This programme, developed for delivery to my Yacht Club in 1985, may appear melodramatic to those who have never been to sea in a real storm.

To those of us who have experienced a full gale or two, or a full storm crossing the Gulf Stream, with the power of the waves and wind and the wild rolling of a vessel, the safety tips are very real.




The attraction of sailing is that it represents a challenge Man against water and wind, and in racing, man against man and the sea and the elements. It all adds up to adventure, but great adventures are only accomplished successfully when those taking part exercise due prudence. We call it safety.

Tonight we are going to explore the true aspects of safety, safety equipment and devices. We are also going to explore some emergency equipment and procedures.

If we pay attention to safety, emergencies should not occur.

Thomas Flemming Day of Waterdown N.Y. took over a bankrupt canoe magazine in 1880 and renamed it "Rudder" and soon became the Johnny Appleseed of sailing, particularly ocean sailing. In 1911 he sailed a 25' hard chine yawl across the Atlantic just for the experience.

In 1912, following the sinking of the Titanic, Day wrote an editorial in Rudder magazine.

"You people will now realize the truth of what I have preached to you for years, that safety at sea has nothing to do with size - and that because she is big, she is not necessarily, seaworthy. As I have told you, small vessels are safer than large

providing they are:

1. Properly designed]

2. Strongly built

3. Thoroughly Equipped

4. Skilfully Manned

Unfortunately Thomas Day succumbed to what has become a pattern in North American sailing magazines: to appease advertisers and be too critical of poor designs and quality in boats and equipment. The only major magazine not guilty of that practice has been "Practical Sailor".

But Mr Day did editorialize the need for a strong, skilfully manned crew which called for a strong leader. In his book "On Yachts and Yacht Handling" published in 1901, he made it sound simple.

"The Backbone of Seamanship is Confidence: Confidence in your self, Confidence in your craft Confidence in your crew, in that order."

No person should attempt to command any vessel, whatever size, who has shaken confidence in his own skill and judgement. What we mean is a true sense of confidence, not the false sense which is more properly called conceit.
It was also Days basic precept that "skill and preparation go a long way toward defending against the seas worst behaviour."

It is my opinion that the key words of this must be, Preparation, to be ready for the sea in all respects.


Pretty save, and getting safer.
Boating accidents decreased since the great expansion of sailing following the advent of glassfibre boats about 1958. From 27.14 per million boats in 1970 to 4.7 in 1987 in the USA. In Ontario between 1987 and 1988 (when this programme was prepared) there was a further 33% decrease. That is in all types of vessels, canoes to large power boats.

The fact is that recreational boats - all types - are only slightly more dangerous than riding in a school bus, but admittedly slightly less dangerous than flying in a commercial airline.

Boating - all types - is:

Twice as safe as cycling:

Five times safer than driving'

Six times safer than skiing;

Seven times safer than swimming

23 times safer than scuba diving.

44% of boaters, all types of craft, are females yet 94% of all boating fatalities are male.
Only ½ of boating related fatalities in Ontario were related to alcohol, that was 44% of those tested. In the USA the rate was said to be 70%, a figure that probably more accurately reflects that of Ontario.

The PROFILE of a boating fatality;

A young male in a small (18') power boat, not wearing a life jacket, who has been drinking.

Sailboats account for only 9% of recreational craft in Canada, about the same as rowboats.

70% of man overboards occur on power boats.


The junior Whitesail - Bronze, Red and Blue, programmes of the Canadian Yachting Associations are excellent and should be encouraged.
While such schools for juniors abound, such facilities are every bit as necessary for adults, and sometimes are sadly lacking. Some commercial schools do an excellent job, but all too frequently the teachers are graduates of the school and lack, on occasions, real sailing experience.

What must be accomplished in our sail training programmes is "Sea Sense", - the natural feel for the boat - the agility to come in harmony with the rythme of the sea and the vessel - the ability to react to any changes in that rythme - quickly.


The subject of safety also includes clothing. It is a foolish person who thinks he can step aboard a vessel in only a swim suit, sports jacket or ordinary street clothes.

However warm and dry the day may be, some form of protective clothing should be worn (for the sun) or kept handy, for the dangers of cold come from both the wind and the water. Classic sea boots can be a hindrance on a small boat, therefore good deck shoes are a must. Bare feet are not designed for slippery decks. The advantage of pure wool clothing is that even when wet it remains warm to the skin.

One set of clothing is never enough therefore spare dry clothing is a must for safety. Also remember a good hat, for 1/3 of your body heat is lost through your head. Remember hypothermia can effect you in the cockpit. A fit person, properly clothed, has an increased chance of survival in or out of the water. Foul weather gear. Always buy the best you can afford.

When you take new crew or guests aboard you are responsible for their safety. You do not want your guest to panic, become exhausted or be unprepared by not having warm clothing.

Aboard ODYSSEY we always had spare sweaters and jackets for guests.


Watch the weather. - Listen to the weather forecasts - Reef your sails early - Remember harbours are by the very nature sheltered areas, so remember to check the open water before commencing even a short voyage.

Always look ahead for the possibility of a weather change. The appearance of some sailing areas from shore or harbour can be misleading, particularly with an offshore wind. A sudden wind change or increase in wind strength can very quickly change the sailing conditions.

Learn the signs of an approaching storm.

Winds in a thunderstorm often hit 40 to 60 knots. Even on Lake Ontario.


Navigation lights are set out in regulations of the federal government and are subject to international treaties for marine safety at sea.

Red, Green and White lights are used in very specific locations on a vessel for different types of power ad sail boats. The visual signals become a code for identification by other craft of the approximate size and type of vessel and direction of travel. Red lights are visible from the port side, green lights from the starboard side and white lights from the stern.

Details of navigation lights are shown in the Boating Safety Guide, a copy of which should always be on board the vessel, regardless of size.

In foul weather at night, recognizing and identifying the direction of another vessel can make a difference. They are designed to assist you in determining if you are on a collision course and in determining who has the right of way.

Be sure to check the condition and operation of the lights on your vessel, and the conditon of your batery before you leave harbour.


Running lights should be put on early, and kept on late.

No craft, regardless of how small, should be out at night without a light. On sailcraft, proper running lights should not be obscured by sails. Masthead lights are fine and maybe preferable on open waters, but in enclosed bays and harbours may be difficult to see from close quarters. Never, ever, run regular running lights at the same time that you run your masthead light.

All sailors should study the lighting of ships at sea so as not to be confused when confronting strange lights at night in open waters. It is a fascinating subject.


Know the right of way rules

Sail vs Sail - Sail vs Power - Power vs Power.

A sailboat under power is, under the Canada Shipping Act, a power vessel. (Strangely under the Toronto Harbour Commission by-laws, even with an auxiliary motor, a sailboat is still a sailboat).

Always remember the Carribean Rule - "BIG BOAT". Give way.


Rules can be remembered by the use of poems i.e. -




The rule is "Meeting keep to starboard, - Overtaking, keep to port". Keep clear of any craft on your starboard side.

Thus the Red to Red, Green to Green.

Generally speaking, when you meet head-on, turn right. The American way is to say 'right helm' or 'left helm'

but right and left may vary, depending on which way you are looking or thinking on a ship, but our way of saying port and starboard never vary.

An example: "While it is not right to cut off a left hand you have the right to write about the rites with whatever is left. When one hand is gone and your left hand is amputated your right hand is left"


Because we sometimes sail on a vast expanse of water such as the Great Lakes or the open ocean, It is perfectly proper to pass on either side, provided you do not infringe on anyone else's rights. Just remember that the vessel on your starboard side has the right of way. Keep clear of her.
To keep starboard (right) on meeting and port (left) in overtaking makes a lot of sense, and is much the standard in North America if conditions permit. They don't always permit.









Another rule to follow is:





Forget that sail has right of way over power. Remember that if a sailing yacht is going faster than a power vessel, it is the sailing vessel that must give way. It is always the onus of the overtaking vessel to keep clear.


WHEN TWO SAILING VESSELS are approaching each other so as to involve risk, one of them SHALL keep clear of the other, as follows;


A vessel coming up with another vessel from any direction more that two points abaft her beam is an overtaking vessel, and it continues as such until the vessels are clear . When there is doubt it is presumed that the vessels are overtaking.


1. I the vessels are on the same tack, WINDWARD VESSEL KEEP CLEAR.

2. If the vessels are on an opposite tack:

(a) if one is close hauled, the other running free, VESSEL RUNNING FREE KEEP CLEAR.

(b) If both are close hauled, PORT TACK VESSEL KEEP CLEAR.

(c) if both are running free, PORT TACK VESSEL KEEP CLEAR.

In a very old court case, that has not, to my knowledge ever been disputed, it was held that "a sailing vessel has the wind aft when it is running not more that 2 1\2 points from directly before the wind".

Two points abaft the beam, mentioned in the overtaking sections, means an angle of 22 1\2 degrees from a right angle to the median line of the vessel. 2 1\2 points from directly before the wind would be about 30 degrees from the winds direction.

And remember, racing rules, which follow the rules of the road, do not supersede the law of the land or the sea.


The most important item under this important heading is the communication between skipper and crew. Not necessarily "if it's important, yell"..

Each skipper, before leaving the dock, should seriously develop crew confidence and emphasize the skills required to serve the vessel as a whole.

Explain the procedures on your boat there are many ways to coil a rope, but on each boat, only one way should be used so that uncoiling is standard. The procedure for reefing sails cannot adequately be described in a gale it must be understood beforehand. Verbal communications to the foredeck in a high wind or bad weather can lead to disaster. Therefore, hand signals must be understood beforehand.

Use proper terminology, i.e., port and starboard, haliard, sheet, lines, sails, etc.
At some point in every storm, something happens that requires quick action by all hands. When this occurs, whatever it is, leadership of a high order is required. The skipper must communicate instantly what action is required NOW! He must lead the way in getting it done.

Tired, weary, cold people do not respond readily. Therefore, strength of character and powerful, direct communication may be required to effect what has to be done.

Even in an emergency, take the time (even if only a few seconds) to brief the crew as to what must be done to repair the necessary.

(See Emergency Communication below)


By itself, this is a major topic. Tonight we will deal only with safety.

316 stainless steel does not reveal its intention to break well in advance. A shroud may look perfect, and could have lasted for years, but some day the cumulative snatches and flexings of its lifewear may overcome it without warning. Sometimes they call it metal fatigue.

Fractures occur mostly where Wire joins the terminal fitting. Frequently, the first sign is the parting of a single strand inspection is the key.

If under sail, you see a shroud parting, tack immediately (even if you yell at your spouse) or heave to on the opposite tack.

If you're lucky and the mast is still up, jury rig - use spare wire and bulldog grips.

If Your Mast Comes Down

In the unlikely event your mast comes down (but it has happened with some frequency), there will be a few hundred pounds of wire, rope and sails, intertwined in the water. The mast is quite capable of butting and piercing the hull and sinking the boat - something you don't really need - what do you do?

First, don't start the engine. There will be so much gear in the water, a fouled prop will be guaranteed. The skipper must first determine the most effective way of getting to harbour. Clearing the debris and motoring to port is probably the answer - but make sure there is no debris, lines or rope in the water to foul the propeller. Rigging cutters will save the day.

Remember that the mast helps to maintain seakindliness - with it gone, the motion may be violent and mal de mer may result.

Safety harness and Life jackets may be ordered.


John Rousmanier, the great Annadelis sailer and author, reminds us there is nothing crazy about feeling unsafe on a boat, especially the feeling that you could go overboard. It can happen. It must be a terrible experience even when it happens while the boat is made fast to a wharf in calm weather.

Remember the poem;

The wind she blows and she blows some more, But you never get drown on Lac St. Pierre As long as you stay on the shore."

or as Mandy, the lady Navigator says, as long as you stay on the boat.
The rule is, "Don't fall overboard", and that rule is broad enough to include everything that is designed to prevent that occurring.

Standard safety requires Good Footing, secure footing means non skid decks and good deck shoes with proper soles. No unsuspecting traps or obstructions on the deck. A solid toe rail to brace your feet against and solid cleats to brace your feet, solid grab rails and grab straps

Consider grab straps in the cockpit made from sail strap material so that crews can cross the cockpit on a tack, or to allow the skipper to stand up in the cockpit, for visibility and control.

A young former secretary of mine (Her name was Brenda, behind her back I called her Bren Gun) once reminded me that

"90% of sailors who drown are found floating with their fly's open, so be Careful!"

Maybe you should kneel by the stern pulpit and have a lifeline attached, one hand for the ship, as you are in a vulnerable position.
Lots of grab rails on the coachroof. DO NOT depend on Iifelines.

Consider safety netting on your lifelines, particularly if you have young children on board (or dogs). But remember never to rely on lifelines or stanchions.


Having sailed through a lightning storm well out in the Atlantic Ocean, I can tell you it is fascinating but scary. There is a feeling of utter helplessness.

Commodore Turnbull of the National Yacht Club Toronto was killed by lightning off Rochester returning from Opsail 76. There was no damage to the vessel. He was just too close to the backstay.

Chainplates can burn a hole in the vessel when strck by lightning.. This happened mid Atlantic to my good friend and experienced sailor Jack Nye of Toronto in 1985.

There are many theories but having the mast or chainplates grounded is important. If nothing else, have a pair of jumper wires handy to clip onto the upper shrouds and let them hang over the side. Stay away from the back stay. Turn off all electrics.

I am convinced that lightning takes the shortest route to the water, and will only strike when your boat is in the way. Still be prepared.


The first rule must always be "one hand for the ship". Don't hang on to mothers apron strings or depend on outside aids. If you subconsciously start to depend on them. They eventually won't be there when you need them and you will be in trouble.

You must consciously condition your mind to think "Hang On".

One Point: Sir Edward Heath's Morning Cloud on a delivery to the Solent lost five of her very experienced delivery crew. It started in heavy weather when one crew member coming out of the companionway to the cockpit was suddenly pitch poled overboard. Then the inevitable panic and resulting errors.

After reading that story I placed on Odyssey a Pad Eye on the companionway bulk head. By hooking the safety harness onto the padeye before leaving the cockpit, being pitch poled by a sudden and unexpected adverse motion of the vessel. In a force 10 storm in the Gulf stream in July 1978, it actually worked. Also it was a great comfort having the safety harness attached to the pad eye while hand steering.

Learning to depend solely on the safety harness can be dangerous.

Having said all that, no person should leave the dock without safety harness handy. The type is important, it should fit around the outer clothing so that it can be easily put on and taken off. The tether should attach at chest level, not waist, with snap hooks at both ends of the tether. The main tether should be about 6' long, no more, and a second tether - 3' long.

Pad eyes on the foredeck, at the mast, in the cockpit and at the stern, properly bolted with a good support behind, are also a necessary piece of safety equipment. Jack lines, from the cockpit to the foredeck, about 7/19 wire rope or kevlar ropes (for strength and size), must be property and securely anchored at both ends by pad eyes or cleats. To attach your safety harness tether is essential but be careful that they don't become a trap for someone to trip over.

Remember, when in a hurry, an eminent crisis, or simply no time to put on a safety harness, THINK and HANG ON!

Public Perception of "Coast Guard Approved"

The prudent boater will carry a lot of additional equipment that does not carry the label "Coast Guard Approved."

The product label and the requirements for "Coast Guard Approved" are understood by the vast majority of the boating community from entry level boaters to those experienced.

The Coast Guard established minimum safety requirements for all recreational boats. The requirements vary depending on the size and type of boat and number of people aboard. They require for example, personal flotation devices (PFD's). These used to be called life jackets. Also required is a throwable Type IV device such as a seat cushion, a rigid ring buoy or horseshoe, and emergency day,' night signal devices. If the boat has an engine they require fire extinguishers.

For each piece of equipment they require the further mandate that the device be "Coast Guard Approved". Over the years the boating public has come to believe that if a marine product does not carry a "Coast Guard Approved" label that it is an inferior product. This is where the misunderstanding begins. The fact is that the Coast Guard only approves the basic equipment they require, and only for that equipment do they set specifications, make tests, and stamp approval.

Further, the prudent boater will carry a lot of additional equipment that does not carry the label "Coast Guard Approved". There are many examples of this: anchors, safety harnesses, radar reflectors, bilge pumps, VHF radios, man overboard modules, etc.

The Coast Guard is the first to say that their role is not one of product testing and approval. We think this is the way it should remain and have no quarrel with it

Buoyancy Aids:

Adequate life jackets essential for skipper and crew. To be effective they must be wearable (cockpit cushions may be legal but they are not wearable) and comfortable to wear. They should not impede movement on board the boat, but still must have sufficient buoyancy to hold a person up in the water, and more important, face up.

All life jackets should be equipped with a whistle and a waterproof light.

In 1984 the U.S. Coastguard sent out a notice: U.S.C.G. Commandant Notice 10470 dated 7/25/84...READ IT, It speaks for itself.

"Recent Coast Guard tests involving various types of protective clothing and flotation devices demonstrated two potentially serious problems for Coast Guard personnel accidentally immersed in rough seas. The first problem involved buoyancy requirements. Life-jackets or flotation garments which only provide about 15-17 pounds of buoyancy (e.g. float coats and other Type III devices) proved inadequate to keep the test subjects comfortably afloat for periods exceeding approximately 30 minutes. Although these devices have adequate buoyancy to keep one's head above water in calm seas, they could not provide similar flotation In rough seas. Even though the test subjects were physically fit, good swimmers, and experienced in rough water survival, they became exhausted In a short period of time keeping their heads clear of the water while combatting the 4-to-6-foot swells and 2-to-3-foot wind chop. These subjects did not experience similar problems with garments or life-jackets providing buoyancy greater than about 17 pounds (e.g. inflatable life-jackets, anti-exposure coveralls, wet suits, etc.) Coast Guard personnel who are not as physically fit or as competent in swimming skills as these test subjects could expect to have even more difficulty with rough seas.

"Float coats or other Type III devices shall only be worn in nonhazardous conditions when the risk of accidentally falling overboard is minimal or when the probability of rapid recovery is high.

":These recommendations are already Incorporated In the Coast Guard Rescue and Survival Systems Manual, COMDTINST M10470.1OA, ch. 5, par. 82 and ch. 7, par. C3, but they are restated in this Notice for added emphasis"


Ring Buoys are, only in Canada, required by the law of the coast guard, on a small vessel. This was based on studies by Michael.., Executive Director of the Allied Boating Association, a trade associate representing all boating manufacturing in Canada which is in fact mostly small power crafts. It was supported by the Safety Committee of the CYA, basically the same committee as the OSA, comprising an Albacore sailor from the Britannia Yacht Club on the Ottawa River, a power boat operator, both strongly influenced by the director (whose brother manufactures the material in hard ring buoys) and the likes of me. Two of three members approved.

They are designed to be hard, (there is only one manufacturer of the approved material in Canada, a member I believe of the allied boating association.) This is so they can be thrown farther, (it's not yet an Olympic event). This is fine off the end of the dock, or at beach, or some other stable platform, (the deck of a large ship), but on a small pitching sailboat doing 6 knots in a good wind?

If It doesn't knock you out when it hits you, the approved and recommended way of getting into it is to put your arms above your head and dive in from whichever way, but that you place both hands on one side of the ring, press firmly down to allow the ring to flip over your head and presto, its around your body. (provided your arms get through the hole.) For the last two years I sat on the Safety Committee at OSA and I am assured by the chairman and Michael that this will work.

The approved ring can be 20 inches or 24 inches, or the super size of 30 inches. Or if you wish a 42 inch size. I'm a 48 inch chest, so I don't count.

Once the life ring is comfortably around you, recommended under the armpits, how do you get it off?

If, as happened to the Burgess', it starts to cut off blood circulation while you are in the water; How do you help yourself in the water? How do you help yourself into a rescue boat with that ring tight around your chest, under your armpits? Try it to see what happens.

I'd like to quote from Yachting Monthly Feb 1985:

"Different types have advantages and disadvantages. The important thing is to remember is the standards, or rather the lack of standards. The circular lifebuoy of Rigid Plastic with nothing but air inside (air is part of the buoyancy and can, eventually absorb water and crack) is perhaps an example of the type of buoy to be left on the shelf, digging a little deeper in the pocket for something better."

Then there is the Horseshoe Buoy. Usually (and I think preferably) made of a softer buoyancy material. There are no published standards, less likely to stun you if you are, by chance, hit, and which can be sprung around your body and fastened. In tests it can be thrown as far, and in fact it was a second bioy, a horseshoe buoy, that saved the Burgess'

There are other types, including an inflatable type, (C02 cylinder) worn partially inflated with a minimum buoyancy of 35#, on inflatable collar with an inflation tube close to the mouth, and a strap under the crotch is ideal. And the Mustang Floater coat which is ideal. They make a lot of sense and are practical and are legal if you fall off the right sized of boat.


You should have one on board and in fog, mounted as high in the rigging as possible.
Tests conducted in Newport ~ New York have indicated that the DAVIS Folding Radar Reflector, the cheapest of the name brands on the market, proved to be the best.

If you do not have a Newfoundlander on board to see through fog, you had better have good navigation and dead reckoning; a good depth sounder and an accurate up-to-date chart of the area; a fog horn; and maybe, just to be sure, a Loran-c.


Fog is not pea soup in colour or texture, but more like skim milk, chalk and water, a whitish opaque medium which appears to limit your vessel to not more than its length.

In fog a sailor must rely on the compass, depth sounder logline and ears. Eyes are probably of little use.

One could listen for the trombone sound of a foghorn "Maw-Ugh" or the "Dingle-Dongle" sound of the bell buoy. Then of course there is the vessels fog horn manned by the crew. One blast for starboard tack, two blasts for port tack, three blasts for running free. The conductor, the skipper, ensures the melody is correct and that the sheets are ready for an instant tack in case he hear five blasts.

Bob Griffith and my son Jim, were with me the time we found Whitby harbour entrance in a real "pea souper" by using the depth sounder, and chart, and a little luck. There are a series of dips about fifty to one hundred feet offshore, running parallel to the shoreline, marked on the chart. The first thing we saw was inside the harbour and the glorious sight of the Whitby Yacht and Country Club, or whatever it was called that week, on our port side.


Airfog signals are heard at greatly varying distances because the behavious of a sound wave in air depends on the state of the air.

When an air fog horn is a combination of high and low notes one of the notes may be inaudible at times

Occasionally there are areas in the vicinity of a fog signal in which it is totally inaudible.

A station may not be aware that there is fog a shoirt distance away, and the fog signal may not be sounded


When, despite your vessel, seamanship and communication skills, and your safety procedures and equipment have failed you have an emergency at sea, what do you do?


Imagine one man of a 3 person crew goes overboard and in the ensuing panic the boom slams down on the skippers head, knocking him out cold. The main halliard gets wrapped around the prop shaft which brings the mainsail up to the top of the mast with such force that it rips the head of the sail off, just before the Engine quits.

As the last member of the crew on his feet, what would you do, as the skipper bleeds profusely, and the boat drifts away from the man overboard towards a lee shore?

Man overboard is a very emotive subject, yet most of us will sail a lifetime without experiencing it for real. Far more likely 'casualties' are the hats and other gear that blow over the side, the recovery of which will give valuable experience. If, however, you are one of the unlucky ones who falls overboard or who is left on board when someone else goes over, a thorough familiarity with procedures, practiced in a variety of conditions and ideally as a regular drill, will increase the odds of survival dramatically.

To have a man overboard, particularly at night, is indeed an emergency, a dire emergency. If the water is cold or the conditions are other than gentile, the only hope of success is a pre-arranged drill.

Tack or Gybe (fractional rigs are somewhat more difficult to tack). If done quickly enough in calm waters and light winds, back to the victim (Continuously sight the victim). Come around to a reciprocal course, and then head to wind on the downwind side of the victim - pick up with boat headed to wind. The other way is under power drop your headsail go about back to your victim - again on the downwind side heading upwind with mainsail luffing.


The object of the standard reach/tack! reach tactic is to put the boat on the easiest point of sailing, a beam reach away from the casualty, allow the helmsman to recover his wits before tacking and once more reaching back. . For beginners it's easy to teach: "burgee across the boat", or with wind instruments "needle across boat". There is also less risk of the disorientation or wind blindness that can result from a fast, perhaps violent, turn as in the Quick Stop.

The disadvantages are, first, that by going on to a reach and sailing away from the casualty there is danger, particularly in heavy seas, of losing contact. Secondly, although tacking is one of the simplest manoeuvrs, it needs to be a positive one, with sheets handed as the boat goes through the wind and course once more checked as the boat reaches off. For an inexperienced crew, possibly in a state of shock, to achieve that tack could be difficult, though once achieved and sailing back his confidence might be restored. Thirdly, don't forget the man in the water. You might have thrown him a lifebuoy as you sailed off but he too could be panicking, and what will he think as he sees you sailing away, possibly out of sight?

To keep sight of an object at water level on a gloomy day with a high sea would prove difficult.


A few years ago. during a debate on the subject we discussed making a quick stop in the recovery of a man Overboard. One experienced yachtsman suggested that,

"given a competent person on the helm, he can quickly establish contact with the casualty by tacking immediately, leaving the headsail aback".

The emphasis was very much on the competent because it was felt that quick thinking would be required allied with a level of skill to maintain control of the boat once in the hove-to position.

The Lifesling developed in the USA advocated the use of the Quick Stop when deploying their device.

In 1986 at the NONSUCH Rally on the Connecticut River volunteers jumped into the 52°F water to test being brought back on board using the Survival Technique Board and being winched on board by the lady navigator using the long mainsheet as both the heaving line and the recovery line.

The Royal Yachting Association. through its own trials and via RYA recognised sailing schools, has been evaluating this method as an alternative to the standard reach/tack/reach method.

The R.Y.A. recommended procedure for a Quick Stop is:

1 Launch Lifebuoy and dan buoy

2 Tack slowly rather than immediately

3 Once Tacked lower and roll the Genoa, making sure all lines are inboard

4 Sheet mainsail in hard

5 Start engine and motor back to the casualty, stopping the boat and killing the engine when a few yards to weather

6 Make contact by throwing a line or manoeuvring the boat towards him to bring him to the leeward side of the boat ie try not to approach bows on

Different boats have different behavior, and it is important for you to know just how yours would handle during a Quick Stop. How fast would she tack? Does she lie comfortably hove-to? How fast and in what attitude does she forereach?

As with the reach/tack/reach method a Quick Stop has its drawbacks and requires a degree of skill.

In the meantime go out and practice. Next time it could be your hat that blows off.

Aboard ODYSSEY, with my sons and their friends as crew I frequently lost my favourite sailor hat overboard. That crew became expert at recovering the hat (which they new had some sentimental value to me) rather than face the consequences of not recovering it. It became a fun game.


If the emergency is such that outside help is required call a mayday on Channel 16; VHF 3 maydays, and identity your vessel and your location. Then give the nature of your distress and identity the number* on board. The coast guard have a book of procedures which may annoy you.

The unwritten law of the sea when it comes to assistance, has been developed over centuries, and is universal. It simply requires that any mariner come to the assistance of a fellow mariner in distress.

If you hear a mayday or see a distress flare (or signal), take immediate and positive action. If you cannot spot the vehicle, take an immediate compass bearing and advise the coast guard of your position and the compass direction of the flare.

If you can spot the vessel and can assist in any way without endangering your vessel then do so. Always stand by to assist.

Advising the coast guard or another vessel of your emergency is complicated if you don't know where you are. Navigation, dead reckoning, and a running fix is always a good idea - even if you have GPS or Loran-C. Also a depth sounder they are important.


Flares are to advise people of your trouble or guide your rescuers to your location. They are only useful if they can be seen, so don't waste them.

Parachute flares are probably best for drawing initial attention to a problem. They are affected by wind and visibility conditions, and have a relatively short duration (30 seconds for coast guard approved, and 40 seconds for solas approved parachutes). Sometimes it might be better to have radio contact with someone before firing any flares.

Hand held flares are dependent on visibility, and if seen, can lead a potential rescuer directly to you as they are longer lasting (2 minutes for coast guard approved, 1 minutes for solas approved).

Flares should not be over 42 months old. Flares can be dangerous so be careful don't panic particularly with rocket launchers.

Keep flares accessible,, even if you are only a boat in the vicinity of a boat in distress - you may need them.

Solas flare standards generally exceed coast guard standards in brightness and altitude, and (except in hand-held flares) duration.



1 minute - 15,000 Candlepower

Coast Guard

2 minutes 500 C.P.



30,000 C.P. 40 seconds

Coast Guard

10,000 C.P. 10 seconds.


It happened to Bruce and Shirley Burgess last year. There were sinkings or near sinking of fishing boats.

Keel bolts on some light displacement sail boats have come loose and could allow the keel to come off. Thru hulls, particularly propeller shaft, can allow water ingress, a severe broach can allow water through companionway.

Often the ingress of water is great and the cause unknown.

What to do: - panic? No.

Locate the problem and repair it.

Wooden plugs, softwood tapered near each thru hull are a must.

A good electric pump, a good hand pump, maybe a spare pump, Disconnect the thru hull to the engine close fitting; start engine to act as another pump.

Stay with the ship.


Tie all fenders in a circle - spare life jackets tied between; All flotation material spread over the life jackets. Use the cockpit awnings for cover for protection of the sea and sun.


Remember, most rescues are effected by novice rescuers, lacking in skill and training in rescue work.

Those trained in rescue frequently are volunteers, not seamen with a lot of practical experience. The exceptions are some of our full-time marine services, such as Metro Marine. This is true on both sides of the border.

Towing vessel: The towing vessel should tow from a tow post - forward of the ships rudder, from a line around the base of the mast or from a bridle.

The bridle has the advantage of arranging a quick release.

Victim vessel: If being towed, try and secure a line to your boat that will effect the tow - and can still effect a quick release. Then hand the line to the towing vessel.

Be careful that lines do not foul the prop of either vessel.


Obey the pilot.

Do not touch the line from the helicopter until it has been grounded.


Be well clear for masts spreaders. Lots of fenders. Long spring lines.

Rescuer: downwind or upwind.


1. Good reliable compass

2. hand held compass



One of which is capable of signalling WATERPROOF




10. ANCHORS at least 2




14. VHF RADIO or other radio to receive Weather forecasts.

15. HEAVING LINE 50 feet minimum


1. LIFE JACKETS Fitted with reflective material

1 for each person aboard &fitted with whistles & lights.


3, HORSESHOE TYPE 1V LIFEBUOY marked with the yaachts name, reflective tape, equipped with a self igniting light and a whistle. A Pole and flag should be attached to the lifebuoy by at floating line 50'

4. DISTRESS SIGNALS Preferably to S.O.L.A.S Standards. including


4 White hand held flares 2 Orange smoke day flares.






Running lights should be put on early, and kept on late.

No craft, regardless of how small, should be out at night without a light. On sailcraft, proper running lights should not be obscured by sails. Masthead lights are fine and maybe preferable on open waters, but in enclosed bays and harbours may be difficult to see from close quarters. Never, ever, run regular running lights at the same time that you run your masthead light.

All sailors should study the lighting of ships at sea so as not to be confused when confronting strange lights at night in open waters. It is a fascinating subject.


Rules can be remembered by the use of poems i.e. -