Whether you're getting ready to race to Bermuda or equipping your boat for a cruise to the Caribbean, the key ingredient to a successful passage is proper planning and preparation. "Hands-On Sailor" from our November 2010 issue.
|Must-Have Safety Gear: Harness and tether, Jacklines, Padeyes, Tools, Emergency tiller, Spare hatchboards|
Proper jacklines are essential for the crew's safety on deck. Don't use old sheets or an old halyard as a jackline. Also, don't use PVC-coated wire similar to a lifeline-it can roll underfoot, causing a sailor to fall. Always use flat, polyester-webbing jacklines.
You'll need several folding padeyes in the cockpit to which to attach your safety-harness tether. Don't use a stanchion or a pedestal guardrail as your attachment point. There should be an attachment point for the helmsman as well as a few other solid attachment points for the crew. Having a folding padeye within arm's reach for crew exiting the companionway is helpful when they're first coming on deck in the dark or when the weather is rough.
Harnesses and COB recovery devices All crewmembers should have a strobe attached to their harnesses at all times. They should also wear a separate whistle in addition to the whistle that comes with a safety harness, since there may be emergency situations in which a crewmember might not be wearing a harness but still needs to alert all crew.
Develop a medical-information fill-out form requesting baseline information for each crewmember, including the name of a primary-care physician, a dentist, and an onshore contact person, with all relevant phone numbers and email addresses. Ask each to identify an insurance carrier and to list the policy number. Include a specific question on the medical form inquiring about any allergies to anything; take note of sailors at risk for anaphylaxis. Ask sailors to list all current medications and their frequency; ask if they've had surgery in the past five years.
There are various medical kits available for addressing wounds, C.P.R., fractures, sprains, and burns; this area requires good planning. You may wish to consult with your physician, explaining the length of your voyage, asking for suggestions, and requesting needed prescriptions. In rough conditions, advise the cook to wear bib-type foul-weather pants while preparing meals to help prevent a scalding burn if the pot of hot water suddenly jumps off the stove.
All sea berths should be aft of the mast and should have a well-designed lee cloth for safety and comfort. A good lee cloth should have sufficient height and length to keep you in your bunk regardless of the boat's heel.
An offshore boat should have sufficient places to grab on to when the boat is heeled over and you need to move around down below. This simple but important area has been overlooked by many sailboat builders; fortunately, it can be easily remedied with the installation of handrails in strategic places.
A placard with the proper method to call a pan-pan or a Mayday on the VHF/SSB radios should be posted at the nav station and on the inside of the head door-where everyone eventually has to sit-to give everyone an opportunity to review the procedures. Also post a drawing of the boat's interior layout so everyone can see the location of all the through-hull fittings. Another placard showing the locations of the stove's fuel shutoff, the diesel-fuel shutoff valves, the ship's batteries, the bilge pumps, and the stuffing box should also be posted in a highly visible location.
Buy a three-ring binder and create a ship's book, which can be left in the nav station and available as a resource for everyone on board. It should contain everything for the day-to-day operations of the boat, beginning with the daily log. Other important items to include are the watch schedule, the meteorologist's forecast, a Gulf Stream chart, the coordinates of anticipated waypoints, a copy of the float plan, the contents of the medical kit, the contents of the ditch bag, a suggested menu plan, an inventory of provisions and their locations, a copy of the placard describing how to place a pan-pan and Mayday call, and a copy of the placard of the boat's belowdecks layout highlighting the locations of the through-hulls, pumps, and valves.
Preparation is the key to successful offshore passagemaking. It's important to allow yourself ample time to purchase and organize all of the equipment and spares and to perform all of the safety checks. Your preparations will ensure that you, your crew, and the boat are ready to handle the challenges that can arise when you're many miles from land.
Ed Stott is an offshore delivery skipper/coach and a yacht broker who's sailed more than 80,000 offshore miles. He's also available (email@example.com) to answer any passage-prep questions that you may have.