|KEEP SAFE OUT THERE
- Article by Tim Robertson of the RNLI
often enjoy sailing my Wanderer independently, sometimes
single handed, just getting away from the crowd and immersing myself the
challenge of making my own way in a small boat.
activity is totally safe, dinghy sailing is relatively non-hazardous,
however, the implications of getting it wrong could be catastrophic for
you, your crew and the loved ones you leave ashore. The more obstacles you
can put in place between the potential for an accident and that accident
actually coming to pass the better.
Each of the following
safety steps may help break the chain of events that could lead to a happy
days sailing ending in tragedy:
- Does someone ashore know
where you are going and when you intend to return? If not then who will
raise the alarm and point the rescue services in the right direction
should you become overdue? Make sure you call your contact to say you are
ashore, or if you are likely to be delayed, to prevent a false alarm with
- Do you have up to date weather and tidal information
and do you understand how these factors might influence your ability to
complete the planned journey safely? Be honest with yourself in weighing
up the conditions – can you cope? Not sure – don’t go.
- Can you
de-power the rig, heave to, furl the jib or reef the main while afloat?
The right time to reduce sail is as soon as you first think about it –
leave it later and it will be harder to do it safely. Frank Dye said that
while racers rig for the prevailing conditions and try to survive the
gusts, cruisers should rig for the gusts.
- Do you have alternative
means of propulsion that will get you home should you be unable to sail to
- Do you have a means of calling for help should you need
it? (For example: VHF radio, mobile phone in waterproof stowage,
pyrotechnics, whistle, sound signal or torch)
- Is your boat up to
it? Have you checked the effectiveness of the buoyancy and the
serviceability of the fittings, rigging, sails etc?
- Are you
wearing appropriate clothing for the conditions including a well fitted
buoyancy aid or lifejacket with effective crotch straps - to prevent it
riding up and obstructing your airway and ability to swim?
you recover and sail away from a capsize without outside assistance?
Seriously consider using masthead buoyancy if sailing independently, to
reduce the likelihood of inversion after capsize. Tie a bailer / bucket
into the boat so it can’t float away. Practise capsize recovery with your
crew to make sure you are confident you can recover the situation, all
dinghy sailors must assume they will capsize and plan to manage capsize as
a normal part of their sailing experience.
- What is your plan B?
For everything we try to achieve in small boats we should always have an
alternative in mind, just in case we find we are unable to achieve our
intended aim. For example, where else could I come ashore if my favoured
landing site can’t be used for any reason, or, before entering a confined
space or embaying myself on a lee shore, what is my escape route that will
allow me to ‘go round again’ if I don’t like the way things are panning
Finally, two key points to bear in mind:
1. It is always better to be safe ashore wishing you were at sea,
rather than struggling out at sea wishing you were safely ashore.
2. Whatever happens, unless your boat is well alight (!),
your boat in an attempt to swim ashore. The Wanderer is designed to be
positively buoyant even if it is structurally damaged. A swamped or
inverted hull still provides a safe refuge for the crew, out of the cold
water, together in one place and very much easier to spot than a couple of
football sized heads drifting around hidden between waves. Swimming ashore
is never a good idea, no matter how hopeless it may seem bobbing around on
a swamped, broken or inverted boat. Remember the tales of the ’79 Fastnet
Race where crews abandoned their boats to liferafts, only to drown, while
their ‘doomed’ yachts were found days later still very much afloat.
Keep safe out there.
WCOA GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CRUISING
1. Life jackets or personal buoyancy aids should be worn when sailing.
2. Masthead buoyancy is recommended. Wanderers, like most other sailing dinghies, may
invert after capsize. Mast head buoyancy avoids this and aids righting significantly.
3. Crews should attend any briefing prior to departure to obtain up to date weather
forecast, details of the sailing area, and navigational information.
4. Check the seaworthiness of your boat and ensure that it is
5. Buy adequate marine insurance including third party cover.
Note: The WCOA does not accept any responsibility or liability arising from any accident
or other incident during either a cruising or a racing event. Participation is at the sole
and absolute discretion of each helm and crew.
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