One subject that I take seriously is safety at sea. When we take the boat out sailing, we who are sailing her, is responsible for children, my family and friends and visitors onboard. I remember watching Sailing Ruby Rose and their take on safety: Accidents are accidents because they are not planned for. So what I want to do is to minimize the surprise when an accident happens and to be as prepared as possible. With a budget I can:

  • Buy safety equipment, I do not try to  save any money here.
  • Buy training classes
  • Buy amazing first aid kits
  • Make the boat as safe as possible

What money can’t buy is experience and skills. These must be obtained and that is what the safety weekend focused on. I had planned a presentation on safety, procedures and decision making when things go bad which was how the weekend was kicked off. We also watch, at least twice, the instruction video on YouTube on the life raft we have onboard (Viking RescYou Pro for 8 persons). This gave us a great insight into how to store it, how to deploy it and what is inside the raft. I recommend everyone to do the same if you have not already done so.

We reviewed the content in the grab bags and took notice of expiry dates and the content in each bag, we have two from McMurdo. We try to distribute the rations equally between the bags in the event one gets lost. We also have the VHF radio and sat phone in separate grab bags. The VHF has GPS connectivity with a SOS button to send out an alert. We also have a EPIRB on the wall next to the nav table which we will bring with us in the event we must abandon ship. Always check that the EPIRB is programmed properly and that the boat’s max passenger count, safety equipment and type/model is stored in a national registry and connected to the EPIRB. That way it is known what safety equipment you have and potentially how many persons is at most on board. I am also considering bringing an PLB in a grab bag but so far I have not done so. The other item I am considering is a manual desalinator from Katadyn ( so we do not run out of water. Note that this is not giving you a lot of fresh water but it could save you if you are in the raft for many days.

As part of the safety presentation we did a walk through of the safety and fire fighting equipment on board. We also reviewed how to use the equipment and if we needed more. It was clear that we needed a few upgrades to our safety equipment.

  • Add one more horseshoe lifebuoy and print S/Y Sarah on both
  • Add a Jonbuoy to more easily identify person in a MOB situation
  • The life raft is too heavy to deploy from the storage compartment in the cockpit. We need to move the life raft to the aft railing and add a hydrostatic release.

The above items are very important to sort out before we set out for another crossing. It was discussed as part of our review and would not necessarily have been identified if we did not have a weekend on safety.

Another item that we felt was important was decision making processes. We all have different experience levels on board and as I always do my best to find people with more experience than I have, and this is no exception, I need to be humble enough to understand that I might not be the best person to make a critical decision. We decided that, if there is enough time, then it would be a “popular vote” on announcing PAN PAN PAN, Mayday and to abandon ship. While I might not feel comfortable about a situation, my other teammates might have successfully dealt with a similar situation before and do not feel it is as critical as I do. We did also agree that if the skipper feels there isn’t enough time, his decision is what counts. Below is a link to our safety presentation. Feel free to use it in a non commercial setting.

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After our discussion and presentation we checked the life wests and the personal AIS units inside the west and we all took part in preparing the sea drogue. We had to deploy a sea drogue close to A Corūna las summer as we lost steering in a gale.

The next day we set out to sea to practice MOB and docking without the thrusters. The first being far more important. We first just tried to recover the fender and use the MOB procedure on the plotters correctly. Then we progressed to time the event and in the end we practiced MOB without any additional crew, just the helmsman. All MOB practice runs were  done with the main and jib up. Healthy discussions arose on procedures and what worked and what did not. I would not have been without this day, it can one day be life saving!

Back at the marina we all had to take turns in docking S/Y Sarah without the use of any of the thrusters. Some nervous moments as we did the 360 inside the marina and backed in! No damage done though and we all agreed it was a very useful weekend. Left for next time is our first aid kit and more MOB manoeuvres.

Safety Weekend

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#Hanse588 #SYSARAH #Nicolaisensailing

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