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Safety on the MacGregor 26

A forum for discussing topics relating to MacGregor Powersailor Sailboats

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Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby mastreb » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:42 pm

Yesterday, a MacGregor 26 capsized in San Diego harbor, killing two people.
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/mar/27/two-dead-boating-accident/
The boat was overloaded (although I've operated with as many people), with everyone above deck, and being operated as a rental boat, making it very likely that the renters did not know about the flood ballast system. The two people who died did not know how to swim according to relatives and were not wearing flotation vests according to the Coast Guard. Sadly, it was a very preventable accident.

I thought I'd start a thread to discuss the measures we take to increase safety when we boat. Please post replies here with the things you do to ensure that our boats don't capsize.
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby mastreb » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:52 pm

I'll start it off by saying that I leave the ballast gate valve open by default. It's always open, except when we remember to put it down as we're leaving port. It's open on the trailer, and open while it sits. We pull it up as we're preparing to trailer rather than once it's on to eliminate the "firehose effect".

Default Open ensures a number of things:

1) If we forget the gate valve, the ballast is flooded, not empty. This is by far the better case.
2) If we completely forget, then ballast may drain out while heeling hard to starboard. However, the boat will fill again when we reef or turn to reduce heeling. Heavy heeling reminds me to check the valve.
3) The tank dries out whenever the boat is out of the water.

I'm going to do the ballast vent mod to take a 1" hose up to the chain locker shortly. I'll be drilling a separate hole so I can still check the level with the original plug. People make the point that the ballast tank will drain out through the hose if the boat capsizes, making it harder to right, but I think the inherent safety far outweighs the remote risk of ever needing to right a boat that's capsized in the water myself. I just don't see that being possible even with the ballast in.

Finally, I'm considering putting a NEMA2000 fluid level sensor inside the ballast tank and hooking it up to my Garmin navi so I can see the Ballast tank level as a "fuel gauge". With a programmed empty alert it'll be real obvious if I forget to flood the ballast. Not inherent, but everything helps.
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby seahouse » Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:02 pm

We will analyse this to death, but I would most humbly submit the most elementary and yet universal, and the most effective, single safety measure of them all ....RTFM. :(
If not for one's self, then for one's children's sake, because they are the truly innocent. :cry:
-B.
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby hart » Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:04 pm

Leaving your gate valve open could result in having a partially filled ballast tank which is very UNSTABLE. Fill it and then close that sucker up, along with the plug up front. Make a checklist if you have to remind yourself to do it but don't just leave it open all the time. That's asking for trouble imho.

I firmly believe Macs are safe boats when operated as they were intended to be, ballast full or empty. Know your boat - know it's capabilities and it's limitations. Know yourself - know your capabilities and your limitations.
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby Fxwg80hd » Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:18 pm

I'm in agreement with 2 things stated above, "read the manual" and sailing with the ballast valve open will cause an unstable boat. Sailing at even a couple Mph will start the ballast tank to be emptied. Worse than an empty ballast is a 1/2 full ballast with 600 pounds of water suddenly shifting sides as you tack, jibe, or even get hit by a wave. That much weight shifting suddenly will throw everyone with it.
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby RussMT » Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:23 pm

mastreb wrote:I'm going to do the ballast vent mod to take a 1" hose up to the chain locker shortly.
If you do this you MUST close the valve in the transom as water will easily drain. Otherwise, when you heal, water will easily flow out and you lose your ballast. Worse yet, it now becomes 1/2 full and very unstable.

I'm in the group that says close the transom valve to keep the water in. The sensor is a good idea.
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby mastreb » Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:43 pm

hart wrote:Leaving your gate valve open could result in having a partially filled ballast tank which is very UNSTABLE. Fill it and then close that sucker up, along with the plug up front. Make a checklist if you have to remind yourself to do it but don't just leave it open all the time. That's asking for trouble imho.

I firmly believe Macs are safe boats when operated as they were intended to be, ballast full or empty. Know your boat - know it's capabilities and it's limitations. Know yourself - know your capabilities and your limitations.


Just to clarify--I always close the valve while operating the boat. By "Open by default" what I mean is that I leave the vale open when the boat is not in operation, so when the boat comes of the trailer it fills instantly. That way, if I forget anything, there's ballast in the tank. I have yet to forget, but I do worry about it.

Excellent point about the open air vent making the ballast flow out much faster as well. Perhaps I'll run the air vent line to the cockpit so I can keep a plug in it.
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby Ixneigh » Mon Mar 28, 2011 10:21 pm

I dont like the feel of the boat without the ballast so there is a pretty good chance I'll remember.
These boats don't strike me as good rental boats. They are not completely idiot proof. What boat is, I know, but I had a 23 glander Cay once, and ten people would not have capsized her nore would she have been unsafe. Just awfully low in the water. That was back when they made boats more idiot proof. That boat would literally sink before she would turn over. The hull was an inch thick. It's likely Herrshoff would have taken a dim view of the macgregor.
I feel these boats are more like airplanes in that you really sort of do need to pay attention. And RTFM.
It says right there, operate with full tank with a lot of people, and no more then six in any case.
Thrashing around under sail makes me believe that boat could hold ten people with the tank full. I would never want that many since I would worry they would damage the cabin top  if all of them got up there.
This is the second fatality I am aware of. I think macgregor needs to have a permanent placard by the steeringwheel advising the load limit of the boat. Along the lines of

NO MORE then SIX passengers at any time.
The ballast tank must be full with more then two.

Oh wait there is one. It's also down below.

Maybe they just ought not to be rented.

Ixniegh
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby Hamin' X » Mon Mar 28, 2011 10:34 pm

My boat does not leave the dock unless all, ALL passengers and crew are wearing a PFD. I sometimes must motor some distance to get to sailing waters, so the default position of my ballast tank valve is "closed". Even while on the trailer, the gate valve is closed, to prevent critters from making a home in the ballast tank. Wasps are especially fond of this area.

~Rich
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby dennisneal » Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:11 pm

My Admiral and I have developed a verbal checklist that we use to make sure he boat is prepared to leav the dock. While I am pulling he empty trailer up the launch ramp and parking the truck she stays on the boat and does the final prep. When I return, we go though the list:

Dagger Board down? Check!

Rudders Down? Check!

Motor Down? Check!

Ballast Gate down? Check!

Petcock closed? Check!

Safety Cushions? Check!

etc., etc.

Its similar to the procedure between a pilot and a co-pilot at takeoff.

Our ballast gate is normally open when the boat is on dry land, but it is closed and remains closed as soon as the boat is in the water and the ballast tank is filled. We only open it again when we pull the boat out of the water in order to drain the tank.
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby Divecoz » Tue Mar 29, 2011 12:24 am

Issues were ? Ignorance? Lack of proper ballast.. Lots of these boats are used as rentals every single day.. Big issue is common sense!! Why would you have 10 people on this boat??? That was plain STUPID!
As for having to wear a PFD whenever the boat leaves the dock? To each his own.. Are the handy ? Yes... Right there at arms length? Yes.... and the grand kids HAVE to wear them .. I dont wear a helmet and I dont carry an octo..
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby hart » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:49 am

mastreb wrote:Just to clarify--I always close the valve while operating the boat. By "Open by default" what I mean is that I leave the vale open when the boat is not in operation, so when the boat comes of the trailer it fills instantly. That way, if I forget anything, there's ballast in the tank. I have yet to forget, but I do worry about it.


Ah, ok. I misunderstood what you were saying. Gotcha.
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby mastreb » Tue Mar 29, 2011 12:04 pm

So I was thinking about the transom gate valve and ways to make it more "inherent" in case I forget about it, and it occurs to me that a standard rubber flapper valve mounted inside tank opposite the gate valve would do the job. Essentially, you'd have the gate valve outside the tank on the transom, and the flapper valve mounted on the inside of the tank opening.

Here's a link to the type of valve I'm talking about:http://www.westmarine.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?productId=94242

A flapper valve will allow ballast water to flow in at full speed, but only dribble out if flow at all unless you push the flap valve in manually with your finger or a stick to drain the tank. The weight of the ballast water pushing back against it keeps it closed. It's essentially a backflow preventer.

In combination with porting the air-vent to the chain locker, this would make a Mac in the water inherently ballasted if the gate valve is open. Of course the exterior gate valve should also still be used.

You would have to manually decide to empty the ballast, which for many occurs only when trailering.

Pros:
Boat is inherently ballasted and inherently safe whenever its in the water.

Cons:
Difficult to dump ballast at sea
Must remember to dump ballast while trailering
Likely to get wet dumping ballast

Thoughts?
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby Divecoz » Tue Mar 29, 2011 12:45 pm

Mastreb: If its not broken dont play with it.. The system is fine.. Maybe more need to develop a check list.. I have a mental one for diving.. had a written for Winter time X country ski camping..
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Re: Safety on the MacGregor 26

Postby vizwhiz » Tue Mar 29, 2011 12:58 pm

I'm planning to build check lists with the admiral, as dennisneal noted...for our own safety of course, but also in case something happens to me and the admiral has to do things by herself, or if anyone else has to help out with the boat, that way they don't tear everything up or hurt themselves while trying to help. The plan is to make one for stepping the mast, one for starting the motor, etc. keeping them short and sweet if possible. I'm thinking of laminating them on cards, putting them on a ring so you can flip to the one you want. Haven't made them yet, but I'm working on the procedures as I go...
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