|Module 6 - Seamanship and Safety at sea|
Defining "Good Seamanship" is not easy. There are no examples of it because if a skipper is applying good seamanship, nothing goes wrong! I could give you a hundred examples of bad seamanship!
Some of the virtues required for good seamanship are; planning, forethought, consideration for others, knowledge and lots of experience. The sure way of gaining all this is to use lots of bad seamanship. Learn from your mistakes or preferably other people’s!
There is a general misconception that "boating is easy; anyone can do it". That’s almost true. Anyone can do it; badly and dangerously!
In this module we will cover,
A stable boat will return to an upright position after being "tipped" by wind, sea, or movement of cargo or crew. This force trying to right the boat is governed by various things.
At rest the CB is directly under the CG,
As the boat heels the CB moves outboard.
Eventually as the vessel is pushed further over,
So the further outboard the CB can move, the more stable the boat?
That is true to a certain extent. Wider hulls have more initial stability. The problem with these very wide hulls is that when the boat does eventually capsize, she is happy to stay up side down. Catamarans, Trimarans and many modern high volume cruising monohulls, even deep sea ocean racers with wide flat hulls are at risk here. They are very "stiff" (high initial resistance to heeling) and this makes them very powerful as they can carry large amounts of sail in strong winds, but once the buoyancy of the wide hull is overcome, they are in grave danger. Having capsized, the wide flat decks of vessels like this stop the boat from righting herself.
Narrow hulled yachts are more tender (heel in lighter winds) Once heeled
though, they become very stable as long deep keels give a large righting lever.
If they do eventually capsize, they will not stay upside down because of the
heavy deep keel and narrow raised decks.
The above is always assuming flat water. Rough seas add a further and
more frightening dimension.
Here are two stability curves (They are for the purpose of explanation and
not actual boat curves)
The curve on the right might be from a vessel with moderate beam and with a deep heavy keel. She would also have raised upper decks. You can see that area B is small. This means that she would recover quickly from inversion. This boat would have less initial stability, but can recover from an angle of about130º
In Practice. The above is all very well if you are a naval architect, but as a sailor I give it very little time. Here are some other hazards which affect stability which are easy to see and understand
So sail your boat in the conditions it was designed for. keep
hatches and ports closed at sea and have signs on them telling others
to. Don't fly too much sail when running. An easy rule here is:- Never
fly more sail down wind than the boat could cope with if you had to turn up
wind. If you are a power cruising yachtsman then do not run at speed down
steep waves. The bow will dig in and the boat will broach. It will then be
caught beam on to the sea and roll. Stream warps, slow down and
trim the bow up.
A booklet is available from the RYA. "Stability and Buoyancy" G23 2000.
Yachts have many different types of underwater shape.
boats are traditionally long distance cruisers. As you might imagine,
they track in a straight line without a great deal of tending of the tiller
or steering wheel. You can see another advantage of a long keel yacht;
she has beaching legs, so she can take the ground
without falling over.
Fin keel yachts are more manoeuvrable and turn more easily. This is an advantage in a marina or tight area, but at sea they can be harder work to keep on course.
Most yachts these days have a set of stainless steel wires or rods which hold up the mast and keep it in column (no bends in the middle).
There are so many different types of wire rig that it is outside the
scope of this course, but most have a backstay
which is attached to the hull at the stern and the mast
at the top (head). This stops the mast falling forward. There is
also a forestay from the masthead forward
to the bow. This stops the mast falling backwards. On many
modern yachts this is covered by a roller furling foresail, so we can’t
see it. Neither can we see if there is anything wrong with it!!
There are two shrouds, one on either
side, from the masthead to the hull midships. These stop the mast
falling over the side. They have spreaders
to give them a better mechanical advantage on narrow-beamed boats. The
area about these is called the cross trees. Then
there are various lowers: stays
which stop the mast bending. Collectively, all of this is called standing
rigging and it has many variations.
If you do have a rig failure at sea, then it is not always terminal. you can get the weight off that side by tacking or running straight down wind. Temporarily use halyards for support, then use some spare wire and bulldog grips to repair the damaged stay. You need to carry the repair kit of course!
A few words here about likely chafe areas. On modern yachts it is a major
problem due to the introduction of full battened mains sails and swept back
shrouds. Here Steve is fitting a baggy wrinkle
to stop the worst of it.
Chafe is found in other areas too and not just on sails and halyards. A
dinghy tied down to the deck in a storm can if it moves at all, soon chafe
through its lashings and we have just had a 35 foot Cat break loose from its
mooring due to chafing of her swinging mooring lines. Watch out for chafe or
it'll cost you!
On cruising boats these days, we are very likely to be using a roller furling headsail.
The sail can be reefed quickly or taken in completely without the need to go on the foredeck, (or, in this case, out on the bowsprit)!
I have found a worrying trend becoming firmly established. Cruising boats
these days tend to carry one heads'l on a roller instead of various sails for
different wind speeds.
A word about safe use of mainsails.
A boom preventor simply stops the boom from crashing across the cockpit if
some one accidentally gybes.
I am sorry this is such a terrible picture, but you can just make out the preventor leading aft. Behind the coach house it runs through a block to a winch.
There are two reasons for needing this quick release system.
2, If you do accidentally gybe, you need to either gybe back before you loose steerage, or get the preventor eased away quickly because you have the mainsl "aback" and you are going to start going backwards down wind! This can be very serious, causing rudder damage and on some boats (coupled with big seas) capsize.
To moor alongside a quay or pontoon safely we must know a few knots. By now you should know them, but revise them anyway. I think you can get by with five or six. We also need to understand the various properties of common synthetic fibre ropes.
Nylon Strong, stretchy, sinks and lasts well in UV light. Good for anchor warps and mooring. Good resistance to chafe. Be careful when buying nylon ropes. The breaking strains for them are given for dry rope. This reduces by 30% when wet!
Polyester Strong, low stretch, lasts well in UV light if sheathed. Also soft on hands. Good for sheets and halyards. This rope has a laid core and braided cover, both of Polyester.
Polypropylene Strong, stretchy, floats. Very badly affected by UV light
and chafe. Cheap but doesn’t last.
Also available, but not widely used aboard most cruising boats are Dyneema, Spectra,
Vectran , PBO Zylon and Aramid ropes. All these are very strong, eg Dyneema is
ten times the strength of steel!
To moor alongside safely in all weathers we need to use six lines from the boat to the pontoon.
We all know that for a quick stop for lunch, when crew are staying aboard, it is permissible
to use only four mooring lines:
If you add to this lot an extra, longer bow line and an extra, longer stern line, each rope has a back up. This is also important if you are rafting out from another vessel. Her warps are built to hold her weight, not yours as well! .Put out bow and stern shorelines. Do not put too much weight on your breast lines, as by their nature they are short. Short lines snap. Use a longer bow and stern line to take the strain!
When you have to cope with tidal rise and fall, then you must use warps which are at least three times as long as the expected drop or rise in depth. These long warps can be weighted in the middle to hold the boat close to the quay at high water when the lines will be slack. Taking your lines to the outboard side of the boat helps a lot here, particularly if you have a wide beam. you also need to try to reduce chafe on your lines over the wall.
Some quays have chains hanging down for the purpose.
These also get rid of the need for weights.
You can also see on this picture that long
Securing To a Cleat
There are four ways of making the rope off on the pontoon.
On board we "cleat off". There is a right and
wrong way to do this.
Cleats have two stanchions. You should always go first around the stanchion which is furthest from the direction of pull. Put on at least three figure-of-eight turns.
Other knots which you need to revise are the Clove Hitch, the Rolling Hitch and Figure of Eight, Tugmans hitch and the Alpine butterfly.
The Clove hitch is a quick, easy, one-handed knot, used primarily for tying on fenders. Crew get it wrong all the time which usually means you keep loosing fenders!
It is not very strong, constricts if pulled very tight and is then very hard to undo. It can be tied around something, as in this case, or tied first, then dropped onto a bollard or post.
The Rolling Hitch. You must know this one. It will get you out of trouble. If a halyard or sheet is jammed under load on a winch, then this is the only knot I know which can help. It is tied around a rope of a larger diameter than itself.
Then, when pulled, it will not slip. In this way you can take the load off a jammed winch. You can also use it for deflecting anchor and mooring lines.
I use it on a short length of line when climbing masts. One end is attached to my harness and the hitch is around a spare halyard. If the winch man makes a mistake or the working halyard breaks, I don't fall as the rolling hitch tightens and will not slip. (I have to keep pushing the knot up the halyard while ascending)
The Figure 8 knot is simply used as a knot to stop the end of a rope disappearing inside the mast or into the boom. Here is one being used to stop the bitter end of the kicking strap going back into its blocks. Don't let the crew tie them into Spinnaker sheets or guys! You might have to let them go.
The Reef knot is not used often on board as it tends to slip and is hard to undo, but you can use it to tie up "reef ties". I tend to tie a "Bow" (shoelace knot) instead as it does the same job, comes out when you want it to and the crew can usually tie it!.
I'm sure you already know the knots above, but here are a couple of others in common use
The Alpine Butterfly
It is very bad form on a
windy day to shrug and say that there are not enough cleats to attach your shore
lines! You simply make a cleat in the right spot
You could use a figure of eight on the bight, but try untying it afterwards!
The Tugman's hitch When you have no cleats left unused, then
Tension the line with the winch then take a loop under as shown
just drop the loop on the winch. Now pull (my left hand)
stave off boredom on some long passage and to stop chafe, you might get into
making Baggy wrinkles They are dead easy and
made out of old rope that otherwise you would throw away.
This is another enormous subject, which we will only touch on here. Often
anchoring is taken for granted as a minor skill. After all, "you just chuck
it in, don’t ya"? No you don’t. There is vital skill to be learned. It
may save your boat one day as your anchoring equipment and your knowledge of how
to use it are the last resort before being driven ashore.
How anchors work
To gain this catenary we need to use at least 4 times the maximum expected depth (don’t forget the tidal rise) if we are using all chain.
If your boat uses a mixture of rope and chain, then you will need to
use at least 6 times the expected maximum depth.
How to set an anchor
You have decided on a type of anchor and you know the depth.
There is a huge array of anchor types. Here are some, commonly found on yachts:
Most yachts carry at least two anchors: a main bower anchor and a smaller kedge. This smaller anchor was used traditionally to haul a vessel off a lee shore. It was taken out by ship’s boat and laid well ahead. The ship was then hauled forward and rode to this anchor while another was rowed further forward and so on. Today we usually motor out of situations like this (if the engine’s not broken!) The kedge is different from the bower, so that you can anchor in different seabed conditions eg, a delta and a danforth.
Weight in the bow will
enhance pitching so keep the kedge and its chain back aft somewhere if possible.
You will end up setting it off the stern in lots of situations anyway.
Anchors and their chains are tough on the hands. Get the crew to wear gardening gloves or the like. Make sure they are briefed to cleat the cable as soon as they have the required amount out. Or cleat off at the required scope before laying the anchor. I have seen some nasty injuries caused by fingers being pulled through bow rollers. Tell them to Let go if necessary!
is very important to stow the anchors correctly, so that they can be deployed
quickly if necessary. If you have an on-deck anchor locker, then always make off
the bitter end (inboard end) of the cable to a strong point. Stow the anchor warp
in the locker first, then the chain on top and last of all, the anchor.
Secure the lid. You do not want the anchor jumping around the deck in a rough sea!
Bridles shown here on a multihull, work just as well on monos to stop
snubbing and sheering. On some catamarans they are crucial as anchor loads are
high and forward deck beams are weak Yes its another job for the rolling
Bridles or more technically a spring can be used in the same way to force a boat to point into the sea rather than into the wind, but it does put more weight onto the anchor cable because of increased windage.
Safety Equipment and the skippers briefing
I never really know where to start this subject. A soldering iron and the knowledge to use it is safety equipment if the radio has a dry joint (bad connection).
I will try to stick to the subjects that you need to cover in a safety briefing before sailing
When packing a sea bag what do I take? We don’t have endless storage room
so it has to be minimal.
I’ll start at the top!
Next is a waterproof layer on top. There are a wide variety of foul weather clothes available and they nearly all cost the earth! but staying dry is very important. The body does not need much but it needs –
If it gets them it will be fine, if not it isn't.
A crucial part of your briefing will be the explanation of Life Jacket, Harness and harness line. There lots of different types with advantages and disadvantages.
There are three main types:
All should have a light, a whistle and reflective tape.
Notice all the reflective tape. This is very important for locating someone in the sea at night.
There are lots of types on the market. Chest harnesses are the most common. Most have fully adjustable shoulder straps as well as chest strap and crotch straps. Some do not, so be careful what you use and what you buy. It is quite possible to fall out of a badly fitting harness, particularly if it does not have a crotch strap, which some don’t. Your crew will put on a coat over a lifejacket, a harness over a lifejacket etc. Watch them!
GENERAL BOAT SAFETY EQUIPMENT
We all know all the kit, but what about getting the casualty back aboard?
Once we have managed to get back to the man, then we may have the problem of
lifting him back aboard if he cannot help himself, or if the "topsides"
are too high. There must be a system in place for this eventuality. Some boats
use a spare halyard to hoist the man back aboard. Others use the boom, "Topping
lift" and the main sheet.
Have a system AND know it works because you’ve
A couple of points that are crucial here are:-
Be aware that if someone has be immersed in the sea at 50º latitude for over
ten minutes, they will be hypothermic. If they are vertical in the water, the
legs will be under water pressure and therefore the arteries in the legs will be
contracted both because of this pressure and because in Hypothermia, the bodies
self help shut down procedures contract arteries to slow blood flow and
therefore conserve heat.
The dinghy is very much a part of your safety kit in this respect. It is much easier to get a tired casualty into a dinghy than to haul him back aboard. At least when he is in the dinghy, he is out of the sea, relatively safe and you can administer first aid if necessary.
The Liferaft is another essential item. It is never used in most cases, but if you do have to abandon the boat (a last resort) then you need to know how it works and how to get in it.
There is a one day Sea Survival course which covers this subject in depth.
Liferafts need to be serviced once per year, as they live on deck and water can sometimes get into them which could damage their equipment There are also various internals which need periodic replacement. eg the repair kit glue or torch batteries. They are held to the deck using a quick release clip and sometimes have a hydrostatic release. If the boat sinks, this device is "supposed" to release the raft, which will then inflate. Be careful about deciding to use one of these devices. We have had one decide to release the raft when crossing Ravenglass bar! They work like this. When the device is between 2 and 4 meters under water, the water pressure is such that the hydrostatic release operates and a sharp blade cuts the lashings.
Normally you would inflate the raft before the vessel goes down, but only when you are sure that it will sink imminently. Stay with the boat even if it is a burnt out, mastless, upside down wreck! Its still bigger, stronger and has more kit than a liferaft. Have a look at a few when you next visit a boat show and see how much they resemble the kids inflatable paddling pools that cost a tenner from Woolworths!
Any way if you must leave the boat:-
Get into the raft straight away. They commonly inflate upside down and someone will need to right the thing much as you would a sailing dinghy. This person will therefore get wet, cold and will not be able to climb into the liferaft. As soon as possible, two crew board the raft and then haul the swimmer in by grabbing him around the waist and pulling him up and into the raft. This takes practice. Do a course.
If possible, take with you
and WEAR LIFEJACKETS!
Make sure your crew realise that Fire is a major hazard at sea. You cannot just "leave the building!" We have to put it out! We are armed with an awful lot of seawater, which is a great fire extinguisher when coupled to a scared man with a bucket! We also have fire extinguishers mounted around the boat in strategic places. –
In the engine space, we tend to have automatic extinguishers that operate if the temperature goes above a certain point. Sometimes there will be an extinguisher just outside the space, which can be operated into the engine space through a bung like this one, without letting more oxygen in.
All fire extinguishers need to be able to cope with the type of fires we might expect to find on board. With twelve-volt electrical systems we can use Foam, Dry Powder, Halon, and CO2 safely. On our boats, we carry all dry powder extinguishers, as they will work on all materials. They do however make a terrible mess and the powder is very corrosive afterwards.
Fire blankets are also very important to carry, both for smothering galley fires and for wrapping people in if they catch fire or need to run through fire to escape. frying pan fires can be stopped instantly by making sure the pan lid is always on the work surface when frying! Quite simple and much faster than a blanket, this procedure will start to instil in your crew that forward thinking prevents most accidents.
Butane gas also deserves a mention while I am on this subject. Most boat cookers, some cabin heaters and some water heaters use Butane gas. It is very convenient, cheap and efficient. It is also highly explosive! And if you breathe it in you asphyxiate !
Modern regulations ensure that on new boats the gas bottles are kept in an on-deck locker which drains over the side in the event of a leak. The pipe work must be up to industry standard, clipped up properly and regularly checked. The appliances must have cut-off valve next to them. These should be clearly marked and should always be turned off after use. Most also have flame failure devices. These will automatically turn off the gas if the flame blows out. Ventilation is crucial when burning Butane and Propane gas, to prevent a build up of Carbon Monoxide. Many new appliances incorporate low oxygen cutouts for this reason.
gas detector is a good idea. Gas is heavier than air and will sink to the cabin
sole (floor) and then down into the bilge. Put the detector heads on the sole
under the appliance. Multiple sensor detectors are available. They tend to
so always check the sensors before each trip as part of your briefing. An
extinguished gas cigarette lighter held next to the detector head should set off
Some electric pumps use impellers rather than diaphragms therefore will not suck air Putting some water back in the bilge is helpful so I’m told, as gas is soluble in water.
Again a scared man with a bucket makes a good one, so all boats carry strong buckets with rope handles and a lanyard.
There should be pumps, which are operated from below deck and pumps operated from on deck. They can be manual like these, or electrical. Some electrical pumps are submersible. The whole body of the pump lives in the bilge. Other electrical pumps are remote from the bilge. Either way, electrical pumps give trouble and you should have manual backups. These manual pumps are usually diaphragm pumps.
I'm sure you know all this but do you carry spare diaphragms and know how to change one!
Seacocks and Skin Fittings
are made from bronze traditionally, but increasingly I see plastic ones. They
need to be maintained otherwise they corrode and snap off. This is of course
pretty serious! Well-found boats have bungs tied to these seacocks for this
eventuality. Always find out where all seacocks are and know how to access them.
This one could be an engine seacock and that means no engine! Get rid of elbows!!!
We should be as self sufficient on the sea as possible, carrying every thing we might need, both to make repairs to the boat and ourselves, as well as all conceivable consumables.
If we are fully prepared for all eventualities then we will never need to send out a distress message. I’m afraid that with all the forethought I put into sailing and all my experience, I am a long way from there! We can all make mistakes and no matter how strong you build it, the sea can break it.
There are various ways of sending a distress message, from waving your arms to sophisticated satellite systems.
Until recently, the best way of sending a distress message was by sending a voice MAYDAY call on the VHF radio. MF radios are used further off shore. VHF is a simplex system, which means that you send and receive on the same channel. This means that if you are transmitting you cannot hear anyone else.
A good VHF on a yacht can transmit for about 20 - 25 miles, if the antenna is at the masthead. Very High Frequency radio waves are line of sight.
The curvature of the earth can stop the transmitted wave getting to its destination. Of course, other vessels can also hear the distress message and will act on it.
If you hear a Distress call, write it down! You might be the only one
to hear it.
You need to do two things,
This call sends the casualty’s information to all stations who can hear
you. In this way, a message can be passed from boat to boat until it reaches the
emergency services. Even in a coastal situation this happens.
Here is an example of a May Day call from one of our Boats. Some of the instructions are particular to "Blue Moon" All vessels should have instructions like this, posted next to the VHF.
VHF RADIO DISTRESS MESSAGE
Call sign MIKE XRAY DELTA NOVEMBER SIX
1, BATTERY SWITCHES ON.
2, VHF PANEL SWITCH ON.
3, SWITCH ON VHF AT VOLUME SWITCH AND TURN UP VOLUME.
4, TURN SQUELCH KNOB ANTI-CLOCKWISE UNTIL NOISE IS HEARD, NOW TURN CLOCKWISE UNTIL NOISE STOPS. (DO NOT TURN MORE
5, PRESS BUTTON MARKED CH16
NOW TAKE TELEPHONE LIKE MICROPHONE, HOLD CLOSE TO MOUTH AND EAR. DEPRESS TRANSMIT KEY (ON HANDLE) AND SAY: -
MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY
THIS IS THE SAILING CATAMARAN BLUE MOON, BLUE MOON, BLUE MOON.
MAYDAY BLUE MOON.*if DSC alert has been sent. Give mmsi number
POSITION IS: -A distance and a bearing from a charted object OR your latitude and longitude. (GPS could be useful here)
THERE ARE .......... PERSONS ONBOARD
THEN A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF YOUR SITUATION AND
NOW LET GO OF THE TRANSMIT KEY.
LISTEN. IF NO ANSWER TRY AGAIN.
NB This message is only used when there is imminent danger to life. E.g., man overboard, fire, or sinking.
IN SITUATIONS WHERE LIFE IS NOT IMMINENTLY THREATENED USE: -
PAN PAN PAN PAN PAN PAN.
ALL STATIONS ALL STATIONS ALL STATIONS.
THIS IS THE SAILING CATAMARAN BLUE MOON, BLUE MOON, BLUE MOON.
PAN PAN BLUE MOON
POSITION IS(as in mayday message above)
THERE ARE ........... PERSONS ON BOARD.
THEN A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF YOUR SITUATION AND
NOW LET GO OF TRANSMIT KEY.
LISTEN, IF NO REPLY TRY AGAIN.
There are problems with the voice method of sending out distress messages. If another station sends at the same time, your signal can be blotted out. Channel 16 is used for all calling and therefore it is very busy. Everyone listens to channel 16. Vessels contact others using 16, then they switch to another "working channel" to have a brief conversation.
You should have this kind of crib sheet (above) posted near the VHF on your boat. Your guests aboard might not be familiar with your radio or radio language and you may not be able to make the call yourself. They may well have mobile phones these days and they could obviously alert the Coastguard by dialling the emergency number. This is better than nothing but has two disadvantages.
There is a new Distress procedure and new equipment which is available and in use today. It is new in Yachting and most pleasure yachtsmen do not carry it at time of writing. However it is widely used and is mandatory for vessels over 300 tons or vessels carrying more than 12 passengers.
It is called GMDSS: Global Marine Distress Safety System. This is a network
of the world’s Search and rescue services. Telephone, VHF, and Satellite
systems link them together.
To use VHF you must have an operators licence, which means a two day course with an exam. Most sailing schools run them. If you already have a VHF operators licence which did not cover GMDSS then you can do a one day up date.
The old "Channel 16" method of sending distress or urgency calls is being replaced and so are the radios. With the new sets, "Digital select calling" (DSC radios). The information is sent out on channel 70. This channel is not to be used for voice transmissions.
Here's how it works.
Any DSC radio that receives your channel 70 transmission with give an audible
warning and display the senders MMSI (Marine mobile service
identity) like a phone number! A nine digit number which identifies the registered
DSC radios are not only for better reception of urgency calls. They can also be used rather like you can a telephone. You can send a channel 70 call to a ship (if you know the MMSI) phone number. As part of this transmission you would also indicate the intership channel that should be used eg 6. The ships set will give an audible warning and they will call you back on channel 6. Of course you need to know the phone number first!? Apparently there is a directory.
There is a temporary down side to the introduction of DSC. Ships have stopped keeping a dedicated watch on channel 16. For example, you are more likely to raise a ship in a collision situation on channel 13 which is the bridge to bridge comms channel.Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons
These are carried aboard and some will even float free if the boat sinks and automatically operate. There are two types. 406 MHz transmitters and 121.5MHz.
The 406MHz EPIRB’s also carry a 121.5 MHz transmitter. They must be registered with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (EPIRB Registry,MCA Southern Region, Pendennis Point, Castle drive, Falmouth TR11 4WZ) and if transferred to another vessel they must be re-registered. They send a coded message to satellite. The satellite either sends it straight back down to a ground based station, or it stores the information until it is in the correct position to send it back. (These satellites can only see about a 4000mile diameter chunk of the earth at one time, but are in low orbit and move relative to the earth, therefore one of the 35 ground receiving stations, in 19 countries comes into view pretty quickly (about 40 minutes max.) The information is then sent out to a mission control centre which in turn passes it to the local RCC Rescue Control Centre, who organise the rescue craft / Aircraft.
First, a rough position is gained from the 406MHz transmission, then direction finding equipment, homes in on the 121.5 transmissions from the EPIRB to locate the casualty. That sounds pretty drawn out, but recently Tony Bullimore was plucked out of the Southern Ocean, 1000 miles from land by the use of this system!
121.5MHz EPIRB’s can transmit to satellite but it is not recognised as a reliable system.
They transmit along a line of sight. The transmission will be picked up both by local RCC’s and commercial and military aircraft, as this is their distress frequency.
There is change in the wind with EPIRB's. Although the above is the system in place at present. There is a move to phase out the 121.5 transmitters by 2009. They will be replaced by EPIRBS which will transmit a GPS coordinate. This is much more accurate than location by radio direction finding. There are a few 406 EPIRB's on the market already which carry this method of location. They are known as GPS EPIRB'S
and rescue transponders. transmit a signal which will show up on any radar
screen. The sart will passively listen for radar signals for up to 96 hours.
when it picks up a signal it transmits its own signal.
Is rather like an on board fax machine. It keeps receiving information in the form of either printed paper or on screen. It receives regular information on weather, navigation warnings and distress calls. So if you carry a navtex ( all commercial ships must do) then you will receive information on distress calls.
Is a satellite telephone system and can therefore send distress calls. Its satellites will also receive information from EPIRB's but I believe only up to 70 degrees latitude. i doubt any of us are going to to be in distress that far north or south. Brr!
There are the other internationally recognised distress signals, which are not
quite so sophisticated and I am sure you know about them, but lets revise them.
Red and orange flares are distress flares. There are three main types. They are not fireworks! And should not be used as such. They should be kept in a waterproof box in a readily accessible position. If the box is made of plastic it will suffer less from internal condensation. We also keep a hand held VHF in this box which would go with us if we had to abandon ship. Flares go out of date every 3 to four years and need replacing.
Parachute flares can be seen from a distance of up to 25 miles in good weather and reach a height of about 300 metres, if fired correctly. They should be used during the day or night and fired in groups of two. (As soon as the first goes out fire the second)
Fire them vertically and slightly down wind. (They are designed to climb into it). If you have a very low cloud base, then fire them down wind, at about 45° from vertical.
Hand held Pin points. These flares are visible for up to 4 miles and should be used day or night. They are particularly useful to pinpoint your position accurately. They are very bright. Do not look at the flame, as this will cause night blindness for some minutes. You do not need to be blind as well as sinking! Hold at arm’s length and point away from you. Do not hold vertically. Wear a glove if you have time or pull your sleeve down to produce a makeshift one. They spit molten material and you will drop the flare if it lands on your bare flesh. Hold the flare over the side just in case.
Orange Smoke flares
are used in daylight to pinpoint your position. They are particularly useful when the search for you is being carried out by helicopter. This one is a Buoyant one. You operate it, then throw it in the sea. There are also hand held smoke flares.
Two more types of flare that all boats should carry are white illuminating parachute flares. This is the only way of lighting up a large area of sea if you have lost someone overboard in the dark.
White pinpoint flares. These are for attracting attention in collision situations.
Always show the crew the instructions on the flares as part of your briefing. There are lots of different makes with different operating procedures. If you leave reading the instructions until you need them, it will be dark and the battery torch will be wet! Oh, keep a glove in the box.
OTHER INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED DISTRESS SIGNALS
All these are a last resort if more up to date methods have failed.
LOGGING WITH THE COASTGUARD
There is a system in place which will alert other craft if your vessel is overdue at its destination. It is organised by the UK Coastguard and is called "The Yacht and Boat Safety Scheme". Owners register their boats with their local Coastguard with a form "CG66", available from Coastguard offices. (Just give them a ring and they will send one out to you). Fill in the details of your vessel size, colour, safety gear carried, and next of kin contact numbers, then send it back. The Coastguard will put all this information into their networked computer system, so any Coastguard can access it any time.
When you make a passage. Call the Coastguard and tell them that you are registered with them. Tell them where you are going and what time you expect to arrive.
If you go overdue, your shore contacts can call the Coastguard and then the coastguard will put out a Pan Pan call to all stations, requesting information on your vessels whereabouts. If you have had trouble, they know where you were going from and to, so can make a search of the area. So, don’t forget to call home when you get in!
Right; we have got our distress message out and it has been received. The emergency services have launched a Helicopter to come and remove our injured crewman, for example.
There is a fairly set procedure for this rescue, if your vessel is still able to move: - "High line transfer"
First, get all unnecessary gear off the deck and lash down the boom on the Starboard side, if you have an operational engine. Everyone should be wearing and using a harness.
Sea-king helicopters are very disorienting when they are on top of you. Looking up at it might make you lose your balance.
Listen to the VHF. The helicopter will call you. He might not be able to see you so have a smoke or pinpoint flare ready. (Not a parachute!)
The Helicopter will give you a course to steer, which will be with the wind fine on your port bow. This is because to undergo the rescue the Helicopter needs to point into the wind. The Pilot sits on the starboard side so can only see your vessel through his starboard window. He needs to point head to wind to give him maximum fuel economy and manoeuvrability. The winch man is also on the starboard side of the aircraft.
A light line will be passed down to the yacht, weighted by a sandbag. When it has touched the boat, put it in a container, eg a bucket, so that as the helicopter goes up and down you can keep the slack tidy. Do not cleat off this line!
A Diver will come down to the boat on a winch wire and the light line is
attached to him.
It is difficult and dangerous for the pilot to position the diver so as he can jump directly aboard because of the swinging mast. When he is at sea level he will signal you to pull him towards you. Do not grab him! The winch wire has a considerable static charge, which could give you a severe electric shock. The diver will earth the wire, then come aboard. Helicopter crews are extremely competent, in my experience and they will take over the situation from then on in. Let them: it’s their job and they are better at it than us! No, I have never been rescued, but we practice on practical courses when convenient to the Helicopter crews.
Contrary to this gloom and doom that I’ve been on about, most crews get by without all this! But they forget about safety as soon as they want to go to the pub!
The major cause of death in yachting is the misuse of the yacht’s tender (small boat). For some strange reason, yachtsmen are embarrassed about walking into the pub with a life jacket?
When using the dinghy, it is really very simple.
Since starting my sailing school, I know of two ex-students who have died in dinghy accidents.
As I have already said in the weather module, fog is very frightening and can be dangerous on the water. Here are a few tips to keep us as safe as possible.
Why do we get fog? – see Module 4; Weather
Firstly, as always, get the weather and if fog is forecast, work that into your passage planning. Ask yourself;
If you see fog coming down, or the visibility reducing at any time.
Sound Signals that you will hear in restricted visibility and at other times are: -
Dit = One
short blast of a horn
Pilot vessels sound four short blasts in restricted vis. So if you ever need one, that's how to find him.
This last module is a huge one and I could go on with it ad infinite, but I
think we have covered the basics.
I hope you are not scared to death to go sailing again after all this talk
of gloom and doom!