PrecautionsNext - EquipmentPrevious - Operations
Securing 'down-below' lockers for heavy weather conditions
Tests have revealed that almost any yacht can capsize when hit beam-on by a breaking wave taller than 55% of the vessel’s length overall. It is believed that some "beamier" modern production boats can be capsized by a breaking wave of as little as 40% LOA. If a yacht enduing heavy-weather conditions is subject to a knock-down, or worse a full 360° roll, chaos will reign below decks if the internal lockers spill their contents into the cabin.
Preventing the anchor and chain from 'slipping' away
Anchors and chains spill out fast in deep water and are almost impossible to stop. Even with a windlass the chain can occasionally jump up on the gypsie and start running out. Then the entire chain could shoot out to the ‘bitter end’ before you can react. The 'bitter end' is a nautical term acquired from the bollards, or bitts, on the deck to which the end of the anchor rode was tied and it refers to the final part of the anchor rope today. Unfortunately, sometimes people forget or provisions are not made to secure the end of the line to the boat. This can result in seeing the end of the line or chain slipping over the bow roller and into the water in a runaway event. Gone for good, or deep-sixed in sailing parlance.
Preparing for and dealing with a dismasting in an emergency situation
A well-maintained, well-built rig is not going to collapse of its own accord under normal conditions. But a badly maintained rig, or one that is operating under abnormal conditions, can fail very easily. The potential list of equipment that can fail upon a badly maintained rig is long. The stainless steel stranded rigging that extends from the mast-head to the larboard and starboard sides of the vessel and stem to stern, is unfortunately subject to stress cracking, which is caused by hardening, and a corrosion called crevice corrosion, which attacks hidden parts of the structure that are not exposed to air. The rig also needs to be properly tensioned or a build-up of pressure against the spars and the points where it is connected to the deck will be subject to fatigue. But even something as horribly trivial and unlucky as a clevis pin working loose could cause a dismasting in the lightest of airs. If the rig is not well maintained, and its various connectors secure, a failure of any of its individual components could take the whole rig down at any point. Poor seamanship is also a major contributor. A skipper that shrugs off the old seagoing adage of ‘if you’re thinking about it, it’s time to reef’ is likely to be unnecessarily stressing the rig. Add to this an accidental gybe, especially in strong winds, and it can be all too much. Yacht racing is particularly vulnerable to the masts of contestants colliding at various race points or perhaps a simple mistake when using complicated running rigging such as not setting the running backstay after a manoeuvre.Heavy weather sailing also places the rig at peril and, rather unfortunately, if anything has not been maintained, spotted and is about to give, it will most likely happen when you are already enduring a seaway. Even with best endeavours it is highly unlikely that the most secure and robust of rigs will remain standing if the vessel is pitch-poled or rolled.
The 'last chance' for a single-hander on a tiller steered vessel
If a single hander goes overboard and clears the vessel, with or without a harness, they are effectively lost. Even if they are attached by a safety harness the self-steered vessel will continue to forge ahead exerting too much of a drag upon the solo sailor in the water to pull themselves back aboard.
Preventing the loss of washboards during heavy weather sailing
It is crucial that the companionway is kept secured during heavy weather sailing. Yet washboards, the traditional means of securing the passageway, are difficult to handle in the best of times. A crew member has to dismantle and reassemble the washboards each time they pass out through the hatch. This involves replacing typically two to three washboards in the correct sequence and orientation to correctly fit. Performing this operation in rough conditions makes it easy for a board to be lost overboard. Worse, in particularly difficult situations where the hatch needs to be secured the most, such as if the boat has been rolled or pitch-poled, the washboards tend to fall out only adding to the critical survival situation.
Preventing a failure in the fresh water pressurised system emptying the vessel's tank
Pressurised water systems load up fresh water pipes. If a joint or pipe should fail and it occurred when the crew were engaged in a distracting activity, or the engine is running loud and masking the water pump's noise, the vessel’s entire fresh water tank could be pumped out without the crew even noticing.
A convenient safety knife that is quick to grab in an emergency
Emergencies that require a line to be cut may happen very quickly aboard a vessel. It can take time to get that vital knife to the point where it is required to save a situation.
A bilge pump warning light
Whilst underway the sound of the automatic electric bilge pump is often drowned out by general boat noise. Never more so than when operating under power. This pernicious oversight could lead to the vessel sinking. Good examples of engine running issues are failures in the stuffing boxes or of an impeller. The stern gland is one of the few thru-hull fittings designed to allow some water into the boat. This is about 2-3 drops per minute when the shaft is turning but if there is a problem this drip could turn into an in-flood without anyone knowing it above decks. Likewise, an impeller could give way causing the engine to overheat and its hot gases to melt the engine raw-water hose. This opens the closed loop cooling system and allows water to enter the boat.