Friday, March 13, 2009

Basic Safety Gear

In this age of technology we have weaned ourselves from the basic knowledge of sea safety. Unbelievable as it might seem, Doryman once rescued a mega-yacht who's motor had quit without an anchor aboard. Headed for certain disaster, out of control in a hard running current, the skipper hardly seemed aware that anchoring was an option...
So, here's Doryman's list of essential safety equipment:

+ An anchor, ready to deploy, with at least 200 feet of anchor rode in good condition.

+ Crew overboard equipment, including safety lines and harnesses, PFD's (wear them!), throwable flotation (with line attached, ready to deploy!) and a usable dinghy.

+ Carry spare fuel, stowed safe and secured. A light tool kit, including rigging knife(s) might save an emergency call for the simple expediency of a clogged fuel line, or a fouled prop.

+ Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers (charged and operable!!)

+ Bilge pump: While electric bilge pumps are all the rage, Doryman still advocates a mounted, high volume hand pump. Mistral has such a pump with a long hose attached that will reach anywhere in the bilge. And a bucket! There is no better bilge pump than a mariner on adrenalin!

+ First aid kit. Keep your kit current and up to date. If you use supplies from the kit, replace them right away. Band aids and sun screen are the first to go.

+ Adequate clothing and blankets (plus spares) to ward off hypothermia.

Of course you need emergency locators, flares, and flags as required by the Coast Guard, but there is no substitute for being prepared to handle an emergency on your own. The PAN or MAYDAY radio call is the last resort that all good sailors dread.

All the equipment in the world will not save you, if you do not know how to use it. Practice kedging out an anchor. Try a real life man overboard drill. Learn how to maneuver your boat in close quarters without a motor (carry oars or paddles). Deploy the anchor, not just to learn how, but to insure that all lines and chain run free.

Maintain your boat for safety. Check for warn or corroded parts, spilled fuel and other hidden hazards, at the dock, on a regular basis.

Know the limits of yourself, your vessel and your crew. Anticipate building weather and act prudently. Capricious weather can and will challenge the most experienced sailor.

Be wary of the lee shore. This may be the oldest of safety measures for the seasoned sailor. There is no substitute in an emergency than adequate sea room.

Know where you are and where you're going. Be aware of winds and tides. When conditions change and visibility drops to zero, it's too late to begin navigating.

Have a back up plan. Struggling to meet an impossible goal may sap all physical strength, a sure invitation to hypothermia, the sailor's worst enemy.

Always be prepared for the worst, to get the most from your sailing experience.

Participate in a safety program:
US SAILING has a continuing commitment to safety programs. The Safety-at-Sea Committee, operating under the aegis of the Offshore Committee, has been a central element in the pursuit of basic research, development into specific guidance for construction of yachts, and derivation of improved techniques for safety.

I may be preaching to the choir here... Happy sailing to all!!

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