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Safety at Sea: by Captain Ed Mapes. The traits of independence and self sufficiency are absolute requirements in the mental makeup of those of us who venture offshore. The sailor who shudders at the thought of taking on repairs or coping with emergency situations should not take vessels or crews to sea. During my three decades of ocean sailing, I have discovered this incontrovertible fact: Murphy's Law is in full effect out there - things do go wrong and unforeseen events come up in spite of the best intentions and most meticulous preparations. I know that this challenge is what draws me to sail the oceans, and it's also the reason that making landfall is such an indescribably proud moment. It is a feeling only experienced by those who dare to sail away from land, where only they can determine success.
The most capable skippers are those who give forethought and action to developing protocols and procedures to cope with situations that can arise well in advance of the sailing date, and outfit their vessels appropriately for eventualities at sea.
What would I do if the rudder broke? How would I cope if a shroud terminal cracked? Could I get the crew safely into the liferaft if the boat went down? Asking these questions in advance is a great way to make ready for sea. We might not pre-fabricate replacements for everything that could break, but the exercise provides us the chance to have materials and tools ready to build a rudder, for example. We could have a plan in mind to substitute for a shroud and keep the rig standing. We would know what goes wrong with a wind vane, what to look for, and how to return it to use.
Most mariners don't realize that we never even hear about the many crews aboard vessels that had their share of problems offshore. Situations were evaluated, repairs were completed, and they made landfall quietly and efficiently - this done as a normal course of passagemaking. These able sailors had the skills, materials, and a plan to cope - having merely to carry out the work to get back on course. They understand that overcoming obstacles is a normal part of blue water sailing.
Taking stock of our boats with thorough inspections and considering what can go wrong is an exercise that helps skippers respond to trouble on the water. Ready to Sail, my first book, was written to help mariners conduct thorough, systematic vessel inspections in their efforts to insure seaworthiness and preparation.
Protocols are sets of steps to be taken when situations or mishaps threaten the ship. The finest skippers not only formulate given protocols, but extend their responsibility to teach those procedures to crewmembers before leaving harbor. This preparation and the knowledge gained during the process not only makes the skipper more capable and seamanlike, but lends credibility to his abilities and fosters confidence in the whole ship's company. The crew's proficiency and confidence levels are enhanced when they understand that protocols and are in place for all contingencies. That confidence is a key ingredient to alleviating fear and anxiety that can be so detrimental to performance.
My Safety at Sea Clinic addresses the protocols that have proven effective for my crews - not merely in theory or during classroom sessions but during - thousands of miles at sea.
If you're considering venturing more than 20 miles off shore, you NEED the information in this clinic.
Reacting quickly also provides an enormous boost to the victim who sees the boat maneuver quickly rather than continuing to sail in the opposite direction.
Make the tack, and if at all possible and the seas are moderate enough to allow, execute the Quick Stop Maneuver shown in the video below.
The Quick Stop Maneuver
From Module 2: Jury Rigging
Jury rigging a set of sails will be necessary if the engine fails or you're beyond fuel range to the nearest port. There are some principles that apply to boats in general, but how to proceed depends on the circumstances. If a mast stub remains, it's probably broken just above the lower shrouds; above or below the first spreaders. This stub can be a great benefit, enabling three possible strategies that could be used:
Connect a shackle at the upper end of the stub with lashings (icicle hitch) or directly with screws.
Attach blocks to the outboard end of the boom, and fold the boom upward against the mast stub to serve as a spar (Figure 5).
Hoist the spinnaker pole to the upper limits of the track to function as a mast.
From Module 11: Helicopter Evacuation
Once in position, a rescue basket or litter, with an attached trailing line, will be lowered to your deck from the chopper (Figure 4).
Figure 4: A rescue basket is lowered from the helicopter.
Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard.
A powerful static electrical charge builds up within the basket and trailing line as they are lowered. These must make contact with the deck to dissipate those charges before touching them to begin positioning the patient.
I'd like to point out that I have had no formal sailing training, other than what our club provided. NauticEd was my main source of "class room" training and it was great! Can't wait to go chartering again and I will insist that our crew, on the next trip, take some of your courses!
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