Yeah, right. Under some conditions anyone can get seasick. Some people are very immune, but one day it will happen even to the most resistant boater. Mal de mer ranges from mild discomfort (green around the gills) to a medical emergency (serious dehydration from vomiting). You don’t want to become so incapacitated by seasickness that you can’t function and thus pose a danger to yourself and others aboard. There are lots of articles and books that discuss seasickness prevention – the best method is the one that works for you. Try several to find out. Sitting under a tree works for everyone. See pp. 361-362 in the Mariner’s Guide for a discussion of seasickness.
The skipper is in charge and bears the responsibility for the safe operation of the boat and the welfare of everyone aboard. That sounds simple enough, but when family or friends are aboard they may unintentionally take over and influence decisions. This can happen especially when the skipper is still learning and there are more experienced boaters aboard. Sometimes a person offers advice, and the skipper follows it because it comes from an “old salt.” This may be a good way to learn something new, but, in some cases, the skipper or the crew may not be experienced enough to judge the validity of the suggestion or to carry out the idea properly. Or a crewmember says “you don’t have to do that; we never do that on Karen’s boat,” and the skipper agrees, without thinking more about it. Then there’s the crewmember who shows another person how to do something in a manner that is quite different from what the skipper asked the person to do, saying “here’s a better way.” There may be a reason the skipper told the person to do it that way. The bottom line is that while the skipper may consider advice from the crew, the final decision is his or her own. In some cases, a decision may have to be a quick one when things are going wrong, and the ultimate responsibility is the skipper’s. The rest of the people aboard should be sensitive to this when making comments or giving advice.
Safety lessons. After boating accidents, investigations are conducted and reports are issued. Government authorities, such as the Coast Guard, the department of transportation marine division, and/or the police may be involved. Private groups, such as committees of boating experts, race committees, and organizations involved in sail and powerboat racing and cruising may also conduct investigations. Their reports give details and useful information, providing safety guidance for all boaters.
Reading about accidents may give the impression that boating is a particularly dangerous sport, but remember that safe days on the water usually are not reported in the press.
Thirty-eight foot sailboat Low Speed Chase capsized during the 58-mile Full Crew Farallon Islands Race, San Francisco, California, April 14, 2012. Five lives were lost, the first time for a fatality since this race series began in 1907.
During the race, Low Speed Chase sailed over a relatively shallow area (28 ft.) along a lee shore and was capsized by a series of large waves and driven on the rocks. Seven of the eight crew were thrown into the water and five persons died. The investigating panel held that the “failure of seamanship in negotiating shoal waters on a lee shore” was the direct cause of the incident. “If the crew of Low Speed Chase had sailed in deeper water, they could have prevented the tragedy.” In addition to the primary cause, there were other safety issues which “may have mitigated the outcome.”
1. "Inadequate personal safety gear in use for offshore conditions.”
2. “Communication difficulties and discipline among the entire fleet” [of racing sailboats]
3. “Race management protocol flaws creating uncertainty around search and rescue
[above quotes from pp. 4-5, Farallones Report]
Recommendations of the panel. There were four factors that may have increased the survival chances:
1. staying with the boat on the rocks
2. higher buoyancy lifejackets
3. water activated lifejackets
4. thigh or crotch straps on inflatable lifejackets
The use of harness tethers is also discussed extensively in the report.
Take the time to read the very comprehensive full report, the excellent footnotes, and the appendices. There are many details applicable to sail and power boats, whether cruising or racing. Especially note Appendix D, pp. 35–39, for very good information about the behavior of waves in shallow water. Appendix E has Capsize Incident Details from Survivors; Appendix G includes Medical Reports, Injuries to Crew, Survival (with analysis and recommendations); Appendix H discusses Vessel Damage, with photos; Appendix I covers Race Organization/Communications; Appendix K summarizes the responses from race participants to a post-race questionnaire. These appendices are very instructive and interesting.
Find the US Sailing summary of the accident and the link to full report at http://media.ussailing.org/Latest_News/2012/USS_Farallones_Report.htm
A sailboat may have one or more sails up and the engine on at the same time, which makes her a power-driven vessel. Under Rule 25 of the International and Inland Navigation Rules “a vessel proceeding under sail when also being propelled by machinery shall exhibit forward where it can best be seen, a conical shape, apex downwards.” Under the Inland Rules a vessel less than 12m/39.4ft is not required to exhibit the cone, but may display it. The text of rules 25 is available at www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=navRulesContent.
How often do you see a motorsailing vessel displaying a cone? Without the cone, nearby boaters may assume the boat is a sailboat and follow the Rules of the Road for encountering a sailboat. If the motorsailing boat follows power-driven vessel rules, because the skipper knows that the engine is on, this may cause unexpected actions that confuse other boaters. In a close-quarters situation it could be dangerous. Sailboat operators, please buy a cone or drag it out of your locker and use it when motorsailing.
Many boaters know that “Mayday” means grave or imminent danger to human life or the vessel, but what does “Pan Pan” (repeated three times in succession) mean? It indicates an urgent situation that is not as serious as a Mayday. Examples of where a Pan Pan call may be used include a non-life-threatening medical emergency, a vessel aground or dragging anchor (but not in immediate danger), loss of engine power in a shipping channel, etc. The purpose of a Pan Pan call is to alert the Coast Guard and other listening stations that a vessel is in difficulty and requires or may require assistance. It’s better to issue a Pan Pan and cancel it if you resolve the problem, than wait until you’ve got a Mayday situation on your hands. See Mariner’s Guide pp. 298-299 for advice on how to make and cancel a radiotelephone Pan Pan call.
Here I’m talking about boats in the approximate 8-18ft/2.5 to 6m range, such as canoes, kayaks, dinghies and small rowboats with or without an outboard. An excursion could be a long ride from the big boat to shore or to another boat, a trip up a river or creek, a ride out to a nearby island or fishing spot, or any trip that takes you away from immediate aid if something happens to you or the boat. The farther you take the boat from land or nearby vessels, the better it should be equipped.
In addition to whatever comfort items you take, such as food, drinking water, fishing gear, extra clothing, etc., have lifejackets for everyone aboard and proper navigation lights for the boat’s size, if you’ll be out after dark. An outboard powered boat should have an air horn to comply with the Navigation Rules for power-driven vessels, and it’s also a good emergency signaling device. Comply with any equipment rules set by your state or country.
The following supplies fit in a small carrying bag or box: duct tape, spare pieces of rope and light line, WD-40® or similar, a sharp knife, a basic first aid kit, a survival blanket, a simple tool kit or a multi-tool, and anything you may need for the outboard.
The boat should have an anchor of suitable size and a length of anchor rode approximately three times longer than the prevailing depths where you will travel. Can you row the boat in a breeze, against a current, or if the motor dies? Having an anchor may be very important if you can’t! For some excursions you may wish to include a handheld VHF radio and/or a mobile phone (if within coverage range).
Priscilla Travis spends more than 110 days each year on the water, takes photos, and writes about nautical topics.