View from the Other End of the Towline and Hoist Cable
What should you do if the Coast Guard has to come to the rescue? Coast Guard Captain (ret.) Kip Louttit helped answer this question during CW's seminar at the U.S. Sailboat Show.
Coast Guard Search and Rescue (SAR) and Safety Preparations for Offshore Sailing
The Coast Guard has 11 Missions including SAR. It does 74 SAR cases, saves 14 lives & assists 98 people in distress every day. CG assets shift from one mission to another routinely and divert to SAR as the highest priority mission. A person in water is the highest SAR priority.
The CG mindset is from a power-boat (ample electrical power) and law enforcement view, so abnormal lights and not answering the radio will raise suspicion. Keep the radio on channel VHF-FM 16/13, and keep proper running lights on.
The CG teams with the International Community and the Dept. of Defense (Army, Navy, Air Force & Marine Corps) for SAR/LE. Also with Merchant Marine (AMVER) and state/local/private entities.
The CG tries to balance its Safety, Security, and Law Enforcement missions with your sailing pleasure. Therefore, keep clear of the big guys, keep the radio on 16/13 VHF-FM, cooperate if the CG wants to board, and remember that CG vessels and people are armed, just like your local police officers.
AMERICA’s WATERWAY WATCH: 1-800-424-8802 or 1-877-24WATCH. Report anything abnormal/suspicious. You know your local waters. Call CG or local law enforcement on Channel 16 VHF-FM or 911 for imminent danger or threat.
Safety at Sea Overarching Themes:
1. Avoid trouble
3. Outside assistance: Call early & beware cascading casualties.
“Preparation Equals Performance.” Position and PFDs. If we know where you are, and you float, you greatly increase the chances of a successful rescue and happy ending. EPIRBs/PLBs are super for position, with radio, satellite & cell phones as double-redundancy and to provide more details to rescue forces.
What is your plan for a collision with a floating object that causes a hole and flooding? Consider access to your hull.
Bad weather… Even the best lookouts will not be able to see you. Radars don’t work well in heavy rain/seas, so you won’t be detected at long range (or at all). Can your hatches, portholes, and vents keep solid water out?
Avoid Trouble: Have a good crew, boat, and equipment; train your crew. Practice the unexpected, unusual, and emergencies under controlled conditions, at day and night, in heavy weather, and using emergency gear.
Self-Rescue: Be able to handle and have a plan for all usual emergencies to vessel and crew, including first aid and seasickness.
Outside Assistance: Leave a float plan. Call early…the CG can put you on a Communications Schedule. SAR Checklist:
1. Position: Latitude/Longitude and general Geographic Position is best
2. Number of People on Board: Include significant info…injuries, disabled, children, and/or elderly aboard
3. Nature of Distress: Sinking, dismasted, loss of steering, medical emergency, out of food/water
4. Description of Vessel: As it will look to rescue forces (color of hull/deck/sails, or bottom if capsized)
5. Put on your life jackets/PFDs: You are already in trouble; don’t make it worse by losing someone.
Phone Number for CG ATLANTIC AREA COMMAND CENTER, Portsmouth, VA: 757-398-6390 or 757-398-6700.