I recall a number of emergency situations, both with and without students on board. At 18, the Quebec Provincial Police rescued two of us, becoming hypothermic, from our capsized dingy when the mast became stuck in the muddy lake bottom.
I still get a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about the grinding sound the keel of a 38’ teaching boat made, as we slowed from 7 knots to a standstill, when encountering a shoal that was known to us.
I had been distracted by another not so important task, at the same time that the students on watch apparently had their own distraction, lost focus of the reducing depth and we found ourselves heeled over in 5’ of water in a vessel with 7’ of draft. The boat pounded on its keel for an hour in the 25 knot winds and 1.5 meter waves. We managed to get the boat free of the shoal as Coast Guard Cutter stood by and Helicopter hovered overhead. We lost a huge piece of the rudder, but all else was fine except our nerves.
I have sailed over 60,000 miles and taught on a multitude of boats, of various states of seaworthiness, and with students sometimes being pushed to their limits. The list of incidents could go on, but in all cases the incidents occurred as a result of a long chain of seemingly harmless events (decisions, mistakes, mechanical malfunctions, weather). This chain of events usually starts with something done or not done prior to leaving the dock. If we remove any one of these links or change their order of occurrence, the outcome would be totally different (better or worse)
Out of all my incidents and others that have been investigated by authorities, most all would have been prevented, or the outcomes may have been less costly, had proper safety procedures been adhered to and/or proper boat inspections and maintenance completed.
As owners and masters of vessels we must do everything possible to ensure the safety of crew and vessel during the voyage. This process starts at the dock prior to casting off the lines by creating a safety first attitude amongst the crew and creating a safe environment on and around the vessel.
Therefore, the first things we should address when implementing a safety at sea policy is PREVENTION and PREPAREDNESS.
This process can be broken down into 6 steps.
Know your crew
Prepare the boat
Effective on board communication
There are various forms of Safety at Sea seminars available to the marine market, with many of them focusing on “reacting to emergency situations” with little discussion on the most critical part of the process – PREVENTION and PREPAREDNESS.
Part 1 of our Safety at Sea seminar focuses the 6 step process of preparedness and prevention. We also analyze the various risks associated with the sport and look at ways to reduce these risks to an acceptable level that will make our voyage safe and enjoyable.
Safety at Sea – Part 1 Preparedness and Prevention Run time 2 hours
We also offer a full day seminar that incorporates the above topic, as well as how to manage emergency situations. Not only do we cover “what to do” in various emergency situations, but also why our brain reacts the way it does in these stressful situations, and a way to keep you focused on the important tasks at hand and not become overwhelmed.
Emergencies on Board – Preventing and Managing Them Run time 8 hours
Click here for outline