Archive for November, 2009

A safety harness is useless unless its tether is attached to a strong point

Friday, November 27th, 2009

It may surprise you that coming on deck to start a watch and going below at its end are the two occasions when you’re most likely to go overboard. Why? Because you undo the tether of your harness from its strong point before you descend the companionway steps.

This may seem obvious but it’s amazing how many skippers and watch captains allow crew members to come on deck unattached and/or unfasten their tethers before going below. This was illustrated in one of our recent Newsletters – An accident that should not have happened.

Whenever I’ve skippered a yacht offshore I’ve insisted that my crew follow this basic safety rule.

Today’s blog is a milestone! It’s my 100th post.

When leaving port let the weather have the last say

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

If you’re planning an offshore voyage, you have to accept that the weather has the final word on when you set out. The following illustration shows why.

A few years ago now, taking students on an offshore passage, I chose not to leave port to complete the final leg of the voyage on the day that I’d previously planned.

My decision had nothing to do with the comfort of the crew, even though the wind was from exactly the direction we were heading, but rather that it was strengthening. That decision kept us in port for two days! But the only complaints from students were that it cost them more to stay in port than it would have at sea.

Sailing superstitions

Friday, November 13th, 2009

As it’s Friday the thirteenth today, it seemed a good time to talk about some of the many nautical superstitions that have been handed down to us.

Firstly, sailors believed it was bad luck to start a voyage on a Friday, supposedly because that was the day of Christ’s crucifixion. To avoid it, they would move the vessel to a temporary mooring the day before, thus starting their voyage on a Thursday. This has never bothered me, nor have I found anyone withdrawing from, say, the Sydney-Hobart because Boxing Day fell on a Friday.

The colour green is often frowned on by sailors. My experience of sailing on Mercedes IV, when painted British racing green, was of a sound and seaworthy craft. She’s a beautiful wooden boat designed by Ted Kaufman and built by Cec Quilkey for the 1975 Admiral’s Cup.

While I am not a believer in any of the superstitions, I am in many ways a traditionalist. When we had to re-step the mast on our Thunderbird some years ago, we did make sure a silver coin was placed at its base.

Make sure you have the right distress beacon

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

With the amount of publicity over the last 12 months or so, you would have thought that no one would risk going boating or sailing offshore, relying on a 121.5 MHz EPIRB in case of emergency. Worldwide this frequency has not been monitored since 1 February 2009. And yet I read that maritime officials in NSW have picked up many skippers who were in breach of the regulation that makes it compulsory to carry a 406 MHz EPIRB if going two or more nautical miles offshore.

The new 406 MHz EPIRBs give rescuers a much more accurate location when activated. And, as they have to be registered, rescuers also have access to quite a bit of helpful information about the vessel and its owner.

I find it mind-bogglingly stupid that anyone is prepared to take such a risk and use obsolete technology.

Bosun’s chairs made by Burke subject to safety recall

Monday, November 9th, 2009

If you’ve bought either a Deluxe or Standard Bosun Chair made by Burke Marine in Australia since June 2007 you should stop using it immediately if it does not have a batch number or inspection label attached.

It’s been found that several of these bosun’s chairs were fitted with a faulty stainless steel ring – the ring that the halyard is attached to when lifting a crew member. If used, there’s a real risk that the ring may break, resulting in injury or even death.

Visit Burke Marine’s website for more information on what to do if you own one of these potentially dangerous bosun’s chairs.

In any case, it’s always good practice to have a second – safety – halyard attached somewhere else to the person in the bosun’s chair.