Setting lifeboats free

Mar 22, 2003
Chicago, IL, USA
The lifeboats were fitted with Murray's disengaging gear with arrangements for simultaneously freeing both ends if required. The gear was fastened at a suitable distance from the forward and after ends of the boats, to suit the davits. Lifelines were fitted round the gunwales of the lifeboats. The davit blocks were treble for the lifeboats and double for the cutters. They were of elm, with lignum vitae roller sheaves, and were bound inside with iron, and had swivel eyes. There were manila rope falls of sufficient length for lowering the boats to the vessel's light draft, and when the boats were lowered, to be able to reach to the boat winches on the Boat deck.
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Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
I was going to link to Bob Read's excellent paper but Sam beat me to it. I'll just add a little.

If you can find a really good copy of the famous photo of Titanic's boats in New York, it is possible to see at least two of the control levers. They are naturally in the free position and they are on the third thwart from the bow.

Release lever in lifeboat.jpg

The advantage of Murray's gear seems to have been that the chain linking the release mechanisms ran along the bottom of the boat, out of the way. In some other gears the chain ran over the thwarts and got in the way.

The gear relied on the weight of the boat pulling the release gear open. When the boat was afloat it was too late for it to work properly. Hence there was some cutting of the falls, for instance, by Fred Barrett. Current SOLAS rules require the release gear to work whether the weight of the boat is on the falls, or whether the boat is fully afloat, with the falls slack.
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