.
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Old 09-02-2019, 06:04 PM   #17
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The newer extinguishing agents work just fine, but most of them do require more agent than a halon system to cover the same volume of space. So the units are bigger and heavier.
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Old 09-02-2019, 06:14 PM   #18
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And more costly.
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Old 09-02-2019, 06:29 PM   #19
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I have seen many escape hatches blocked by dinghy installations, etc., but can't recall having seen a boat whose cabins lacked emergency hatches / portholes. Are boats actually made without emergency escapes?
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Old 09-02-2019, 06:31 PM   #20
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My forward cabin has a hatch over the bunk onto the deck, easy enough to climb out of. The aft cabin has no real escape hatch. Although it wouldn't be too hard to slide open one of the side windows, punch out the screen and crawl out onto the side deck with how they're placed. Doing it without tossing yourself right into the water might be a bit of a challenge though.
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