How A Ship On The Shore Became a Beacon For My Dredging Career

Stranded Yo, us and another vessel to the rescue (Credit: Co Winkelman)
Stranded Yo, us and another vessel to the rescue (Credit: Co Winkelman)

Long ago, we were sailing with my parents and my brother into the Venezuelan archipelago of ‘Los Roques’.1 After clearing customs, we learned that there was another sailing vessel in trouble. It was stranded on the reefs at the east side of the islands. As we had some spare time we decided to lend a hand in getting them afloat. By eyeball navigation through the channel behind the coral reef, we found the stranded English catamaran ‘Yo’, but had to anchor 200m away. First we learned from a Swiss captain on another assisting yacht they had been pulling together with a maxi yacht on a long hawser to pull them off by power and sail. Alas, to no avail.

Location and map of the islands of Los Roques
Location and map of the islands of Los Roques

The next day, the swiss captain had to leave and we undertook the journey by dinghy to visit the crew on ‘Yo’. It turned out to be a couple with their son and two deckhands. They told us that the maxi yacht was ‘Drum’2 and one of the crew was no other than rock star Simon Le Bon3 himself. We just missed them by a day! He did all the best to cheer them up and you can image what a support that visit meant to these people in such a desperate situation.

Salvage plan to float ‘Yo’
Salvage plan to float ‘Yo’

As my dad was a chief engineer from the merchant marine, he surveyed the damage professionally. ‘Yo’ was sitting exactly on top of the reef. One keel was broken of and the other only half, but was sheared below the wreck and stuck between the coral heads, preventing any movement. After evaluating the state of the boat, the equipment and the location, he actually said: ‘We’re gonna science the shit out of this.’4 Together we devised a cunning plan:

  1. Lift/Float: Remove the rest of the keel. Plug the holes left by the bolts and increase buoyancy of the craft.
  2. Dredge: Lower the rock bottom to increase support from the buoyancy and create a channel to freedom.
  3. Move: Assemble all winches and tackle to leverage the pulling forces. The forces would be so high that we feared we would pull the catamaran in half. So we had to distribute the forces all around the hull.

The structural repairs on the hull were performed by my father. My brother and me were in charge of the winches and tackle. Any spare time was dedicated to cutting the rock below the wreck. For sure, that is a nasty job, we tore our clothes and cut ourselves on the sharp edges of the coral. By practice, I learned the different angles to aim the pickaxe for the best results and the lowest effort: an introduction into Specific Cutting Energy!5 Because we did our calculations careful and our assumptions were right, the boat moved exactly the moment we predicted and in the way we wanted. It was a great moment of revelation: you could actually use all this knowledge from physics classes6 to get you out of a nasty position. It set me on a path where I am now and you are reading this story.

The best home schooling: toolbox meeting for a salvage operation. (Credit: Co Winkelman)
The best home schooling: toolbox meeting for a salvage operation. (Credit: Co Winkelman)

Actually, we did not see them completely get off, as we had other obligations and had to leave. We were confident they would come off, but it was a mystery to us where they did end up. Finally after thirty years, I did a Google search and to my surprise I found they did get off indeed and were even reunited with their first rescuer, Simon Le Bon.7

‘Yo’ is away, but still scars are left behind in the coral where it all happened. (Credit: Google)
‘Yo’ is away, but still scars are left behind in the coral where it all happened. (Credit: Google)

That was my own story on dredging and salvage. Currently, there is an interesting exhibition at the National Dredging Museum8 with better documented cases and very interesting displays. Still, the three steps used for ‘Yo’: ‘Lift, Dredge and Move’ can be distinguished for the other cases there, also.

Exhibit of the salvage operation of the ‘Faustus’ from the Rotterdam breakwater
Exhibit of the salvage operation of the ‘Faustus’ from the Rotterdam breakwater

Remarks

Please keep in mind, that these events happened more than thirty years ago and were about saving the lives of five people in immediate danger. Dredging in coral should only be done under very strict conditions with the health of the ecosystem in the first place and in balance with the necessity of the operation.

References

  1. Los Roques archipelago, Wikipedia
  2. Drum (yacht), Wikipedia
  3. Simon Le Bon, Wikipedia
  4. The Martian: Mark Watney Quotes, IMDb
  5. Experiencing The Cutting Edge Of Dredging Technology, Discover Dredging
  6. BINAS, Noordhof
  7. Rescued woman reunited with pop star, BBC
  8. Scheepswrakken bergen of baggeren? National Dredging Museum

See also

Graduation Omar Karam: Rock Cutting The Egyptian Way

Graduation presentation of Omar Karam
Graduation presentation of Omar Karam

Egypt is a great nation when it comes to ancient engineering. No other country has such a concentration of impressive monuments and such an interesting history as over there. If you are not convinced that modern Egyptians are not capable of great engineering feats you are wrong. Last Monday, Omar Karam graduated at our R&D department of Damen Dredging Equipment1 on his thesis about ‘CSD Rock Cutting.’

Cutting processes have been extensively described by Sape Miedema in ‘The Delft Sand, Clay & Rock Cutting Model’2. Omar has been using the frame work of Miedema to make some useful tools for the estimation of the production of our dredging equipment in rock. In due time, you will find the results of his thesis in the online dredge selection tool ‘Sandy’. Omar’s curiosity and ingenuity does not end here. He will continue studying at a university, but I do hope to meet him again, as he would be a valuable asset for our dredging community. Keep an eye out for him.

Program structure diagram of cutting force calculations
Program structure diagram of cutting force calculations

His graduation brings me back to my first lessons in dredging technology at the Delft University of Technology by the illustrious professor de Koning. In a sense he was an old school engineer, who hammered it in to us that thinking is done by doing it with your hands3. Back than the Polytechnic School was just rebranded to University and he was mocking that as a university, we had to set the topics in a broader perspective. So, he started his introduction on cutting technology with some slides of the unfinished obelisk at Aswan4 as every aspect of the cutting process could be illustrated.

Phases of chip forming in rock cutting
Phases of chip forming in rock cutting

The story according to de Koning is: ‘Around the quarry of the obelisk, they have found diorites5. These are some sort of volcanic balls of rock. In combination with the marks and scratches all around the obelisk, archaeologists believe these stones have been used to pound the granite. The impact compresses the bedrock and the resulting stresses fracture the contact surface(1). For every hit a whiff of dust is created. Eventually the dust is collected and scooped away for the next layer. Next, trees would be planted in the trench on one side of the obelisk. The growing root system displaces volume and create shear stress underneath the obelisk that would sever the obelisk from the bed rock(2). At last the trees are removed and dry wooden dowels would have been inserted in the shear cracks. Saturating the wooden dowels will make them grow. The last strands of rock will now be broken due to tensile stresses(3). Repeated insertion of new dry dowels and saturating them will lift the whole obelisk enough to pull some ropes under and carry the obelisk away to the building site.’

Although the diorites and the scratch marks are a smoking gun, current archaeologists argue about the feasibility of this process as experiments yield a very low production and it is doubted that the obelisk could be finished in the lifetime of the client6. Even if disputed, de Koning told a story that conveys the message; I vividly remember it and makes me understand the rock cutting process.

These mysterious monolithic ornamental spires have been an inspiration for many legends and stories. When we have solved the riddle of the rock cutting with diorite balls, it may inspire the development of new rock cutting technology for the dredging community and we can put the story of the obelisks to an end.7

End of the story on the cutting of obelisks (Credit: Uderzo)
End of the story on the cutting of obelisks (Credit: Uderzo)

References

  1. Innovation, Damen
  2. The Delft Sand, Clay & Rock Cutting Model, TU Delft
  3. De Koning (1978), Denken met de handen’, TU Delft
  4. Unfinished obelisk, Wikipedia
  5. Diorite, Wikipedia
  6. The Unfinished Obelisk, NOVA
  7. Asterix and Cleopatra, Goscinny-Uderzo

See also

The Last Dredging And Port Construction Magazine, The End Of An Era

The last issue of Dredging and Port Construction
The last issue of Dredging and Port Construction

It is not very often that one experiences the end of an era. Hiroshima, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Brexit. Those were very important events with a global impact. Now there is another end of a period, with only a limited impact on a small community affected. After half a century, our trusted journal ‘Dredging and Port Construction’ has come to an end1. In the fast moving media world, this will only be a footnote in history. Yet, as a magazine, it was close to our community. It reported on projects and people we knew, but also as a platform for the CEDA to communicate with us for 42 years2.

IHS Markit has decided to cease this publication, the lack of new subscriptions and decreasing advertisements. You know, the general malaise in paper printing. Somehow, the digital revolution didn’t turn out so well for them. Other digital media providers covering the dredging industry seem to have a better business model to survive the transition. Right?

Well, there is a big disadvantage of those free service, hot shot, social media savvy new comers, they just forward press releases that they receive or sweep up from social media. They don’t have dredging literate expert editors writing long genuine articles about topics that would not have access to coverage by themselves. Having your own knowledgeable editors doing original research vetting the facts and reporting from a broad perspective with a solidly founded opinion is expensive. And that makes it very difficult for a classic publisher to survive in these modern times.

We will suffer in this new era without our trusted DPC. We can sign up to the usual free subscription daily newsletters from the new media publishers and read the endlessly repeating press releases. We will miss the in depth reports on big projects or critical comments on regulatory issues. We will have to figure this out from within our own social media bubbles. It will narrow our view and I certainly hope we don’t lose the perspective of other members in our community.

Please be advised, that also the website will be closed at the end of June3, leaving only the digital archive of the magazine accessible4, which goes back to May 2015. Although the last editor, Ines Nastali, told me she is happy to send out articles if requested by the dredging community. There will only be some dusty old paper versions that are stored in a forgotten archive or that one issue we keep for some sweet memory. At least that is what I have done. Over the years, I have written several articles that have been placed in this magazine and I cherish those issues. The first one was already long ago about a CEDA excursion to the IJsseloog in the Ketelmeer project. The last one was a reprint from my post5 about energy transition in the dredging industry discussed during the CEDA Dredging Days6.

CEDA Dredging Days 2019 panel discussion (Credit: CEDA)
CEDA Dredging Days 2019 panel discussion (Credit: CEDA)

It was a good experience to contribute to the magazine that way. And made me proud, that my posts at this website were picked up by the media. I will see what will come along in the future. I am open to any opportunity. At least, I am determined to keep www.discoverdredging.com alive as an independent platform to point out dredging related topics. And this will be a lonely place left to find an opinion about our community, albeit, very personal.

Although we are an industry in an economic sense, it is a community. When I think of companies and projects, I think about the people I know over there. And my memory about Dredging and Port Construction will not only be the magazine, but also the nice cooperation with the editors. At this moment I would like to especially thank Tony Slinn, Lisa Maher and Ines Nastali for a their work.

Ines Nastali, senior custom publishing editor (Credit: Ines Nastali)
Ines Nastali, senior custom publishing editor (Credit: Ines Nastali)

References

  1. End of an era, IHS Markit DPC
  2. IHS DPC Latest, CEDA
  3. About us, IHS Markit DPC
  4. Welcome to your digital magazine portal, IHS Markit
  5. We Choose To Adopt Energy Transition, But How Will We Succeed? Discover Dredging
  6. Dredging industry addresses energy transition challenges, IHS Markit DPC

See also

CEDA