Archive for July, 2009

Safety theme for boat show

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Thursday 30 July is the opening day of the 2009 Sydney International Boat Show and we’re going along to renew contacts and check out what’s new.

The show’s sponsor, NSW Maritime, has adopted four safety themes this year – life jackets, speed/wash, alcohol and night safety. Obviously this is in response to two collisions with multiple fatalities that occurred at night on Sydney harbour in the last couple of years. In both cases several of the themes were ignored.

It will be interesting to see how the themes are handled, particularly as they apply to yachts and sailing. We’ll let you know what we find out.

More about float plans

Monday, July 20th, 2009

There is no doubt that float plans save lives. Even if you’re going out for a daytrip at sea it’s worth giving someone information about your planned outing.

The person who has been given your float plan should alert the local Coast Guard if you are overdue, either arriving in port or in communicating with them.

If you give a float plan to someone it is, therefore, basic courtesy to let them know if you deviate from the itinerary or timing detailed in your plan. Otherwise they may call on the Coast Guard to search for you when you are not in need of rescue. It could even divert resources from a search for someone in real danger.

No radio, but they did have a float plan

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Although the two young men I wrote about earlier this week were extremely irresponsible in setting sail without a marine VHF radio, life jackets and flares, they did at least do one thing right. They had told someone on land where they were going and that they planned to keep in touch, albeit by mobile phone.

They lodged their float plan with their parents who therefore knew:
* when they set out from Marina Del Rey
* when they expected to reach Santa Cruz
* to expect contact from the pair at least once a day

When the parents had heard nothing from the novice sailors on the Friday and Saturday, they contacted Coast Guard on the Sunday to share their concerns for the safety of the two men.

If they had not arranged to contact the parents daily and the sailboat had got into difficulties, their lack of radio and flares meant that they would not have been able to seek help.

Hopefully they now understand why there are rules covering the yacht safety equipment that must be carried on board – and why they should learn how to use it.

Having no radio was plain irresponsible

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

In last week’s newsletter I talked about using a marine VHF radio to keep in touch while at sea. The story below demonstrates how failure to do so caused a major search, fortunately with no loss of life.

Last month two young men took to sea in a yacht bought for US$2,000. They had no sailing experience and were relying on their mobile phones to update their parents on their progress to Santa Cruz from Marina Del Rey, a voyage of over 200 miles.

After some calls in the first 24 hours at sea, the parents heard nothing from the yacht for two days so they contacted Coast Guard, who initiated a search using a plane and two helicopters.

The men were found safe and sound and were completely unaware that they had been ‘missing’. They had lost contact with home when their mobile phone batteries ran down and they had no way of recharging them.

Coast Guard also found that they had no life jackets, flares or radio communications equipment on board.

Undeterred, the two planned to buy the necessary yacht safety equipment and continue their voyage. Fortunately for them, neither they nor their families will be charged for the cost of the search and rescue operation.

Where sailors die

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Where do you think most fatal boating accidents happen? Worldwide, the most likely time for a sailor to have such an accident is while they are in their dinghy or getting in or out of it.

Because of their size and need for buoyancy they are far less stable than the vessel they serve. It doesn’t matter how careful you are when selecting a dinghy, it will always be a relatively unstable, unsafe form of transport.

Rowing our dinghy ashore

Rowing our dinghy ashore

Perhaps the safest form of dinghy to have is one with two ‘hulls’ like a catamaran. But even they would not be truly stable. What about inflatables you may ask. They are relatively stable but unfortunately make the person getting into them unstable because they give when a body’s weight is put on them.

In the past, the basic danger of dinghies has been increased when the sailor has taken alcohol. I doubt very much that this has changed much although maritime authorities increasingly set limits for the amount alcohol that may be consumed.

Always be ready to tack

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Picture this: The helmsman has completed tacking the boat. The main trimmer has tacked the main. The headsail hand has trimmed on the sail for the new course.

What should happen next, i.e. before the crew settle into position for the new leg?

If you’re responsible for the headsail, your next job is to reload the windward winch, ready for a tack. Even if you expect to be on the same tack for half an hour or more, you still should put at least one turn round the windward winch – and make sure it’s the right way round by spinning the winch as you do it. Don’t pull it on too hard or it will affect the shape of the headsail.

Cruising or racing, the helmsman needs to know that he can tack the boat almost at the same time as calling “Ready about”.

What with commercial shipping and ferries, to say nothing of sailing vessels of all shapes, sizes and speeds, everyone on board needs to be ready to tack to avoid a collision.

“One hand for the boat, one hand for yourself”

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

This saying, passed down through generations of sailors, is one of the first things a novice sailor needs to learn.

In closed waters, your helmsman will often warn you that another vessel’s wake is about to rock the boat. But everyone on board should be alert to the possibility, particularly when going forward or moving around on board.

Remember, you go sailing on the water and don’t want to end up in it!