Fire afloat has been a hazard feared by mariners for centuries and the threat remains today. It's not a scenario any of us like to dwell upon, but it is something you should consider when fitting your boat out for a season on the water.
Modern materiels make the need to make the most of modern fire extinguishers even more important. An example of how quickly things can go wrong can be seen by the recent loss of a brand new Meridian 341 motor cruiser which caught fire shortly after being picked up by owner Paul Ward.
Shortly after leaving the Hamble River the crew were alerted to the danger after hearing irregular noises coming from the engine room.
Mr Ward explains: "I went to have a look and saw blue smoke coming from the exhaust, so I told the crew to turn around. it wasn't until we saw black smoke billowing from the saloon that we realised how serious the situation was."
From this point to the boat becoming consumed in flames took approximately four minutes and although the two crew were rescued, they were badly singed.
"I want to push home how important it is that you have easy access to a hand held VHF, lifejackets and, if possible, a liferaft. This could happen to any plastic boat." Mr Ward reflected.
Ok, so this was one case and there is no need to be alarmist, but it does underline the importance of carrying some basic firefighting equipment. These tips, taken from Keith Colwell's RYA Sea Survival Handbook should help point you in the right direction:
Obviously this will vary depending on what size boat you have, but the biggest sportsboat would need to carry the following:
All new extinguishers are red with a colour-coded area to show the type of extinguishant.
They are rated by the types and size of fire for which they are suitable.
Sizes are related to a crib of wood for A-type fires and to a pan of flammable liquid for B-type fires. A typical rating is 5A/34B. The higher the number, the bigger the fire the extinguisher can tackle.
Water fire extinguishers are available but are relatively large and heavy. Water cools the fire. Do not use on liquid, gas, electrical or cooking-fat fires.
The blanket also makes a good a protective shield when passing close to a fire.
It is messy but very effective at knocking down flames. It is suffocating when used in enclosed spaces.
|Three different types of fire extinguisher: CO2, AFFF Foam, and Dry Powder|
Use on flammable liquid fires but not cooking-oil fires. Do not use on people – expanding gas is cold and can give severe cold burns.
Use a single extinguisher of the correct size for the compartment.
A number of environmentally friendly gas extinguishants are available (FM 200, FE 36) for engine compartments. They are clean to use.
Chemically reacts with the fire.
Similar to a manual extinguisher. Can be used in naturally aspirated engine compartments. Dry powder will damage engines with turbo- or super-chargers.
For further tips on fire fighting and many other aspects of sea survival, you can pick up a copy of Keith Colwell's RYA Sea Survival Handbook which is available at a 20% discount until May .