OperationsNext - PrecautionsPrevious - Crew
Preventing shackles from working loose
Shackles are one of the most versatile and important pieces of equipment aboard a vessel. They are used extensively in rigging, anchoring and lifting situations. They serve as a critical and highly convenient mechanism to fasten and fit various pieces of equipment together. However, they can come loose by turning and unfastening themselves of their own accord.
Securing the main hatch boards during heavy weather sailing
Very few enclosed cockpits drain fast enough to rid themselves of water if swamped before successive waves arrive. If the companionway is open, water will pour below and although much of it will be rolled out by the boat's motion, the vessel may then remain sluggish and slow to lift her stern to other oncoming waves exacerbating the situation. Hence it is critical that the main hatch is secured during heavy weather sailing. But most yacht's hatch securing arrangements are washboards that are externally dropped into place and secured. This classical arrangement leads to crews feeling being sealed in below decks during heavy weather sailing. The resultant anxiety and claustrophobia lead to some of the boards being removed which results in the boat's single largest opening being unsecured.
Preventing 'Man Overboard' situations during heavy weather conditions
The greatest danger for a sailor is a Man Overboard situation. Once you fall overboard in heavy seas it is very difficult to turn a vessel back and find a lost crew member in any kind of seaway. If you are solo sailing, you are gone in a MOB situation unless you are in popular waters and are very lucky.
Jury steering, preparing for and dealing with a steering mechanism failure
It has been estimated that somewhere between 0.5 and 1% of the boats crossing oceans experience a rudder failure. Losing your rudder, or the means of controlling it, suddenly puts the vessel at the mercy of the seas and handling this situation can be one of the most demanding feats of seamanship. Sadly, faced with such an overwhelming challenge, crews often give up and abandon their boats. It is a sad statistical fact that loss of steering is one of the most popular reasons for yachtsmen to surrender their self-reliance and call for help.
Keeping the main hatch sheltered in boisterous conditions
In boisterous conditions, the companionway can take the odd splash. Yet going all the way to mounting the washboards is far from the perfect solution. The assembly and disassembly of a set of washboard for the comings and going is cumbersome and overkill. The washboards also isolate down-below crew from those in the cockpit, preventing them from glancing up to see what is happening, to quickly check that they are OK, and they tend to make it highly claustrophobic at times.
Monitoring a vessel whilst resting on passage
Whilst making passage, off-watch skippers tend not to rest easy as they are anxious about the crew maintaining a true course, the surrounding dangers, and conditions. This causes a tendency to regularly rise and check the navigation station. Similarly, at anchor concerns about an undesirable wind shift can cause restlessness.
Heading inshore in fog without radar
If fog descends and you are in or near a busy shipping lane, the first priority is to move out of it as soon as possible and to steer for shallow water where there are no large vessels. But this also brings about the chief danger of land.
VHF for the helmsman
VHF systems are typically installed below decks and effectively out of earshot from the helm. Consequently, the helmsman who is required to act upon details relayed by VHF is out of audible range. This situation is exacerbated when an engine is running and a VHF call may be entirely masked. Solo sailors are particularly disadvantaged being forced to dash back and forth from the tiller should they be without a handheld, or out the VHF communication is outside the handheld's communicating range, and need to use the ship’s VHF radio.
Avoiding situations that endanger the vessel
Every year, hundreds of yachts are lost. The thought of a boat foundering always envisages pictures of enormous natural forces overwhelming a beleaguered sailing craft as set out in thousands of romanticist paintings. Yet, this is far from the most likely way that a vessel will be lost. The more likely reasons are from a failure of ground tackle, a yacht breaking free whilst unattended, gear failure, fire, explosion, crew exhaustion or crew failure, faulty navigation or many other events or oversights. Our natural bias on being overwhelmed by a seaway, causes us to overlook immediate dangers that are far more dangerous to the vessel and we do so at our own peril.
A handy knot for going aloft
Going aloft and working on rigging can involve some danger and knots that fix in one place can be inconvenient.