I am still in shock over the sinking of Rescue 34, our 16’ zodiac rescue boat. If I wasn’t there to see it myself I would never have believed it. To go from floating to swimming in a minute, it was that fast. One minute Rich G. is telling me “Hey Chet! We got water coming in“, the next thing I know I’m watching the dive flag go underwater and the whole hull disappear. There was no time to do anything to save it.
The question that kept popping into my thoughts was “How could this happen?”. One thing I know the team did was take care of Rescue 34. It was washed and the motor was flushed out after every time it was used. If the owner’s manual said to do something, it was done. In the spring before putting the boat to hard use over the summer, Rescue 34 was gone over from bow to stern, motor serviced, tubes inspected, all equipment (IE life jackets, lines, lights, batteries) were thoroughly gone over and if it needed to be replaced, it was. The boat was even kept inside out of the weather all year long.
After doing some research, I found a few cases online of the hull attachment points or other seams coming apart. This is exactly what happened to Rescue 34. During our preseason checks these points were checked and never showed any signs of failure. I was surprised that I couldn’t find more information about this catastrophic failure, but decided at least I understood the process that caused our boat to sink.
This weekend we decided to take a trip to the Bay Head Yacht Club to look at the kind of boat we are hoping will be our replacement for Rescue 34. We ran into Buddy who is the Dock Master and started asking questions about his Ribcraft. We asked how he liked it, did it hold up well, all the things you ask while considering purchasing a new boat. In talking to him, we shared what had happened during the sinking of Rescue 34 and he knew exactly what we were talking about.
Buddy took us over to his fleet of 9 Zodiacs and said to take a look at the rear attachment points. Every one of his boats had the attachment point fail. He told us the failure rate was 100%. I took pictures of the failures on his boats for our own records and each one reminded me of Rescue 34. Buddy went on to say he has to budget money to re-tube three boats every year. Five years was what he said the tubes last.
His Ribcraft on the other hand was over ten years old and was still working well with no problems. The tubes were a little faded, but were not showing any signs of attachment problems even with the hard use of yacht club and being out all summer in the weather. I hope that our replacement for Rescue 34 will serve us as well as Bay Head Yacht Club’s has served them.I want to thank Buddy the Dock Master at the Bay Head Yacht Club for taking