Collapsible Boats


Tarn Stephanos

The difficulty- and in the end inability- to lower the collapsables from the (port& starboard side) roof of the officers quarters beckons the question- How did the designers expect these boats to be launched? There didnt seem to be any crane or apparatus to help the boats drop to the boat deck- Was it a severly flawed design, or did they launch them the wrong way? Lightoller's boat landed upsidedown, so its clear to me that the way those 2 boats were set up were abject failures...What do you think?


Tarn Stephanos
Hi Tarn, how are you? Good I hope. The ship was equipped with apparatus to lower them from the officer's quarters. I do not know the exact details of the process (I am certain one of the more technically oriented researchers here will have a better explanation), but Collapsible A and B were intended to be hooked up to the wire stays running up to the funnel, and lowered to the deck using a block and tackle. I believe it was designed so that the third and fourth stays running up to the forward funnel could be separated using a "bullseye." Given the extremely small amount of time that was left by the time the officers and crew got to these boats, it was probably judged that there wasn't time to lower them properly. The whole design was extremely awkward.

Hope this helps and that this letter finds you doing well.

Kind regards,
Tad Fitch
>>How did the designers expect these boats to be launched?<<

Well, if you really want to split hairs, Tad got the technical part right, but I don't think they expected it to ever become an issue. More then anything else, they were there for show. TRMA has an excellant article on these boats.
Thanks for the detailed info Tad, and thanks for the link Michael.Good point Tad- lowering the boats to the boat deck was a time consuming, awkward thing- and they didnt have time- hence Lightoller just flipping his boat down on to the deck...
Its probrolly true, there was never an expectation that the boats adjacent to funnel # 1 would ever be used.....


tarn Stephanos
For whatever it may be worth, if there had been a serious expectation that they might be needed, I think all four collapsibles would have been stored under the davits beneath the boats as they were designed to be instead of just two.

As it was, the optimism in the context of past history was jusitified. There hadn't been a really serious liner casualty since the Atlantic came to grief and in the Republic foundering, there had been plenty of time to get the people off to rescue ships. Shipping lines rarely act on events that don't happen and which aren't expected. Why make changes when the system in place works?
The whole business of the collapsibles A and B is most unsatisfactory. Here's Lightoller in Mersey's court.

"14793. Now I will take you to the collapsible boat. Is it not the fact when you unship one of those collapsible boats you have blocks and tackle fastened on the stays from the funnel? - No.
14794. Did you see no block and tackle on that stay from the funnel for the purpose of unshipping the collapsible boat? - Which are you speaking of?
14795. I am talking about the forward funnel on the port side; are not there small blocks and tackle on it? - No.
14796. How do you unship one of those Englehardt boats? - We never have unshipped one, but I see what you are getting at. There is a link in the funnel guy for the purpose of hooking on tackle and so getting the Englehardt from the top of the quarters down to the deck.
14797. I am right that you could put the block and tackle on to that link? - Yes, that is right.
14798. Was there any there that night? - Not that I am aware of.
14799. If you had had a block and tackle there you would have found it rather easy to unship it? - No, I should not have used it."

Lightoller was not asked to explain further. Maybe somebody would have had to climb the funnel guys to attach the tackles. An old sailing ship man might have managed it, but Titanic's men were not old sailing ship hands.

Michael is right. There was only lip service to emergency procedures and the debacle of the collapsibles is an example. In collapsible D, seaman William Lucas didn't know how to steer, because he was never taught that the boat was steered with a steering oar.
>>Lightoller was not asked to explain further.<<

Since the Board of Trade signed off on the arrangement, it's not hard to see why. They had enough egg on their face as it was. They couldn't have been all that eager to explore their shortsightedness in a public forum.
I wonder if when Olympic went through her post Titanic refit, if there was a design change in how the boats atop her officers quarters were expected to be lowered to the boat deck...
You are talking about post Titanic refit I assume? I'll let Mark Chirnside comment on the lifeboat arrangement following the Titanic disaster.
>>Olympic didn't have boats atop her officers quarters?<<

Not as far as I could see, though I'll be the first to admit that I may be as blind as a bat. The post-Titanic refit included adding a full fit of davits along the entire usable length of the boat deck with the additional boats under the davits and the regular boats being the collapsibles. With that much all stored under davits, there was no good reason to keep a couple more on the deckhouse.
I have noticed, that in the Cameron’s movie, by lowering of the collapsible D (the boat where Rose is) there is something behind the steel bulwark (we can not see what is it) to help the passenger to step into the boat (notice Rose, she steps on something, then on the railing and then on the boat). I just wondered if there was something like that on the real Titanic?

I remember that Edith Evans had problems with getting into the boat and finally did not get in, and her friend, miss Brown, had problems too. But I do not recall anything from the starboard, from lowering the boats number 1 and collapsible C. Does anybody know?

Thank you
That's lifeboat 2 that Rose gets into, there. Not Collapsible "D." Collapsible "D" goes down about 2.05, about ten minutes later.
We know how difficult it was to lower collapsibles C and D from the roof of the officers' quarters, and that there wasn't enough time to prepare them for launch. Would it have been possible to prepare them while they were still up top and allow them to float free? Were the officers in charge locked into the idea that if it's a boat, it has to be lowered by davits like all the rest? I guess a third question is, did the people involved not realize how very little time they had left when they tried to get these boats down to the Boat Deck? Blatant second guessing here, I'm afraid.