September 6, 2012

Does sinking suck?

UP TO YESTERDAY, I was one of those many people who believe that you should get well away from a sinking ship as fast as you can. I don’t know where I acquired that knowledge. I expect I just read it a hundred times, and because everybody else seemed to believe it, I believed it, too.

Now I’m not so sure.  Yesterday I was reading articles from the old Rudder magazine when I came across this piece written by the editor, Tom Day. What made it remarkable for me was the fact that Mr. Day claimed to have personal knowledge of the subject. He was speaking from experience, not hearsay.

He dismissed my belief as a “widespread fiction even held by many seamen: that there is a tremendous suction when a vessel sinks. There is nothing of the kind,” he asserted. “As a vessel goes under the surface there is an inrush to close up the vacancy, but there is no suction after the sinking body is under the surface.”

He added:  “If a vessel was drawn down by force there would be a suction; but a sinking form cannot sink faster than the water is displaced by its weight, and therefore, water being a dense medium, the fluid must close in behind simultaneously with its displacement.

“I have stood on the deck of a sinking craft and gone under with it, and instead of suction there is just the opposite — an upward rush that makes it impossible to sink with a vessel unless you cling to her. A lifeboat on the deck of a vessel would float clear if the ship sank under her, so would a cask or a man or anything floatable.”

Well, bang goes another cherished delusion. While I find it hard to accept that I’ve been wrong, dead wrong, all these years, I have to give full credence to a man who has actually stood on the deck of a sinking vessel and observed the lack of suction at first hand.

But then, on the other hand . . . well, he didn’t say what kind of vessel it was.  Perhaps a different kind of vessel would create suction. The little doubts begin to creep back in.  Tom Day was a clever man, a skilled communicator, and very knowledgeable about all things to do with sailboats, but perhaps . . . well, perhaps what I’m trying to say is that if I ever find myself on the deck of a sinking vessel, I’m going to do my best to get the hell out of there as fast as I can.  It’s nothing to do with doubting the veracity of Mr. Day.  It’s just pure reflex, honest.

Today’s Thought
Be wary, then; best safety lies in fear.
— Shakespeare, Hamlet.

“They tell me your mother-in-law has taken up hiking.”
“Yeah, three months ago she started walking 10 miles a day.”
“That’s great. Is it helping?”
“Sure is. She must be in North Dakota by now.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)



Matt Marsh said...

There may not be "suction", per se, but there is certainly one heck of a lot of turbulence behind a sinking ship of any appreciable size.

Turbulent water is no fun at all to move around in. Eddies swirling every which way, making it impossible to hold a straight course until they dissipate- yes, John, I too am going to go with "get the hell out of there as fast as I can" if it ever happens.

Jack said...

Having been fortunate not to experience exiting a sinking ship, I've worked on the sage advise that one would only leave a vessel by stepping UP into a life- raft. In the event I do ever experience this situation,and make it by to Terra firma, I'll get back to you!

Jack said...

Patron: Waiter!
Waiter: Hi, my name is Bill, and I'll be your Support. What seems to be the problem?
Patron: There's a fly in my soup!
Waiter: Try again; maybe the fly won't be there this time.
Patron: [looks away, then back] No, it's still there.
Waiter: Maybe it's the way you're using the soup. Try eating it with a fork instead.
Patron: [tries fork] Even when I use the fork, the fly is still there.
Waiter: What are your "table" settings? Have you tried reversing the position of your knife and spoon?
Patron: [makes the switch] That doesn't do anything.
Waiter: This might be a server problem. Lots of these things are server problems.
Waiter: Maybe the soup is incompatible with the bowl. What kind of bowl are you using?
Patron: A SOUP bowl!
Waiter: Hmmm, that should work. Maybe it's a configuration problem. How was the bowl set up?
Patron: You brought it to me on a saucer. What has that to do with the fly in my soup?!
Waiter: Can you remember everything you did before you noticed the fly in your soup?
Patron: I sat down and ordered the Soup of the Day!
Waiter: Did you change the flavor settings? Did you alter the salt or pepper content?
Patron: No. I'm soup illiterate. I only eat it the way it comes. [sneezes]
Waiter: Have you checked it for viruses?
Patron: I got it from you.
Waiter: Yes, but have you downloaded anything else into the soup?
Patron: Just crackers.
Waiter: And where did you get the crackers?
Waiter You did take the cellophane off first before inserting the crackers, didn't you?
Patron: YES!!
Waiter: They should be okay then. Hmmm. Have you considered upgrading to the latest Soup of the Day?
Patron: You have more than one Soup of the Day each day?
Waiter: Yes, the Soup of the Day is changed every hour.
Patron: Well, what is the Soup of the Day now?
Waiter: The current Soup of the Day is Tomato 2001.
Patron: Fine. Bring me the tomato soup, and hurry. I'm running late now.
[Waiter leaves and returns with another bowl of soup.]
Waiter: Here you are, sir.
Patron: This is potato soup.
Waiter: Yes, the tomato release time had to be revised to accommodate changes to the recipe.
Patron: Well, I'm so hungry now, I'll eat anything.
[Waiter leaves.]
Patron: Waiter! There's a fly in my soup! Waiter! Waiter! [sees a busboy] Hey, you, where's my waiter?
Busboy: I'm sorry; all of our waiters are currently busy helping other customers. The estimated time until your waiter is free is eighteen minutes.
Patron: I can't wait that long. Listen, could you just bring me a sandwich? I need to go and I can't leave without eating.
Busboy: Sir, I'm a busboy. I can't take orders or carry food. You could access a sandwich on our self-service help counter.
Patron: Please, just for me. I'll give you an extra five dollars.
Busboy: What kind of sandwich?
Patron: Roast beef.
Busboy: I'll get it for you right away.
[Enter Waiter]
Waiter: I'm sorry, sir, this meal has performed an illegal operation and will have to be shut down. [Glares at the busboy, who slinks off. Confiscates the soup. Hands the patron the check.] Your check, sir.
Patron: What's this? "Soup of the Day $5.00... Upgrade to newer Soup of the Day $2.50... Access to Support $2.00 ... TOTAL: $9.50 + Tax ... Gratuity not included." Gratuity?! I tell you, he's not getting more than a buck!
Waiter: Excuse me, sir. You forgot your fly.

Justin C said...

There may not be suction, but a large vessel is full of a lot of air. If that air doesn't escape before the vessel departs the surface it may escape slowly while the vessel sinks, and rising bubbles make the water less dense making it more difficult for anything to float above.

I believe it is still wisest to get the hell out of there as fast as you can!