Volume XVII, Issue 21 # May 21 - May 27, 2009


Things You Haven’t Thought About — Enough

Capt. Grant’s safety checklist

by Grant Zeigenfuse

Forethought is easy, repentance hard

For several summers, I skippered for a singles’ sailing club. Because we day sailed with inexperienced new members, there was a club rule that the skipper conduct and complete a mandatory pre-cruise safety checklist with the crew. This is a wise move for any skipper.

It is much easier to contemplate the what-ifs and practice beforehand than live with the If only I had done this after the fact.

Have a safe, fun boating summer — and the peace of mind that you have a prepared crew.

1. What are your crew’s abilities and limitations?

What if one of your crew had a medical emergency? What do you know about this crew? Can everyone swim? Does anyone take special medication or have special medical problems? Does anyone know CPR? Do you have an emergency phone number clearly posted?

2. Who else knows how to run the boat?

What if the skipper were seriously disabled or fell overboard? Is there someone on board who could safely bring the boat back to port? Who knows how to turn the boat on? Turn it off? Knows the way back?

3. Where’s the first aid kit?

What if first aid is required? Does the crew know where the first aid kit is located?

4. Who knows how to call for help?

What if the crew needed to call for help? Where is the VHF radio located? Are the instructions posted for making an emergency VHF call? Alternately, are phone numbers for a tow agency or the Coast Guard posted prominently on the boat or stored in someone’s cell phone?

5. Where’s the emergency equipment — and how do you use it?

What if the situation dictated donning lifejackets quickly? Does the crew know where the lifejackets are located? How about the flares? Does someone besides the skipper know how to light a flare?

6. Where in the world are you?

What if the crew needed to give the Coast Guard coordinates? Does anyone know how to read coordinates from a chart or, better yet, GPS to let someone know your location?

7. Who knows how to anchor?

Most rescuers will ask you to anchor while they come to you. Who on board knows how to drop anchor?

8. Anybody know how to perform a rescue?

What if the skipper went overboard during a particularly hard blow? Would the crew know what to do? Have you discussed man overboard procedures? Is there a flotation device readily handy? Again, who would handle the boat?

9. How does the fire extinguisher work?

What if there was a fire? Does the crew know where the fire extinguishers are kept? How about how to use them?

10. What do we do now?

Other items to think about: Location of the automatic bilge pump switch and of the manual bilge pump. Location of the fuel shutoff valve. Location of the emergency tiller on a sailboat. Location of the battery switch. Location of through-hull plugs.