Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Top Ten Tips for Safer Sailing

These are things we learned, often the hard way, on three Atlantic crossings and many more offshore passages. What things have you learned that can help others sail long distances safely?

1. The No.1 rule of sailing: STAY ON THE BOAT! Having a healthy dose of fear of falling overboard can save your life. Remember: 'One hand for the boat, One for yourself.'

2. Always clip in with a tether before leaving the companionway when sailing offshore. Sailors have been washed overboard when coming up to assist in an emergency.

3. Descend a companionway ladder facing the ladder. It allows you to grip both handholds as you descend. And if you slip, you are less likely to sustain a back or neck injury.

4. Use binoculars to inspect rigging every time you survey the horizon for vessels. Make log entries at least once per hour and maintain a good watch schedule.

5. Make accentuated and early maneuvers to avoid collision – alter course by 90 degrees or more so your actions are obvious to anyone observing, but assume they do not see you.

6. If you think about reducing sail, then it’s time to do so. Close hatches and ports, remove cowl vents, and don safety gear before heavy weather approaches.

7. Know your boat’s maneuverability in tight quarters. If your engine fails, you must be able to hoist sail quickly and sail away to safety.

8. When anchored, always have an exit strategy. Note exits from the anchorage, other boats, and alternate spots to re-anchor if necessary.

9. Be prepared for emergency response. Take on a precautionary ‘what if’ mentality. What if we lose steering? What if a shroud breaks? What if the engine cuts out? Don’t panic!

10. Practice heaving to, MOB and other heavy weather tactics in varying conditions before you need to deploy them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Top Ten Tips for Safer Anchoring

by Daria Blackwell, co-author of Happy Hooking. The Art of Anchoring. 

We're starting the year with a new summary from our book with our top ten tips for anchoring safely. Do you have any tips to share with us?

1. Select your spot carefully. Do not anchor on a steeply sloping bottom, on a lee shore, or in close proximity to other vessels. Follow the lead of other vessels in the anchorage for method of anchoring (one anchor, how much scope, etc.).

2. Secure the bitter end of your chain to the bulkhead with a thin line that has a float attached. In an emergency, you’ll be able to cut the rope to release the anchor rode. The float will serve as a marker to assist in retrieval of your ground tackle later.

3. Always drop your anchor to the bottom slowly so the rode doesn’t end up in a tangled heap on the sea floor. Set your anchor by putting the engine gently into reverse or using a backed sail to exert pressure on the anchor to help it set.

4. Always use a snubber with chain rode to introduce elasticity into the system. Protect rope rodes and snubbers with chafe protectors. More boats are lost to chafe than to dragging anchors.

5. Keep in mind that more scope is better: 3:1 minimum, 5:1 acceptable, 7:1 better, 10:1 best for storms. Examine your ground tackle frequently for weak links.

6. Always make certain your anchor is holding by observing stationary objects on shore. Holding your hand on the rode can help you determine if the anchor is dragging as you’ll be able to feel the rode skipping over the surface.

7. Use a kellet in light air especially with rope rodes to prevent the rode from wrapping around the keel.

8. Deploy a trip line in an anchorage with rocky or questionable bottom to assist with retrieval if your anchor gets stuck.

9. Turn on all around white light at night and hoist a black ball during the day when at anchor. It’s the law.

10. To retrieve your ground tackle, take up the rode, then let the motion of the boat slowly pull the anchor out. Never power forward over your anchor to retrieve it if it is stuck. You can bend the shaft or flukes and the anchor will never set properly again.