Thoughts on safety at sea:


Author
Message
Daria Blackwell
Daria Blackwell
I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)
Group: Administrators
Posts: 759, Visits: 148
Dick - 9/1/2019
Dick - 8/1/2019
To Be Seen

Checking that your navigation lights illuminate at commissioning is a good start, but may not be good enough.

Walking around a boatyard or marina; one item pops out at me: how inadequate many boats’ navigation lights are. Many, not all, were adequate at purchase, but their lenses are by now so crazed as to be mostly opaque. When was the last time you compared your lens to a new one? I would probably suggest that 10 years is about swap time for plastic lenses: sooner if in the tropics.

Now, some might say they never (or rarely) run at night, but I would contend that a cruising boat should always be ready to run safely at night. In addition to running a safe seaworthy boat, there is the fact that: were there a nighttime collision, one of the first things to be looked at will be the adequacy of your lighting. A lens heavily crazed will not pass regulation’s muster.

I say this with some emphasis as we observe poorly lit or illegally lit recreational vessels at least once a year: each time it causes unnecessary anxiety.

I believe most quality manufacturers sell lenses separately or: perhaps better yet, swapping the whole fixture ensures you have a replacement in spares. While doing, check the wiring for water intrusion and change bulbs.
Please also leave your comments, additions, thoughts, disagreements etc.: they are welcome.

My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Flooding
This Safety at Sea message is a bit of a tease as I can merely introduce the subject but, follow up is easy.
Very few recreational boat bilge pump systems can do more than deal with small incidental leaks: it does not take much of a problem to start a “flooding” situation (where incoming water exceeds bilge pump capacity). A real problem: a break in a 1.5-inch raw water line say, and you have a fast-emerging emergency where sinking is on the near horizon.
So, you hear your bilge pumps get activated: the next step is…?
If your answer was to operate the manual bilge pump(s), I would suggest you think otherwise. De-watering must play second fiddle to finding the leak, repeat: Find and Stop the Leak. This is not the time to sit down and devise a plan over a cup of tea. Quick action, planned well ahead of time and practiced is required and the inspection areas should already be designated. Locating the leak is far more easily accomplished at the onset of flooding. Early, the leak’s location is easy to discern. You can still see. Later, higher water obscures and the chances of finding the leak diminishes rapidly.
Prior preparation, early warning (high water alarms), knowing where all sea cocks reside, and an inspection plan are among the essential ingredients. A complete article on the above can be found on the OCC’s Forum under “Strategies for a Flooding Vessel”.
Please come back with questions, comments, thoughts.
Safe sailing, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy



Hi Dick,
It seems that we've had many experiences aboard Aleria that complement your safety at sea essays. When delivering Aleria from the Chesapeake to Long Island Sound after we bought her, we noted that there was water above the floorboards while we were sailing along the NJ coast. Not a good sign. The bilge pump had failed.

As there was a good deal of water but it was not coming in fast, we resorted to the hand-operated pump. It was having a positive effect, ie, the water level was slowly going down. Unable to readily find the source of the incursion we took turns pumping and steering the boat through the night. There was nowhere to pull in along the coast of New Jersey until Sandy Hook Bay near the mouth of the Hudson River.

After anchoring the next morning off Atlantic Highlands, NJ near the CG station, we finally found that the water was coming in through the shaft seal. We managed to tighten this to a point where there was merely a drip coming through. We later diagnosed that the packing had disintegrated probably while motoring earlier in the Chesapeake. The boat had been stored on land for two years and the packing presumably had dried and become brittle.

The problem was then exacerbated when we wanted to resume our voyage. The starter motor failed. Both it and the alternator had been submerged. The good news: we had spares for both. The bad news: all nuts and bolts on the engine were metric and all our tools were imperial. Alex hailed the USCG and asked if there was a hardware store nearby. They asked if we needed a tow. Alex said, "No, we just need some tools." They said to wait a minute and came back with directions to the only hardware store in the area. Alex prepped the dinghy and headed ashore.

About an hour later, Alex returned with a huge grin on his face. The hardware store was having a Christmas-in-July sale and he got two tool kits (metric and imperial) for the price of one. A short while later, alternator and starter were replaced. A spare automatic bilge pump was also installed. We managed to get past New York City and up the East River without any issues. We then continued to our mooring in Rye on Long Island Sound.

Once again, we learned a valuable lesson that day. Deliveries can be dicey without the right tools...and it takes a while to learn your boat. We also replaced the packed shaft seal with a flooded PSS shaft seal, which has worked perfectly for the past fifteen years.


Vice Commodore, OCC 
Dick
Dick
I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 628, Visits: 1.3K
Alex Blackwell - 9/1/2019
Dick - 8/1/2019
To Be Seen

Checking that your navigation lights illuminate at commissioning is a good start, but may not be good enough.

Walking around a boatyard or marina; one item pops out at me: how inadequate many boats’ navigation lights are. Many, not all, were adequate at purchase, but their lenses are by now so crazed as to be mostly opaque. When was the last time you compared your lens to a new one? I would probably suggest that 10 years is about swap time for plastic lenses: sooner if in the tropics.

Now, some might say they never (or rarely) run at night, but I would contend that a cruising boat should always be ready to run safely at night. In addition to running a safe seaworthy boat, there is the fact that: were there a nighttime collision, one of the first things to be looked at will be the adequacy of your lighting. A lens heavily crazed will not pass regulation’s muster.

I say this with some emphasis as we observe poorly lit or illegally lit recreational vessels at least once a year: each time it causes unnecessary anxiety.

I believe most quality manufacturers sell lenses separately or: perhaps better yet, swapping the whole fixture ensures you have a replacement in spares. While doing, check the wiring for water intrusion and change bulbs.
Please also leave your comments, additions, thoughts, disagreements etc.: they are welcome.

My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Hi Dick
We did just that when we recently replaced the rigging on our boat. I had always thought our nav lights seemed a little weak and the bulbs kept disconnecting or failing. We now have new LED lights sized correctly for our vessel, and they are VERY bright - whi we had the chance we also replaced all the wiring. We also did Mast top tri-colour/anchor light combo with a deck level backup for the nav lights - old fixtures with new LED bulbs. The latter also seem much brighter than their incandescent predecessors. I suppose it also helped that we cleaned the glass lenses from the inside. :)
All the best, Alex Blackwell, S/v Aleria

Hi Alex,
Those all sound like wise moves. And you are also wise to attend to before and after observations of your nav lights brightness as it always nice to get feedback that good work makes a difference.
Bright nav lights are just much easier to see at night and quicker to notice: a big increase in vessel safety. Like so much in the marine industry: meeting the standards, the regulations, is, to my mind, just generally not good enough. One step, maybe two, above the recommendations/requirements is often good judgment.
I suspect you know this well from your work on anchoring and ground tackle.
BTW, were they actually glass lenses, or plastic. If glass, can you specify the manufacturer?
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick
Dick
I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 628, Visits: 1.3K
Daria Blackwell - 9/1/2019
Dick - 9/1/2019
Dick - 8/1/2019
To Be Seen

Checking that your navigation lights illuminate at commissioning is a good start, but may not be good enough.

Walking around a boatyard or marina; one item pops out at me: how inadequate many boats’ navigation lights are. Many, not all, were adequate at purchase, but their lenses are by now so crazed as to be mostly opaque. When was the last time you compared your lens to a new one? I would probably suggest that 10 years is about swap time for plastic lenses: sooner if in the tropics.

Now, some might say they never (or rarely) run at night, but I would contend that a cruising boat should always be ready to run safely at night. In addition to running a safe seaworthy boat, there is the fact that: were there a nighttime collision, one of the first things to be looked at will be the adequacy of your lighting. A lens heavily crazed will not pass regulation’s muster.

I say this with some emphasis as we observe poorly lit or illegally lit recreational vessels at least once a year: each time it causes unnecessary anxiety.

I believe most quality manufacturers sell lenses separately or: perhaps better yet, swapping the whole fixture ensures you have a replacement in spares. While doing, check the wiring for water intrusion and change bulbs.
Please also leave your comments, additions, thoughts, disagreements etc.: they are welcome.

My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Flooding
This Safety at Sea message is a bit of a tease as I can merely introduce the subject but, follow up is easy.
Very few recreational boat bilge pump systems can do more than deal with small incidental leaks: it does not take much of a problem to start a “flooding” situation (where incoming water exceeds bilge pump capacity). A real problem: a break in a 1.5-inch raw water line say, and you have a fast-emerging emergency where sinking is on the near horizon.
So, you hear your bilge pumps get activated: the next step is…?
If your answer was to operate the manual bilge pump(s), I would suggest you think otherwise. De-watering must play second fiddle to finding the leak, repeat: Find and Stop the Leak. This is not the time to sit down and devise a plan over a cup of tea. Quick action, planned well ahead of time and practiced is required and the inspection areas should already be designated. Locating the leak is far more easily accomplished at the onset of flooding. Early, the leak’s location is easy to discern. You can still see. Later, higher water obscures and the chances of finding the leak diminishes rapidly.
Prior preparation, early warning (high water alarms), knowing where all sea cocks reside, and an inspection plan are among the essential ingredients. A complete article on the above can be found on the OCC’s Forum under “Strategies for a Flooding Vessel”.
Please come back with questions, comments, thoughts.
Safe sailing, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy



Hi Dick,
It seems that we've had many experiences aboard Aleria that complement your safety at sea essays. When delivering Aleria from the Chesapeake to Long Island Sound after we bought her, we noted that there was water above the floorboards while we were sailing along the NJ coast. Not a good sign. The bilge pump had failed.

As there was a good deal of water but it was not coming in fast, we resorted to the hand-operated pump. It was having a positive effect, ie, the water level was slowly going down. Unable to readily find the source of the incursion we took turns pumping and steering the boat through the night. There was nowhere to pull in along the coast of New Jersey until Sandy Hook Bay near the mouth of the Hudson River.

After anchoring the next morning off Atlantic Highlands, NJ near the CG station, we finally found that the water was coming in through the shaft seal. We managed to tighten this to a point where there was merely a drip coming through. We later diagnosed that the packing had disintegrated probably while motoring earlier in the Chesapeake. The boat had been stored on land for two years and the packing presumably had dried and become brittle.

The problem was then exacerbated when we wanted to resume our voyage. The starter motor failed. Both it and the alternator had been submerged. The good news: we had spares for both. The bad news: all nuts and bolts on the engine were metric and all our tools were imperial. Alex hailed the USCG and asked if there was a hardware store nearby. They asked if we needed a tow. Alex said, "No, we just need some tools." They said to wait a minute and came back with directions to the only hardware store in the area. Alex prepped the dinghy and headed ashore.

About an hour later, Alex returned with a huge grin on his face. The hardware store was having a Christmas-in-July sale and he got two tool kits (metric and imperial) for the price of one. A short while later, alternator and starter were replaced. A spare automatic bilge pump was also installed. We managed to get past New York City and up the East River without any issues. We then continued to our mooring in Rye on Long Island Sound.

Once again, we learned a valuable lesson that day. Deliveries can be dicey without the right tools...and it takes a while to learn your boat. We also replaced the packed shaft seal with a flooded PSS shaft seal, which has worked perfectly for the past fifteen years.

Hi Daria,
Those who wander widely over time usually encounter ample instances to illustrate safety-at-sea issues.
Your comments hit on important considerations.
Without alarms to indicate water ingress, wet feet will be your first clue. At that point, it is likely too late to find the leak: finding your shaft log leak initially would be easy had an alarm gone off when a few inches of water had accumulated. Underwater finding that leak would be virtually impossible and if the leak is at all serious, you had better prepare to abandon ship: you are likely sinking. You were lucky that your flooding was coming in at a manageable rate and you were able to de-water with a manual pump: it does not take much of a leak to overwhelm most manual bilge pumps I see on boats generally (not to mention how much work a manual pump takes after the first few minutes when adrenalin wears off). It also does not take much of leak to overwhelm most boats electric bilge pumps.
Another issue is having floorboards that lock. It is very dangerous to have floorboards that float, sloshing around on an unstable boat. At this point you are likely running around preparing to abandon ship and the floating floorboards leave big holes that a leg can drop into and become injured, the last thing one needs in an emergency situation.
Thanks for your illustration.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy.


Simon Currin
Simon Currin
I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)
Group: Administrators
Posts: 748, Visits: 86
OK I am convinced. We will be fitting a Bilge Alarm.
Simon
Dick
Dick
I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 628, Visits: 1.3K
Simon Currin - 9/3/2019
OK I am convinced. We will be fitting a Bilge Alarm.
Simon

Hi Simon, While you are at it, go for two: a dedicated high water alarm leveled just above where the bilge pump is activated and wire in an alarm that sounds every time the bilge pump runs. Dick
Daria Blackwell
Daria Blackwell
I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)I'm into this (302 reputation)
Group: Administrators
Posts: 759, Visits: 148
Dick - 9/3/2019
Simon Currin - 9/3/2019
OK I am convinced. We will be fitting a Bilge Alarm.
Simon

Hi Simon, While you are at it, go for two: a dedicated high water alarm leveled just above where the bilge pump is activated and wire in an alarm that sounds every time the bilge pump runs. Dick

Oh, Dick, great idea about the alarm indicating the bilge pump is running. I hadn't thought of that. If you hear it often enough, you'll know there's a problem. Thanks!


Vice Commodore, OCC 
Dick
Dick
I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 628, Visits: 1.3K
Daria Blackwell - 9/3/2019
Dick - 9/3/2019
Simon Currin - 9/3/2019
OK I am convinced. We will be fitting a Bilge Alarm.
Simon

Hi Simon, While you are at it, go for two: a dedicated high water alarm leveled just above where the bilge pump is activated and wire in an alarm that sounds every time the bilge pump runs. Dick

Oh, Dick, great idea about the alarm indicating the bilge pump is running. I hadn't thought of that. If you hear it often enough, you'll know there's a problem. Thanks!

The below is part of a series of safety thoughts:
Practice and Drills
The older I get, the more I find myself saying: “If it is not written down, it doesn’t exist.”
Well, the same goes for seamanship and safety: without practice, the best strategy, the most well thought out plan, will not exist when you need it most if it is not practiced. Practice drills are one of the most easily put-off items on anyone’s to-do list, and one of the most important.
Most who read this will think first of COB drills and most, I suspect, will cringe as they reflect on how long since their last practice drill. But I would suggest that other drills: fire, flooding and medical procedures are every bit as important. What is the response to an engine alarm? Or to the alarm from your propane sniffer? These should be thought through ahead of time and periodically reviewed with all crew.
Firstly, it might be argued that every vessel should have a written plan/procedure for each emergency (ours is posted in the head where it is most likely to be occasionally reviewed). Then, drills can be scheduled, much like the maintenance one does to keep one’s boat in tip-top shape. When you have a drill, do a post-mortem, especially if you have new crew, to get feedback on what works, what does not and for new ideas.
One stimulus to practice might be to organize through a local club or association a weekend day early in the season where boats do practice drills together and share thoughts and procedures: a “safety” day so to speak.
This will be posted in the Forum and I welcome comments/suggestions/thoughts.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Simon Currin
Simon Currin
I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)I'm into this (256 reputation)
Group: Administrators
Posts: 748, Visits: 86
Dick
What you say makes perfect sense but it does sound like a drift towards a workplace type regulated environment where procedures and protocols abound. I enjoyed your tip regarding where these documents get most read and may implement that at work!

Having made those slightly flippant points I do agree that having such documents in place and the procedure rehearsed would be very comforting when something does go wrong. Your idea of sharing those rehearsals with others at the start of the season or at the beginning of an ocean crossing is excellent. Maybe share that idea with Oliver who is organising and Ocean Safety Seminar In November ahead of the Atlantic Crossing season?

The details of his event are below:
Ocean Cruising Club Blue Water Sailing Safety Seminar

Presented by Oliver Solanas Heinrich

November 4th 2019

Agenda

10:00 Introduction from Agustin Martin OCC Port Officer Representative for Pasito Blanco, Gran Canaria

Presentation on The Ocean Cruising Club and its benefits to ocean sailors

Introduced by OCC Rear Commodore Jenny Crickmore Thompson

10:20 Safety at Sea Seminar presented by Oliver Solanas Heinrichs

11:20 Vote of thanks and a few words from OCC Member Shaun Weaver.

11.30 Agustin Martin will invite attendees to stay for light refreshments

This will be held in Club Maritimo Varadero, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria and spaces are limited to 108 so if you wish to attend email your names to Oliver at info@8islas.com


Simon

Ali
Dick - 9/22/2019
Daria Blackwell - 9/3/2019
Dick - 9/3/2019
Simon Currin - 9/3/2019
OK I am convinced. We will be fitting a Bilge Alarm.
Simon

Hi Simon, While you are at it, go for two: a dedicated high water alarm leveled just above where the bilge pump is activated and wire in an alarm that sounds every time the bilge pump runs. Dick

Oh, Dick, great idea about the alarm indicating the bilge pump is running. I hadn't thought of that. If you hear it often enough, you'll know there's a problem. Thanks!

The below is part of a series of safety thoughts:
Practice and Drills
The older I get, the more I find myself saying: “If it is not written down, it doesn’t exist.”
Well, the same goes for seamanship and safety: without practice, the best strategy, the most well thought out plan, will not exist when you need it most if it is not practiced. Practice drills are one of the most easily put-off items on anyone’s to-do list, and one of the most important.
Most who read this will think first of COB drills and most, I suspect, will cringe as they reflect on how long since their last practice drill. But I would suggest that other drills: fire, flooding and medical procedures are every bit as important. What is the response to an engine alarm? Or to the alarm from your propane sniffer? These should be thought through ahead of time and periodically reviewed with all crew.
Firstly, it might be argued that every vessel should have a written plan/procedure for each emergency (ours is posted in the head where it is most likely to be occasionally reviewed). Then, drills can be scheduled, much like the maintenance one does to keep one’s boat in tip-top shape. When you have a drill, do a post-mortem, especially if you have new crew, to get feedback on what works, what does not and for new ideas.
One stimulus to practice might be to organize through a local club or association a weekend day early in the season where boats do practice drills together and share thoughts and procedures: a “safety” day so to speak.
This will be posted in the Forum and I welcome comments/suggestions/thoughts.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy



Alex Blackwell
Alex Blackwell
Junior Member (61 reputation)Junior Member (61 reputation)Junior Member (61 reputation)Junior Member (61 reputation)Junior Member (61 reputation)Junior Member (61 reputation)Junior Member (61 reputation)Junior Member (61 reputation)Junior Member (61 reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 61, Visits: 34
Dick - 9/22/2019
Daria Blackwell - 9/3/2019
Dick - 9/3/2019
Simon Currin - 9/3/2019
OK I am convinced. We will be fitting a Bilge Alarm.
Simon

Hi Simon, While you are at it, go for two: a dedicated high water alarm leveled just above where the bilge pump is activated and wire in an alarm that sounds every time the bilge pump runs. Dick

Oh, Dick, great idea about the alarm indicating the bilge pump is running. I hadn't thought of that. If you hear it often enough, you'll know there's a problem. Thanks!

The below is part of a series of safety thoughts:
Practice and Drills
The older I get, the more I find myself saying: “If it is not written down, it doesn’t exist.”
Well, the same goes for seamanship and safety: without practice, the best strategy, the most well thought out plan, will not exist when you need it most if it is not practiced. Practice drills are one of the most easily put-off items on anyone’s to-do list, and one of the most important.
Most who read this will think first of COB drills and most, I suspect, will cringe as they reflect on how long since their last practice drill. But I would suggest that other drills: fire, flooding and medical procedures are every bit as important. What is the response to an engine alarm? Or to the alarm from your propane sniffer? These should be thought through ahead of time and periodically reviewed with all crew.
Firstly, it might be argued that every vessel should have a written plan/procedure for each emergency (ours is posted in the head where it is most likely to be occasionally reviewed). Then, drills can be scheduled, much like the maintenance one does to keep one’s boat in tip-top shape. When you have a drill, do a post-mortem, especially if you have new crew, to get feedback on what works, what does not and for new ideas.
One stimulus to practice might be to organize through a local club or association a weekend day early in the season where boats do practice drills together and share thoughts and procedures: a “safety” day so to speak.
This will be posted in the Forum and I welcome comments/suggestions/thoughts.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Excellent thoughts, and I will suggest the COB day to our local sailing club today.
One aditional aspect for them (and you) that I will add: The crew member who "falls" overboard during the event should be the skipper. This adds one critical aspect to the process: that other members of the crew are proficient in helming and managing the boat. This would also apply to husband and wife teams, who do not race.
All the best
alex Blackwell, s/v Aleria
Dick
Dick
I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)I'm hooked (405 reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 628, Visits: 1.3K
Simon Currin - 9/23/2019
Dick
What you say makes perfect sense but it does sound like a drift towards a workplace type regulated environment where procedures and protocols abound. I enjoyed your tip regarding where these documents get most read and may implement that at work!

Having made those slightly flippant points I do agree that having such documents in place and the procedure rehearsed would be very comforting when something does go wrong. Your idea of sharing those rehearsals with others at the start of the season or at the beginning of an ocean crossing is excellent. Maybe share that idea with Olivier who is organising and Ocean Safety Seminar In November ahead of the Atlantic Crossing season?

Simon

Ali
Dick - 9/22/2019
Daria Blackwell - 9/3/2019
Dick - 9/3/2019
Simon Currin - 9/3/2019
OK I am convinced. We will be fitting a Bilge Alarm.
Simon

Hi Simon, While you are at it, go for two: a dedicated high water alarm leveled just above where the bilge pump is activated and wire in an alarm that sounds every time the bilge pump runs. Dick

Oh, Dick, great idea about the alarm indicating the bilge pump is running. I hadn't thought of that. If you hear it often enough, you'll know there's a problem. Thanks!

The below is part of a series of safety thoughts:
Practice and Drills
The older I get, the more I find myself saying: “If it is not written down, it doesn’t exist.”
Well, the same goes for seamanship and safety: without practice, the best strategy, the most well thought out plan, will not exist when you need it most if it is not practiced. Practice drills are one of the most easily put-off items on anyone’s to-do list, and one of the most important.
Most who read this will think first of COB drills and most, I suspect, will cringe as they reflect on how long since their last practice drill. But I would suggest that other drills: fire, flooding and medical procedures are every bit as important. What is the response to an engine alarm? Or to the alarm from your propane sniffer? These should be thought through ahead of time and periodically reviewed with all crew.
Firstly, it might be argued that every vessel should have a written plan/procedure for each emergency (ours is posted in the head where it is most likely to be occasionally reviewed). Then, drills can be scheduled, much like the maintenance one does to keep one’s boat in tip-top shape. When you have a drill, do a post-mortem, especially if you have new crew, to get feedback on what works, what does not and for new ideas.
One stimulus to practice might be to organize through a local club or association a weekend day early in the season where boats do practice drills together and share thoughts and procedures: a “safety” day so to speak.
This will be posted in the Forum and I welcome comments/suggestions/thoughts.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy



Hi Simon,
At the risk of promoting OCD or embracing the mantle of OSHA (Health & Safety in the UK): that is exactly what I am encouraging. And I recognize that all these drills and practice will likely never see real-life action: they are fortunately relatively rare happenings. Their importance escalates not in reflection of their likelihood, but rather because the ante is so high: death and/or loss of boat.
Some people can pull off a seat-of-one’s-pants existence reacting spontaneously and successfully to the slings and arrows one encounters in offshore passage making: but I am not one of them. Nor, do I believe, are the vast majority of cruisers. Most of us need to be well prepared to respond to an unfolding and unexpected event with speed and efficiency. We are usually far less competent in anxious situations than anticipated.
It is no accident (pun intended) that airline pilots are wedded to a comprehensive checklist before they leave the ground. Nor is it surprising that hospitals and medical practices (you may be able to confirm this) are turning to checklists of various sorts to promote safety and to make less likely error: “accidental” deaths and inadvertent problems are documented to decrease markedly.
And it is not a coincidence that these activities have a responsible person (pilot, doctor, nurse) responsible for passengers/patients who essentially put their faith in the “system” such as it is.
I do not think it a big leap that the skipper of a boat embraces the same responsibility when he/she takes what is in all likelihood is a “naïve” crew to sea. By “naïve”, I do not mean in-experienced or in any way a passenger: but it is on the skipper’s shoulders to ensure good batteries are in the COB strobe, that drills are conducted, that there are high water alarms for early warning of flooding etc.
To me it is a huge responsibility and, my observation again, there are too many boats who go to sea crossing their fingers (or maybe not even crossing their fingers as they do not know they are relying on luck). I emphasize this, not only because I wish skippers and crew to have the best safety experience, but also because, when things do go pear shaped, SAR personnel will be called and will be putting their lives on the line. They have signed up for this, but our responsibility is to only go sailing in a well prepared vessel with a well prepared crew.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy



GO

Merge Selected

Merge into selected topic...



Merge into merge target...



Merge into a specific topic ID...




Login

Search