Wooden lifeboats


Nov 14, 2005
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This probably doesn't apply to Titanic as she was a new ship and am not sure its even relevant with todays lifeboats/rafts. But I've seen in various old movies and have read in novels where leaking lifeboats were a problem. They would always say " she was on the chocks too long" Was that just an accepted condition or was there some kind maintenance procedure they were supposed do? Or was it not really a problem and hollywood/authors just made it seem so? Never had a wooden boat and was curious.
 

Tim Aldrich

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This probably doesn't apply to Titanic as she was a new ship and am not sure its even relevant with todays lifeboats/rafts. But I've seen in various old movies and have read in novels where leaking lifeboats were a problem. They would always say " she was on the chocks too long" Was that just an accepted condition or was there some kind maintenance procedure they were supposed do? Or was it not really a problem and hollywood/authors just made it seem so? Never had a wooden boat and was curious.
The reason for leaking is due to the material. Wood is a dynamic material and as humidity levels change the wood expands or contracts across the grain. Less humidity and the wood contracts, more humidity and the wood expands. Titanic's lifeboats would have been no exception to the rule. If a lifeboat "stays in the chocks too long" the wood would be quite dry, and the boards would contract which means the joints between the boards open up more than "normal". Once in the water, the boards would expand and the joints would tighten stopping leaks.
 
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May 3, 2005
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I have also read from some reports that there was some kind of a drain hole or something of that order in the bottom of the lifeboat and water was coming into the lifeboat until someone found the drain plug and put it in the hole to stop the water.

Please be advised (paraphrasing the old Will Roger's quote about newspapers if the above is not correct) " All I know is what I read on these forums, the movies or the internet and that's my excuse for ignorance ! " ...LOL
 
Nov 14, 2005
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414
218
The reason for leaking is due to the material. Wood is a dynamic material and as humidity levels change the wood expands or contracts across the grain. Less humidity and the wood contracts, more humidity and the wood expands. Titanic's lifeboats would have been no exception to the rule. If a lifeboat "stays in the chocks too long" the wood would be quite dry, and the boards would contract which means the joints between the boards open up more than "normal". Once in the water, the boards would expand and the joints would tighten stopping leaks.
Ok Thanks. So there really wasn't any procedure they used to minimize it? Just something that was expected and plan on bailing water till the boat swelled?
 

Bob_Read

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New boats “on the chocks” for the shortest time of any other ship in service. What’s the problem?
 

Jay Roches

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Apr 14, 2012
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I have also read from some reports that there was some kind of a drain hole or something of that order in the bottom of the lifeboat and water was coming into the lifeboat until someone found the drain plug and put it in the hole to stop the water.

Please be advised (paraphrasing the old Will Roger's quote about newspapers if the above is not correct) " All I know is what I read on these forums, the movies or the internet and that's my excuse for ignorance ! " ...LOL
Yes, there was a drain hole in the bottom of each boat. They were necessary to prevent rain from accumulating in the boats. Each boat was provided with two plugs for each hole:
"(b) With two plugs for each plug hole, attached with lanyards or chains and one set and a half of thole pins or crutches, attached to the boat by sound lanyards." (British Inquiry 1718)

The plugs were mentioned by multiple witnesses at both inquiries. Several witnesses testified that their boat didn't have a plug, though, since more than one person could have mentioned a single boat, I don't know exactly how many were missing plugs.

All wooden lifeboats, Titanic's included, were fitted with airtight copper buoyancy tanks that would keep the boat afloat even if the plug was missing. These were required to have buoyancy equivalent to 10% of the boat's capacity. Each boat was provided with a baler (though it's not clear if any boats were missing them) for removing water.

While it doesn't apply to Titanic, the idea of boats being "in the chocks too long" reminds me of the General Slocum fire in 1904, where the lifeboats were fixed to the decks with metal wire and cemented to the chocks with heavy coats of paint.
 
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