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Old 03-26-2023, 10:21 AM   #1
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Donít Get Stuck

It pays to be on the smallish side and lithe if the surveyor wants to do a complete job and get into those tight spots where maintenance is almost always neglected and surprises are often found. Iím not small but not too big either but with age Iíve sustained more than my share of orthopedic surgeries and put on a few pounds all of which tend to limit a manís squeezabilty. On three different occasions Iíve gotten myself nearly stuck once requiring the help of somebody pulling me out by my feet. This happened once on a Bealís Island style lobster boat where I knew there were lots of broken frames and upset floors or pounders as they are locally known to Ď Downeaster Ď Maine fishermen. I needed a couple of photos from my small film camera. This little Canon never let me down and had a great flash for jobs like this. Without photos I was just blowing smoke.

I crawled in aft of the reduction gear with my headlight and wiggled aft about four frame bays. Saw what I needed, snapped about 6-8 shots but when I tried to back out I couldnít get any purchase or something to push out on. Turning around was impossible and like a complete fool still had my hammer in the side pocket of my overalls. My partner and I always wore overalls pockets full of tools. The hammer handle was sticking out a ways keeping me from raising up my butt and stomach to gain some wiggle room above the floor Timbers. I was stuck and was now going through deep breaths and mental games to settle down and keep from hyperventilating.

I had to get rid of that damned hammer. I tried to wedge it into a deck beam and tear the pocket open but the overalls were too tough. I had a clip-it knife in my right pants pocket but my overalls were over my pants so reaching for that pocket was tricky and hard. Finally I got it now I had to transfer it to my left hand. I couldnít get my crippled shoulders to cooperate but figured maybe I could just drop it in a frame bay in front of me and catch it with my left hand as it slid down toward the keel. The risk was making sure it didn't get by my hand and fall into the hollow keel below. Anyway I grabbed it then painfully worked my left hand behind me and sliced open my pocket releasing the hammer. I sighed and rested a few minutes and was now able to hump up and back out. That was close. Well I donít crawl those built-down flat run lobster boats anymore but this was assignment involving a fishing company, six boats and bankruptcy court. The hammer is still there.

Rick
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Old 03-26-2023, 12:12 PM   #2
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Definitely one of my fears. I've heard from others surveyors who have gotten stuck and had to be rescued. Fortunately technology has advanced enough now I always have my watch on and can use it to call for help. :-)
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Old 03-26-2023, 01:59 PM   #3
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Had a similar situation when changing an exhaust gasket on a Cat 3216B from above. I was sardined into the engine bay at about a 45 deg angle, and couldn't back up. Didn't have my phone in reach either, just lay there for a little while, trying to relax and think it through. I know what you mean by trying not to hyperventilate! Finally managed to wriggle out like a centipede.
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Old 03-26-2023, 04:26 PM   #4
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So underwater we have a word for this. We call it being keyed. It happens when there is a tight asymmetrical restriction which does not lend itself to travel in the opposite direction. Itís killed many a diver including two whom I have known.

When diving these restrictions its usually fins off plus you never proceed through with both hands ahead.

If you only use one hand going forward youíll always have use of the back hand when you get stuck. A friend of mine didnít do this and when the current ripped the regulator out of his mouth he almost drowned. Fortunately he was fat enough to stop the flow and he was able to recover his second stage.

In addition I recommend using two tanks in a no mount config for these types of restrictions, push one ahead and pull the second behind or leave it to your buddy to push forward.
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Old 03-26-2023, 05:31 PM   #5
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Cafesport; that is some really good safety info not only for your situations but sure would have helped me. If I had one arm back it would have made a big difference. But crawling through a hull doesnít offer any buoyancy so most of the time I have to pull myself forward. Iím out of the business now but if I had to, Iíd rethink my approach and clothing with your advice. Thanks

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Old 03-26-2023, 06:00 PM   #6
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It's not just in the engine room. I once slipped down the stairs into a forward vee berth on a small boat and couldn't get a purchase on anything to stand up and extricate myself. Finally wangled my way out but it was a scary event.
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Old 03-26-2023, 06:23 PM   #7
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I used to have a mid 70s 35' Bruno and Stillman Downeast as a charter boat. Going under the deck at the rudder and shimmying my way past the fuel tank to fasten down the benches on the deck was a treat. On the starboard side, it required going under the fiberglass exhaust pipe, and then tuning 90 degrees. I had to completely exhale, keep my back flat, and turn my head to the right to rub my way under. I've been cave diving for about 20 years in some very tight places, but couldn't bring myself to go under the exhaust pipe unless the boat was blocked in the boatyard.

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Old 03-26-2023, 06:56 PM   #8
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OC Diver; thatís what Iím talking about crawling arround under the work deck of lobster style hull like the Bruno. Iíve crawled my share of Brunoís to look at tanks but I wouldnít do it again. Itís one thing to go under for a look but you were crawling around taking care of business. I used to try to get Bruno 42 owners to cut some hatches but very few did. So we cut out the work deck replace those crappy tanks and replace the deck and tile them.

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Old 03-27-2023, 05:23 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by garbler View Post
OC Diver; thatís what Iím talking about crawling arround under the work deck of lobster style hull like the Bruno. Iíve crawled my share of Brunoís to look at tanks but I wouldnít do it again. Itís one thing to go under for a look but you were crawling around taking care of business. I used to try to get Bruno 42 owners to cut some hatches but very few did. So we cut out the work deck replace those crappy tanks and replace the deck and tile them.

Rick
The deck on mine had some soft spots and the 2 layers of plywood had saturated. So after 2 years of charters, I cut the deck out, replaced the fuel tank with a larger one, put the deck back with 1/4" aluminum with 1/4 x 2" stiffeners, and sprayed the deck with Linex. The extra 40 gallons of fuel was less than the weight savings in the decking material.

Ted
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Old 03-27-2023, 06:09 AM   #10
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A few years ago , dead of winter I go to check on my boat. There is no one around. On the way out I see my friends car behind his boat / Silverton . I stop to say hello and I hear a low thump from the hull. I climb on board and find him stuck in the engine room. Heís 6í5Ē and 300lb. And his pants are half off. Not pretty. Heís definitely stuck . He was trying to stop a bilge pump alarm got stuck and then dropped his phone in the bilge. I had to call the security guard to help. If we werenít laughing so much it would have been easier
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Old 03-27-2023, 07:39 AM   #11
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I learned my don't get stuck lesson before cell phones. Working around the property putting a new clutch in my tractor. I thought I had everything all set up and ready to go when I separated the engine from the transmission. I brought the cordless phone handset with me 'just in case'. Well, just in case happened and I needed help. 1st problem was the phone was damned hard to reach. Arm's length isn't the same when you're in a bind. 2nd problem was the barn was out of range of the base station and I was home alone. I did manage to get out of the situation lesson learned.

From the on if I want to / need to do something that can pin me or I can get stuck and I cant or don't want to wait for someone to keep an eye on me I call someone who I can count on and tell them what I'm about to do and give them a contact # they can call to help me. Tell them to call that # if they haven't heard from me in an hour. Haven't been stuck or pinned since the tractor incident.
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Old 03-27-2023, 07:44 AM   #12
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There are a couple of places on the boat where there's some risk of this. The worst for me is the access to the steering gear, which involves basically diving head-first behind the fuel tanks and working upside down. The opening between the edge of the tank and the edge of the access hatch is only about 10 inches deep, so it's not a great space to get into (and it's only another few inches to the transom from the edge of the hatch).

Any time I'm in a space like that, I make sure my phone is within reach at all time. And when I'm working on the boat while it's in inside storage over the winter, I avoid going into those places unless there's someone else around working on their boat. The phone is only so much use to call for help when I'm in a locked building... Fortunately I've yet to get myself stuck, only a few "getting out of here might be interesting" moments.
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Old 03-27-2023, 09:29 AM   #13
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My problem is I still think I’m 30. My ability to do boat yoga has diminished considerably. I can usually figure out a way in but once in that awkward position I stiffen up and have trouble getting out. Although it annoys my bride I’ve taken to not getting into those awkward positions without her standing close by. She complains she could be doing something else but it has saved me more than once. She’s 4’10” and ~100lbs. On occasion I swallow my pride and ask her to do the boat yoga with me giving her the step by step. Or unfortunately need to hire out the work which drives me nuts because in the past I could do it.
Working use sandals I can kick off. Nothing with laces. Long sleeve shirts with no pockets. Long pants with as few pockets as possible . All tools and parts are put in the space in front of me. Wife hands me that which I inevitably forget I needed and it’s passed forward. I find paper cups or bowls helpful to put things in and don’t use my pockets. If I stiffen up I get out and stretch. As I go in I take a second to make sure I can get out before going further in. Use a flashlight but always have the phone for a second light and pictures as I take things apart.

Sucks getting old bt still better then the alternative.
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Old 03-27-2023, 09:56 AM   #14
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The last yard I worked at we had a Phillipino guy who was about 5í 3Ē maybe 125 lbs and strong. He was a welder but he was always getting called into other jobs to crawl tight spaces. He was a human ferret and worth twice what they paid him. Anyway we laugh about these close calls, as you have to remain sane, but you can really get hurt in these scenarios. As a surveyor I could just refuse but not smart enough or trying to show off was what got me into these messes. For a boat owner it seems to me you are stuck in that you either get in there and do it or it doesnít get fixed unless you have nearby help

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Old 03-27-2023, 11:09 AM   #15
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I'm not claustrophobic but this discussion is stressing me out just reading it. I can still do quite a bit of "engine bay yoga" - ha! -- but I decided some time ago not to do that kind of thing if I'm ever alone on the boat. Sometimes that really hampers getting things done, but I just don't want to get stuck, or worse, get stuck in a position where I can't breathe very well. And having two young, skinny boys in our family has been very helpful lately...

I worked for my father's commercial diving company in college. We didn't do much deep work, it was mostly bridges and pilings and power plant cooling water intakes. We were doing a pipeline inspection in a water plant, where I'd squeeze into the pipeline like a bullet in a rifle barrel. There was an intake guard across the bell at the bottom of the pipeline, a simple "X" made of angle iron. Normally we'd use Desco helmets but because it was such a tight squeeze I was using a mask that day instead, what they used to call a "Jack Browne." I squeezed through one of the triangles on the intake guard and then inch-wormed my way inside the pipeline until I reached the impeller blades and started my inchworm back out. I got all the way back to the intake but then I got something stuck on the angle. Harness buckle, snap clip for the rig on my belt, safety harness itself, I don't know, I couldn't tell, but I was stuck hard. Figured I'd just twist around and inch back up until it came free. One arm ahead of me, one arm down, but neither arm did me any good because I couldn't bend either arm to feel around. I would have been fine for a while as I figured things out but in twisting around, I shoved the mask half off my face so the mask filled with water and bubbles. No way to get my arms up or down, no way to get the mask back in place. I completely panicked. To this day I don't remember how I got out of there. The next memory I have is breaking the surface at the top of the ladder and yanking that mask off my face. Luckily the guys topside didn't hear me yelling in panic because the radio speaker stopped working with all the water and bubbles in the mask, and you can't yell very well with a face full of water anyway. I still firmly think God got me out of there because it's like you took a pair of scissors and clipped that -- thirty seconds? -- out of my life. Zero memory from the intake housing to the surface. The guys topside were completely unaware anything had happened. "How's the pipeline look?"
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Old 03-27-2023, 11:35 AM   #16
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Damn kthoennes that is a horror story. Diving an intake to the impeller is the stuff shock movies are based on. Makes no difference how deep or how many atmospheres you were working the risks you took would have been unacceptable with any of the marine contractors I’ve worked with. Of course for enough money you can maybe overlook a few minor things like being sucked into an impeller. Young and dumb. Glad you’re still on this side.

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