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

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

Paying Tribute to the Hard Life of Peat Dredgers

Sculpture ‘Verveners’ by John Rijnen
Sculpture ‘Verveners’ by John Rijnen

It’s been a while since my last update. Don’t worry. All is well. The delay was due to my change in habitat. Moving can be draining attention and creativity, but can also create opportunities for exploring the new neighbourhood. And that is exactly what I will share as this first post. One of the first dredging related discoveries was a sculpture on a roundabout nearby. Probably most passers-by will not notice it or at most will be puzzled by the strange flat figures. To us, as dredging community, we immediately recognise the typical posture of manual dredging. Intrigued by the unexpected discovery of dredging art at this location, I went on an investigation on the background of this statue.

Sign at sculpture ‘Verveners’
Sign at sculpture ‘Verveners’

The sign at the sculpture did reveal some details on the name, date and artist of this monument1. Obviously, the topic of this statue was a tribute to the people who have been working as peat dredgers and contributing to the wealth of the town. It is also a reference to the origin of the current geography of the municipality: lots of lakes and ponds that are a recreational area for the population and a resting place for nature, that were unbelievably all excavated manually over ages.

The most characteristic feature of the sculpture are long poles2 in combination with the posture for back breaking manual labour. The long pole has a hoop at the lower end with some kind of fishing net attached. The hoop is used to scrape sediment (in this case peat) from the bottom and collected in the pouch. Mud and peat are sticky enough to stay in the net for vertical transport, but the flexibility and openness enables easy discharge. For peat dredging the material was scooped up on shore and dried3. For maintenance dredging, the material was brought on board and discharged at a convenient disposal location4. The Dutch dredging industry cherishes this and remembers it with all kinds of small statues found in many offices.

Paper weights about manual dredging with a ‘baggerbeugel’ (Credit: Hendrik Jan de Kluiver)
Paper weights about manual dredging with a ‘baggerbeugel’ (Credit: Hendrik Jan de Kluiver)

Manual dredging shaped much of Holland’s geography, either the canals and lakes or the reclamation of marsh into pasture land. It has been identified as a typical Dutch tradition. But is it?? Preparing this post, I’ve discovered it is not. Several references say that we did not invent the ‘baggerbeugel’2. Before we started to use it, it has been applied already for ages in East Anglia5, which had a very similar landscape. Already from the tenth century, peat has been excavated from the Fenlands and later on from the 14th century, they started manual dredging already. Only later on in the 16th century Holland started to take over this practice. And in good Dutch tradition, we refined the trade and even exported consultancy on these projects back to England!

Stills from an instructional video on peat dredging (Credit: modified from Open Beelden Project)
Stills from an instructional video on peat dredging (Credit: modified from Open Beelden Project)

Peat dredging is a laborious procedure and later on, this industry was mechanised. There is a nice video explaining about peat dredging in the Netherlands. Especially the hydraulic dredging starts at 08:10 into the video. All processes in a regular dredging project are identifiable: a) dredging, b) discharge, c) bulldozering, d) compacting, e) drying and f) further transport of the merchandise.

Viewing a video is one way to experience manual dredging. In the dredging garden of the National Dredging Museum6, there is an exhibit to experience this trade first hand.

Visitors experiencing manual dredging in the National Dredging Museum
Visitors experiencing manual dredging in the National Dredging Museum

References

  1. De oude tol, Rotondekunst
  2. Baggerbeugel, Wikipedia
  3. Vervening, Wikipedia
  4. Barges, IADC
  5. A Tale of Norfolk Peat Cutting, Norfolk Tales, Myths & Beyond
  6. Bagger Praktijk Tuin, Nationaal Baggermuseum

See also