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Old 02-22-2009, 07:24 PM   #1
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I am sure that there is much for us all to learn from in this horrific story:

A British couple have been rescued from their stricken yacht by an Italian oil tanker after spending an incredible 40 days drifting across the storm-ravaged Atlantic Ocean.

Stuart Armstrong, 51, and his partner Andrea Davison, 48, were last night on board supertanker Indian Point in the middle of the Atlantic and heading back to Britain for an emotional reunion with their families.

Although both escaped unhurt, they were tired, exhausted and grateful to be returning home after their six-week ordeal in which they ‘stared death in the face’



Full story HERE
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Old 02-22-2009, 08:59 PM   #2
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This is just the sort of event that has many "what if" question marks all around it for me. Perhaps their rudder was bent, something making it totally impossible to fix or remove the rudder...They had the sugar scoop transom which appears a wonderful place to rig a highly leveraged emergency rudder. I dunno. I feel so bad that they had to abandon their boat. The entire situation brings a lot of angst to me because of a trend I see in that when a small yacht calls for assistance, the assistance given seems to always be the opportunity to abandon ship and nothing else. I mean, really, couldn't it have been possible for someone to talk them through a diagnosis and repair or install of an emergency rudder? There must be a better way.

It always seems that the yacht owner is either on their own to fix things or they really must just leave their yacht (often their home, as this one was) behind in what always seems to be a very risky rescue--big ship + small yacht. Regarding the rescue, I've always thought it would be easier to be in one's liferaft alongside such a big rescuing vessel than to try and board from a small yacht. Perhaps some more experienced merchant marines here can comment on this big+small thing???

Re-reading the post--with the rudder hard-over I wonder if they went about setting up the boat to be hove-to in all that heavy weather? I don't know if their hull shape was conducive to this but it would be interesting to know if they did so.

With all the communication they had (sat phone) I'm so sorry that there wasn't a smaller vessel that could meet them (in time) and assist them with repair. I just am greatly saddened when cruisers lose their vessel "to the rescue" rather than to the sea. I hope that some smart, resourceful person is able to salvage the Sara. I'm both glad they didn't scuttle her so that she might be salvaged and I'm wondering about the responsibility of leaving a vessel at sea where it could cause someone else harm.

There must be a better way--and yes there's much to learn here.
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Old 02-22-2009, 10:40 PM   #3
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This sad story resonates with me as it was almost 4 years ago, in January like Sara, when I was sailing my Thetis from Cape Verde to the Caribbean. While we were lucky and had no serious mishap what happened to Sara could have happened to us. Reading the details of their ordeal makes me very sad as I feel the pain of after all this to end up loosing their boat at the rescue.

Redbopeep is absolutely right. There could have been a better way. A smaller rescue vessel, help for repairs, etc. I do not know. But, after 40 days at sea with supplies running low they did make the right, if painful, decision. Life is more precious that a boat, no mater how much we love her. Yet, like redbopeep, I wish this crossing had a happier ending. I too wonder if during these 40 days, with modern communications available, why, why no one was found to give them better help?

I wish Stuart Armstrong and Andrea Davison the best and may they soon be able to replace Sara.
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Old 02-23-2009, 11:38 AM   #4
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A British couple have been rescued from their 13-meter yacht in the Atlantic Ocean after they drifted for weeks with a broken rudder.

The pair, Stuart Armstrong, 51, and his partner Andrea Davison, 48, was understood to be running out of food and water when they were winched to safety from their boat Sara by crew on board the 183-meter-long oil tanker Indian Point on February 18.

Having planned to cross the Atlantic from Cape Verde to Antigua, the couple's problems began on January 9, about half-way through their journey, when the rudder of their boat jammed on starboard and sent them drifting in circles.

Armstrong alerted the U.S. Coast Guard of their problems. However, the Coast Guard told the couple they were too far out to be rescued.

The couple was then battered by several storms, and as they began to run short of food and a power cut disabled their desalination unit (which provides drinking water), the Coast Guard alerted the Indian Point, which took a five-hour diversion to save them in heavy seas. They managed to secure both sailors by lowering harnesses down to the yacht.

The pair was now expected to arrive in Amsterdam on March 1 with the Indian Point.

Speaking after the rescue, Armstrong said, "At first we were not too bothered, as we had a good supply of dry provisions, the usual things you have on a boat -- pasta, kidney beans, biscuits, rice and soya," the British newspaper The Guardian reported.

"We kept getting hit by storms, but we managed to get out of them with no real problems.

"But I knew we were riding our luck and we wouldn't be able to go on for much longer," Davison added.

A spokesman for the oil tanker said the pair was "scared and wet and happy."
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Old 02-24-2009, 12:20 AM   #5
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How does a rudder get 'jammed' to starboard? Was the problem the steering or the rudder? What did they do to try to fix the problem? It almost seems it might have been better to break the rudder off trying to fix it than to leave it hard over. What was the rudder construction? Did they have a diagram aboard? Any hypothisis as to what was the 'stuck' bit?
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Old 02-24-2009, 12:25 AM   #6
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If they couldn't sort out their steering in 40 days then they shouldn't have been there in the first place.
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Old 02-24-2009, 02:03 AM   #7
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Coyote and Nightcap:

These stories always leave out all the "best" details that we sailors would love to know. I rather suspect there is much to the story and we can hope to learn from it. My husband immediately asked "didn't they have a spare alternator or the ability to rebuild it?" Well, they probably did--but the story doesn't give us the scoop on that either. There are many details that sailors would love to know the answers to.

I don't know the design of their rudder but can surmise that if the rudder stock were bent it is possible they'd be hard-over and unable to do anything short of cutting away the rudder itself. We don't know what tools they had onboard, dive gear, ability to get in the water, ability to drop the rudder from under the cockpit, etc..if there ever were conditions that allowed them to even consider getting in the water. We wonder if they had enough stuff on board to make a sculling type rudder--if the conditions remained so rough as to make these ideas worthless. We don't know the strength or physical condition of this couple and their ability to work with the conditions they were faced with.

The story lacks "our kind of detail" and we can hope that these folks will be good enough and kind enough--and have the opportunity--to share their full story, when they're ready, with the world of cruisers so we can all learn from their experience.

Regardless of what they had on board to enable repair--or not--I am so very disappointed that no smaller vessel was able to come to their assistance--or offer sat-phone tech support so to speak--during that long 40 day period, to bring forth a repaired Sara rather than having them have to leave the Sara adrift.

We wish them the best and hope that the full story will make it to a cruising publication or online forum sooner rather than later.
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Old 02-24-2009, 02:16 AM   #8
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If they couldn't sort out their steering in 40 days then they shouldn't have been there in the first place.
I am inclined to agree with you, but we don't have all the information we need to make such a judgment, and probably never will. *The boat looks lovely, does anyone know what make it is? *What kind of steering was it, I wonder? *Quadrant, hydraulic, what?

We would all benefit more, and probably learn something, if instead of making a flat statement, "they shouldn't have been there", we all contributed more to offering various scenarios of gear breaking and being jury-rigged or fixed at sea.

I usually talk more about the stupid mistakes that we make rather than what we've done right. *Hate to change that approach now.
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Old 02-24-2009, 02:42 AM   #9
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Coyote and Nightcap:

I don't know the design of their rudder but can surmise that if the rudder stock were bent it is possible they'd be hard-over and unable to do anything short of cutting away the rudder itself. We don't know what tools they had onboard, dive gear, ability to get in the water, ability to drop the rudder from under the cockpit, etc..if there ever were conditions that allowed them to even consider getting in the water. We wonder if they had enough stuff on board to make a sculling type rudder--if the conditions remained so rough as to make these ideas worthless. We don't know the strength or physical condition of this couple and their ability to work with the conditions they were faced with.
A different way of looking at my POV. If they weren't physically capable of repairing it in 40 days, if they didn't have the equipment on board to be self reliant, if they didn't have the knowledge to engineer a solution or if they didn't have the will to keep trying then, yes, I believe they shouldn't have been out there. Only serious injury or illness should have held them back and it seems from the article that this wasn't the case.
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Old 02-24-2009, 05:38 AM   #10
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A different way of looking at my POV. If they weren't physically capable of repairing it in 40 days, if they didn't have the equipment on board to be self reliant, if they didn't have the knowledge to engineer a solution or if they didn't have the will to keep trying then, yes, I believe they shouldn't have been out there. Only serious injury or illness should have held them back and it seems from the article that this wasn't the case.
Gracious, feeling just a bit "superior" aren't we?

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I usually talk more about the stupid mistakes that we make rather than what we've done right. *Hate to change that approach now.
LOL

Its rather fun to talk about those silly things we've all done, isn't it? And, hopefully I can learn from your silly mistakes and someone else can learn from mine and so on...as long as we share them here.

Fair winds
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Old 02-24-2009, 08:23 PM   #11
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Gracious, feeling just a bit "superior" aren't we?
No, just get a bit sick & tired of spending my cruising time helping people who are ill prepared, don't know what they're doing and basically should have stayed home. Try the couple who sailed across the Pacific, lost their engine and send out a distress call because they didn't know how to sail to windward.
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Old 02-24-2009, 10:10 PM   #12
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No, just get a bit sick & tired of spending my cruising time helping people who are ill prepared, don't know what they're doing and basically should have stayed home. Try the couple who sailed across the Pacific, lost their engine and send out a distress call because they didn't know how to sail to windward.
I am not tired of helping people Nightcap when they are in trouble. No one is born with experience and the sea has a way of humbling everyone, even the most experienced. Helping our fellow sailors is in the best of nautical traditions. I just hope that when either you or me needs help somebody will provide it.

In the mean time it best not to second guess and pass judgment but learn from the mishaps of others.
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Old 02-25-2009, 12:39 AM   #13
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Here's a link that provides somewhat different information. http://www.bymnews.com/news/newsDetails.php?id=51246

Most all cruisers love their freedom but I do object to poorly prepared, inadequately trained people sailing bluewater passages in boats that are not up to standard. These people are responsible for my increased bluewater premiums, have been responsible for me diverting and jeopardising myself and boat to assist them and they give genuine cruisers a bad reputatiuon amongst the armchair critics.

BTW, it might save confusion if you show my last post rather than just quote it.
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Old 02-25-2009, 05:39 PM   #14
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Hi Nightcab

We are talking about a sailor who was on his 8th Atlantic crossing.

To think positively, we can assume, that there is alot of experience involved and I cannot believe, that this crew and boat were ill-prepared.

We read about a crew that tried for four weeks to manage the situation.

We do not yet know why they did not succeed.

If we know more, we can come to conclusions, but not for the sake of spreading negative judgements, but to learn for ourselves out of what happened.

Give them a chance.

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Old 02-25-2009, 09:16 PM   #15
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Here's a link that provides somewhat different information. http://www.bymnews.com/news/newsDetails.php?id=51246

Most all cruisers love their freedom but I do object to poorly prepared, inadequately trained people sailing bluewater passages in boats that are not up to standard. These people are responsible for my increased bluewater premiums, have been responsible for me diverting and jeopardising myself and boat to assist them and they give genuine cruisers a bad reputatiuon amongst the armchair critics.

BTW, it might save confusion if you show my last post rather than just quote it.
Sometimes folks--even those with vast experience and well prepared for their endeavors--do get into situations way over their heads and we are all fortunate that many people in many places have the cultural upbringing to act as a good samaritan and provide assistance if possible. In what situations have you, personally, diverted your own boat to provide assistance to a yacht experiencing difficulty during passage making/blue water? Very few people are in the right place and at the right time to be able to assist another vessel at sea. Was the situation resolved for the other yacht with your assistance? I hope so. We would love to hear what you learned from your own experience and if it changed your own on-board preparations in some way.

You are also correct that these sorts of situations where a boat is abandoned do increase bluewater premiums--or even make it impossible for people to obtain bluewater insurance in some cases. From the link you posted and the other story link, it is clear to me that our present maritime industry seems ill-prepared or have been conditioned that no assistance is required to be provided other than picking up crew in the situation of abandoning ship. If there isn't another cruiser in the area willing to assist, it seems that it is almost a foregone conclusion that a yacht such as Sara will be abandoned. There is something deeply wrong with that whole situation.

There are countless situations that might bring about the need for assistance of someone other than the vessel crew. The reality is that as much as we prepare, things can happen which are far beyond those prudent preparations. My husband and I, being extremists of self-sufficiency, have purchased a boat a bit larger than we needed simply to allow ourselves the pure luxury of maintaining our self-sufficient natures by having oodles of tools and supplies aboard in case of need. I don't think that every cruiser needs to be outfitted with all that we feel we must carry--that's silly--but we can all be better prepared for emergency if we share our experiences and thoughts about keeping our boats safe and maintainable at sea.

Here on the Cruiser Log, we warmly invite anyone who has such experience to share their stories with us so that we can all learn better ways to be safe at sea.

I often make reference to the founding of the Cruising Club of America. This is because, when researching the history of the 1931 boat we are presently rebuilding, we learned that she was the flagship of the CCA when she was sailed by Alexander W. Moffat as he was the commodore of the CCA in 1931-1932. In the early 1920's, several yachtsmen got together and formed the club. One of its goals was to educate youngsters in proper seamanship but another key goal was to provide support to each other when exploring the world's oceans. They realized, back then, that a single yacht could not easily explore and cruise safely. But, rather, a couple yachts could explore together--splitting up the requirement for additional kit needed among the boats that traveled together. The goal was that any club member would know that other club members had the experience and knowledge to be on equial footing with each other and thus good matches for cruising together. A bit elitist, perhaps, but a realistic view of what one would want in the way of cruising partner boats. The club went on to be very active in ocean racing, but I always find this first "reason" for the club to exist to be very enligthening--they thought that it was very difficult to impossible for a cruising yacht to be self sufficient. I believe it is.

Yes, armchair sailors can sit around and pontificate about how one should be entirely self-sufficient and real cruisers can TRY very hard to be so...but the bottom line, I believe, is that we need each other and that no matter how prepared we are...completing one's journey can be completely reliant upon the efforts of other folks--not the folks onboard the cruising yacht. I hope that if I should ever require assistance, one of the many generous cruisers I've met in person or here on the Cruiser Log will come to my assistance.

Fair winds,
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Old 02-25-2009, 09:59 PM   #16
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Sometimes folks--even those with vast experience and well prepared for their endeavors--do get into situations way over their heads and we are all fortunate that many people in many places have the cultural upbringing to act as a good samaritan and provide assistance if possible. In what situations have you, personally, diverted your own boat to provide assistance to a yacht experiencing difficulty during passage making/blue water? Very few people are in the right place and at the right time to be able to assist another vessel at sea. Was the situation resolved for the other yacht with your assistance? I hope so. We would love to hear what you learned from your own experience and if it changed your own on-board preparations in some way.
Yes, I have assisted many fellow seafarers and yes, I will continue to do so. (As I work for a company called “Yacht Help” it would be unwise of me to do any different). My biggest concern is not that they got into this predicament but that they couldn’t get themselves out of it after 40 days. Unbelievable to have to abandon a boat that isn’t sinking or burning uncontrollably. OK, so they were running out of water and possibly food, could they not have got some off the ship instead of abandoning?

A brief synopsis of vessels I have assisted through 25 years at sea professionally and recreationally.

1/ Yacht where delivery crew had abandoned into liferaft then helicopter due to seasickness 24 hours from the nearest port. Found vessel still sailing itself, transferred 1 of my crew & returned boat to owner safe & sound

2/ Gave position to trans Tasman cruising yacht pre GPS & satnav days. Crew where unsure what side of New Zealand they were on a sunny day and land in sight!!!

3/ Evacuated injured crew from fishing boat, treated & returned to port

4/ Gave fuel to sailboat who had run out and weren’t confident enough to sail into port

5/ Numerous instances of mechanical advice over the radio

6/ Diving on yacht mid ocean to untangle sea anchor from keel

7/ Boarded yacht & sailed into port after crew had lost engine & didn’t know how to sail to windward

8/ Evacuated passengers after collision between charter boat & barge

There are many others as well. It seems like a lot but I have spent more time at sea than I have on land since I first set sail.

And yes, I have received assistance on a bluewater passage myself. A container ship slowed down to drop us some coffee 2 weeks out from Japan as we hadn't brought enough on board
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Old 02-26-2009, 01:32 AM   #17
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Most all cruisers love their freedom but I do object to poorly prepared, inadequately trained people sailing bluewater passages in boats that are not up to standard. These people are responsible for my increased bluewater premiums, have been responsible for me diverting and jeopardising myself and boat to assist them and they give genuine cruisers a bad reputatiuon amongst the armchair critics.
Am I to infer from your comment that any bluewater cruiser who gets into trouble on the high seas, for WHATEVER reason, is "poorly prepared, inadequately trained?" *NOBODY else sailing the oceans gets into trouble? *And anybody who goes to help another sailor in trouble is jeopardising their own safety and their boat? *Wow.

I suppose that's why Joshua Slocum sailed out of Boston Harbor and was never heard from again? *He was poorly prepared and inadequately trained? *

Or why a friend of ours who has at least two Olympic medals (one gold, one bronze) in sailing, and has sailed in everything, everywhere, for at least 50 years, lost his mast in a Pacific crossing and needed some assistance from other cruisers?

Or another friend, several hundred miles from completing his second solo circumnavigation, who lost five anchors in Hurricane Hugo and needed a bunch of help to get his boat off the bar he grounded on rather than crash into others or something a lot harder?

Are you so perfect you never made a mistake? *Have you gotten into some nasty trouble and successfully got out of it without help? *Have you thought that perhaps luck had as much to do with the favorable outcome as your own skill? *I know we have, and we can sincerely say that we have had some very lucky breaks.

However, I do see your point about the differences in the reporting between The Mail and BYM news. *Don't you think that there is some chance that The Mail might have misquoted or misinterpreted some of the information in its news story? * BYM News is correct in checking the information and giving better information, though I think that The Mail's story ignored facts and information in its zeal to report a sensational story.

Seems clear to me, though, that the fellow, once he learned that he did not have insurance coverage for his yacht, was willing to drift rather than lose his boat. *I would, too. *The reality is, no large ship can tow a small yacht to safety. *What private yacht could tow him to safety? *The boat couldn't be saved, and if he was incapable of fixing his rudder, or wasn't strong enough, or whatever, and nobody was willing to come to his boat to help him, well, 40 days was a valiant effort to get nearer to help. *I'll bet that it was his partner who yelled Uncle and asked to be rescued.

Finally, this story justifies my obsessive provisioning of food to last at least four times longer than a passage would normally take - well, at least to me it does!
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Old 02-26-2009, 02:08 AM   #18
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Am I to infer from your comment that any bluewater cruiser who gets into trouble on the high seas, for WHATEVER reason, is "poorly prepared, inadequately trained?" NOBODY else sailing the oceans gets into trouble? And anybody who goes to help another sailor in trouble is jeopardising their own safety and their boat? Wow.
The simple answer is no. If the moderators would allow my posts straight onto the board rather than waiting to review them, it might save some confusion. I am lucky to an extent that I am a professional seafarer and have had extensive experience & training that have enabled me to get myself out of the various troubles that have occurred.

My contention is that regardless of what caused the rudder jamming in the first place, that fact that they were unable to engineer a solution after 40 days defies the imagination. I assume they had plenty of line, mainsheet blocks, winches, spinnaker pole, tools to dismantle steering connections, snorkel.

Something in this whole saga doesn't ring true.
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Old 02-26-2009, 09:29 PM   #19
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Hi, Nightcap,

Reading your post about your work, I had an "ah-ha!" moment. Reading your profile gave me another "ah-ha!" to go along with it.

You're like the SeaTow drivers we have here in San Diego who sit by the jetty and wait for folks to ground--as they will. You know its going to happen, given enough boaters, and you make your money on your customers' error or misfortune and then go to the bars with your buddies to joke about how foolish boaters all are... Well, 25 years of THAT is enough to skew anyone's view of the world! Yep, me thinks it's time for you to move on to some other, less soul-depleting, line of work--or perhaps just skip the sauce in the evenings with other cynics in the maritime industry.

Yes, I think I can safely say that, sadly, you're jaded by your work. I suggest that you take a break, maybe go cruising, restore your faith in your fellow boater . Or, if you must continue to work and can't really take some time off right now, why not get into a different line of work where you won't be confronted with such bad karma day-in and day-out? I couldn't imagine working to rescue, save, and salvage...all the time thinking about how foolish, inexperienced, stupid, etc, these boater folks are. I'd rather be thinking about how good it is that I have the opportunity to make a positive difference in someone's life--fixing something, saving a boat, providing assistance in some positive way.

Fair winds and best of luck in a change of career away from the dead-zone you seem to have been sucked into.
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Old 02-26-2009, 09:35 PM   #20
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this story justifies my obsessive provisioning of food to last at least four times longer than a passage would normally take - well, at least to me it does!
Yes, makes me feel much better about having way too much stuff onboard, too

However, if I ever end up in this situation AND have radio contact with a HAM, I must say, I'd be putting out a call-for-cruisers to assist me rather than relying on any other sources of assistance.



I've just heard too many GOOD things about cruiser's being able to bring parts or provide assistance in very hairy situations.
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