Safety and preparation go hand-in-hand for heavy weather sailing. Crew, topsides and below decks need to be readied if you suspect a blow is on the way. Even if it never develops, you will have the peace-of-mind that you, your crew and sailboat are well prepared. Captain John from www.skippertips.com offers some salient advice:
Crew Safety ~ Take Care of Your Sailing Crew
Why place sailing crew first? Your crew represents the most important element in successful sailing. Heavy weather sailing–in particular in cool or cold weather–can take a toll on crew. Take care of yourself and your crew first, whether there is only one or a full crew.
Count on the fact that most sailing crew shy away from discussions of sea sickness, fatigue, aches and pains, etc. Take the lead and suggest that all crew begin sea sick medication, rest, and hydration at least 48 hours before a trip. This will help control sea sickness and fatigue.
If sailing in cold weather, make sure that crew have adequate outerwear. Be alert for the first sign of hypothermia–shivering. Rotate watches at a more frequent interval to keep your crew rested and warm.
If sailing in warmer weather, make hourly hydration your priority. Encourage your crew to drink water or one of the popular electrolyte replacement beverages (Emergen-C, Gatorade) to keep hydrated.
Deck Topsides Safety ~ Clear, Lash, and Coil:
Think of anything in the open of a sailboat as topsides. If you climb from the cabin to the cockpit, you are “going topsides.” Clean decks make for safer sailing. Matter of fact, a quick study of sailboat racing disasters shows this one factor again and again. Those boats that had clean, clear decks sustained less damage, less injuries and less rescues!
Keep the bow and side decks free of debris or sailing gear and fenders. After each tack or reach or trim, insist that lines be coiled. This needn’t be anything fancier than a simple stack of bights. Mainsheet and Genoa sheets need to be ready to run; free of kinks and snarls.
Use extra lashings on liferaft canisters. Check the lashings on flaked headsails stopped off along the toerail or lifelines. Double check lifeline end points (cotters, rings, pelican hooks). Tape over pelican hook bales. Turn cowl vents around so that the open vent faces aft. This will keep the cowl from blowing out of the mount in gusts or waves that break aboard.
Below Decks Safety ~ Lash and Stow Below
Stuff lockers that you suspect have loose gear with towels, pieces of foam, or rags. These will keep small containers or silverware from rolling about. Double check that locker hasps, latches and dogs are closed and anchored. Stow any loose gear with bungee cord or line to prevent “missile hazards” (flying objects that can cause injury or damage when the boat takes an unexpected roll).
Put these sailing tips into play before heavy weather arrives at your position. This will help keep your sailing crew or partner and small sailboat safe and sound on the waters of the world–wherever you choose to cruise!