Search This Blog

Blog Archive

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Safety II: STAY.ON.THE.BOAT.





Hand hold above the dodger
This is the other post that I meant to write long, long ago. Owing to some degree of distractibility by beautiful sunrises and sunsets, I never got around to it.

Safety On Deck:

Again, I repeat, I am no expert on sailing. These are my thoughts and observations from living onboard for 4 ½ years. Take them for what they’re worth. 
A bar for bracing our feet against when we heel. It is
part of the center cockpit table.

There are many ways one might be injured on deck aboard a sailboat. One could be hit by an unsecured boom (done that--check) with disastrous consequences. (Luckily for me, not disastrous). Stubbing one’s toes on snatch blocks. (Done that, many times--check) Getting one’s fingers caught in a loaded winch (in other words, the winch is under load from a sail powered by the wind. A finger under the line wrapped around the winch spells, “one less finger.”) Docking can be dangerous. As in, leaving one’s foot between the boot and the pier. With a 16,000 pound vessel, who do you think will win? The boat or your scrawny foot?
EPIRB-an emergency GPS
beacon. "Deploy only in grave
and emergency situations." This
post does not address EPIRB.
Research EPIRB use elsewhere.


A deployed EPIRB will broadcast
boat location and need for emer-
gency assistance to NOAA.
Natl Oceanic & Atmospheric
Administation 
However, I am not going to attempt to address all of those potential hazards.  I will address only one--the most dangerous thing for you on a sailboat is when you do not remain onboard where you belong. Now, it is true that there are a number of safety tools to assist a sailor in retrieving a person out of the water.  We have all of them. 

Man Overboard. MOB.
We have a MOB, Man Overboard which is attached to the aft pushpit. If someone were to fall overboard, whomever sees the unfortunate soul go overboard is supposed to deploy the MOB. Additionally, there is a throw version with a 100’ long floating neon yellow poly line. Theoretically, the person in the water grabs the line and can pull themselves in. We also have a buoyant horseshoe, which is also attached to the boat by a 100’ line. Again, theoretically, the person in the water can put the horseshoe around their torso and be pulled in to the boat.  
Horseshoe flotation attached to boat.

I am saying theoretically because while you are busy falling in, gulping water and flailing around, the sailboat is continuing to move away from you. If it’s moving under engine power, then one cuts the engine to turn around for you, making a tidy “8” in the water in order to pluck you out of the water. If the boat is under sail, however, it’s a bit more complicated. First of all, there needs to be a third person onboard. Someone to steer the boat and someone else to drop the mains’l and handle the foresail in order to get the boat turned around and get back to where you and the boat parted ways. 
Simple throw device. Floating poly
line with loop.

This post is not about how to do that.  It is a worthy topic, but not one that I feel qualified to address.  I will never forget the cautionary comment made to me before a long ocean voyage when I suggested that perhaps we ought to practice doing a man-overboard drill before setting off. *The wise sailor, with many more years of sailing experience than I will ever have, said this to me, “Well, we could. But the reality is that if you fall off, it’s likely going to happen at night and/or in rough seas. The chances of us finding you are not great.” Hmmmm.……..again, hmmmmm. Well, that made me think twice, even thrice.
CO2 cartridge automatically inflates
life jacket when submerged in water.

Clearly, the most important advice for a sailor is to-- Stay. On. The. Boat. So, that’s what we have always put the greatest amount of effort into doing. So far, so good.  Knock on wood (of which we have none on deck.)
So, here is how we stay on the boat.

Quick-release attaches to harness, which
is built into this life jacket
First a word or two about life jackets--a life jacket in and of itself is not going to keep one onboard the boat. But, when the life jacket also has a harness built into it that can be attached to the boat, then you’re in business. Of course, we wear the latest version of life jacket. It automatically inflates without the wearer doing anything, when it becomes immersed in water. That is nice because if you hit your head on the way in, it does not wait for you to pull the cord. It keeps your head above the water because that is its’ only function at that point. Well, that and, there is a whistle attached and a small beacon to help those folks who have the good fortune to still be on the boat, to find you in the waves. I would hope that they can do that for you.
Heavy duty carabiner-type clip to attach to boat.

So, back to the harness built into the life jacket. The harness is designed to be used with a tether. A tether is what connects you to the boat. Tethers are designed, as far as I have observed, with a quick-release that attaches to the harness. The other end of the tether has a different kind of attachment that will fit over stainless attachments and jacklines. 

Pair of stainless eye hooks beside companionway
We have a few different kinds of tethers. I don’t pretend to know which are the best. Read the reviews for that. But I do know that if I’m not physically strong enough to open the attachment or to release myself from the tether, it’s not going to be the right one for me.  Tethers often have two lines, a shorter one and a longer one, both elasticized. Hopefully, you will understand why in a bit.

Pair of stainless eye hooks each side of helm.
Anytime we are in rough seas, we are tethered to the boat. Also, at night, or anytime that one of us is asleep, the other one must be tethered in. One would hate to awaken and discover oneself all alone on a sailboat in the ocean. We put our life jackets on down below.  We attempt to keep the life jackets as dry as we can when they’re not in use.  Would hate to have one automatically inflate unnecessarily. The tether, we attach as we come up on deck. We first attach the harness end to us and then the other end of either the long or the short tether to the boat. 

Elasticized tether with a short and a long line.
There are a set of matching stainless eye attachments right by the companionway so that we can be hooked on even before we step out on deck. There is another matching set of eye attachments on either side of the helm, so if you’re sitting at the helm you can be hanked on close by. 

Clipping onto jackline before stepping out
 of cockpit
What if you have to go up on deck for some reason? First of all, we try to avoid having to go up on deck when we’re under sail, but sometimes it’s essential. That’s when we use what are called jacklines. There is a pair of them, one running from either side of the cockpit, inside the standing rigging all the way to the bow. 
Heavy-duty stainless frame built around each dorade. Frame protects the dorade
and makes for sturdy hand holds.

The jacklines are made of tough braiding designed for that purpose. We would not think of going offshore without having jacklines  in place first. So, when we need to go on deck, we first hank on to the jackline before stepping out of the cockpit.  As I walk forward, the tether moves along the deck with me. Depending upon the design of the boat, a person may have to squeeze to get through a narrow place where the standing rigging is attached to the deck. It is during this process that the usefulness of having two tether lines, one shorter and one longer may become most apparent. 

Squeezing between standing rigging
and structure surrounding dorade.
Obviously walking on deck is best done on the high side of the boat, the windward side. If you fall, you would certainly prefer to fall onto the top of the deck rather than into the water, which would certainly happen on the low side of the sailboat. You’d be attached but a little worse for wear  being dragged through the water.

Stainless hand holds on deck. Note that
tether drags along with wearer across
the deck. Jackline to be set up inside
the standing rigging.
Again, walking on deck is best done in a crouch. Keep the center of balance low. Hang onto something every minute. “One hand for you and one for the boat” is the old saying. On our boat, we have lots of hand holds on deck.  That was one of the things we were especially impressed with when we bought the Saga 43. Sturdy hand holds built onto the dodger, large hand holds built around each dorade fore and aft and long hand holds between the pairs of dorades. 
A shiny dorade. Ventilation to cabin below.

Dorades are the large curved “tubes” that are mounted on top of the cabin roof. They can be turned to face in different directions with the intent to capture breeze and send it below for ventilation, even when it’s raining or there’s wave washing over the deck. And of course, there are lifelines along the perimeter of the entire sailboat. 
"There goes my hat."


Just as an aside, while we were taking the photos for this post, I lost my favorite pink baseball cap with the extra long visor to the wind. Bummer. I knew better. If I had been on the ball, I would have attached a hat clip to the back of the cap and to my shirt before going on deck. Duh. Hat clips are little tethers for your cap.

Should have been wearing this hat clip.
*The wise sailor who helped us sail from Norfolk, Virginia to Antigua in the Eastern Caribbean was Harry Corbett, from Oriental, North Carolina. A great sailor and a good friend. Not to leave anybody out, we were also aided in our 14 day crossing by a 19 year old long time sailor by the name of Luke Johnson, from Hampton, Virginia, who would have gladly gone up the mast or taken on any other task deemed precarious before even being asked to do so. The fact that he was crossing the ocean with three old guys was not lost on him.









Safety I: Below Decks on Sailboat



Do not boil water or make soup while doing this.

 I meant to write this post a couple of years ago, but the Islands captured my attention and I never did. So, at last, here ‘tis.

Personal safety below decks onboard:

I am not a professional sailor by any means. We’ve been living aboard for 4 ½ years now and so these are my thoughts and observations from that limited experience. If you are new to cruising or are thinking of cruising perhaps these may be of some interest.

There are many potential ways to injure oneself below deck on a sailboat. I think the most likely and most damaging ways are by falling onto something, or having something fall onto you.

First of all, there are some things that just should not be performed while under sail, unless perhaps you’re going flat downwind and it’s a very calm, flat sea. How often is that the case? Not so often.
So, things like boiling water for pasta or making a big pot of soup? Probably not the best things to do while the boat is making way. Do those while you’re at anchor.

Does your boat come with one of these?
An exception to that rule might be use of a pressure cooker. Obviously, the stove must be gimbaled so that the stove fights to remain more or less level while the rest of the boat heels. If the seas are choppy, forget the pressure cooker idea, too. Have peanut butter and jelly, or granola bars or a banana and be happy. (We do not subscribe to the superstition that having bananas onboard are bad luck. Neither of us have ever been injured by a banana).

The stove is gimbaled and level. I am not.
So, other things to watch out for in the galley:  hopefully all of the drawers have locking mechanisms. Any drawer that does not is apt to come flying open and its’ contents strewn onto the beautiful sole (floor) of your of the boat. Take it from me, someone who has forgotten to lock a drawer once or several times. 

Another safety feature on a sailboat ought to be a stainless steel bar which extends out from the stove and across the entire front of it, to prevent one from falling onto the stove. I used to think that was overkill but have since changed my mind on the matter. The bar also serves as a place to attach the torso brace to prevent one from falling backward away from the stove. Again, at one point I thought that was overkill, but have changed my mind on that as well. All it took was one time of the boat lurching the “wrong” way unexpectedly in chop and me pedaling backwards to remain upright and then slamming through the open door to the head and landing against the sink. I was, shall we say, surprised to say the least, to find myself in the bathroom while cooking. I suspect that most people would be.

Another pair of safety features which we have never had to use: fire extinguishers and a fire blanket. Does it go without saying that one should not store the fire blanket so close to the stove that one can’t get at it if there’s a fire at the stove? We have a few fire extinguishers below decks. One is close to the stove, which possibly could become inaccessible in the event of a fire at the stove. Also, there is one in the aft cabin which is farther from the stove and next to the door to the engine “room.” (Quotation marks indicate that to call the area housing the engine on most sailboats a “room” is totally ludicrous; as ludicrous as calling the area surrounding your car’s engine, a “room.”)

Other galley considerations: Anything that is left on the counter will fly around while the boat is under sail, or under motor in big waves. If the items don’t fit inside a cupboard, then tie them down in some way. A person can install little eyehooks in order to run bungee cords to contain things like a thermos or bowl of fruit. Teapots are always left on the stove. It’s gimbaled, so that’s pretty safe. Otherwise, I tuck anything that’s loose on the counters into a sink where it’s contained-- including the dishwashing liquid which really makes a mess when it falls onto the floor and seeps over a rug or really any surface. Very, very slippery as well. So, wedge that, plus anything else that won’t go into a cupboard in the sink so they don’t bang around against each other. Perhaps a comment about breakable things on a boat. We tend not to use glassware made of glass, nor do we use breakable dishes. I don’t think that our cupboards lend themselves to a snug enough fit for those items, but many boats are designed so that dishes and glasses can’t shift around much at all.  We do have things like vinegars and oils that come in glass bottles, however, and we are able to stow them snugly so they don’t clink together. Just about everything else that I use in the galley is unbreakable.

The ring is something I attached to the
handle on refrigerator to make it easier
to grab quickly.
Refrigerator and freezer doors on most sailboats (at least the ones I’ve been on) tend to be the kind that one lifts up in order to dig down into the box. These doors are very heavy. Very. A wise person would likely avoid trying to hold the door up with one hand while rummaging around in the box for items. A wise person would install some sort of stainless steel chain with an “S” hook to attach the door to, in order to have both hands free to work in the fridge.  “Work” is the operative word. Sailboat refrigerators are nothing like your probable experience with refrigerators on land that have lots of shelving and where things more or less remain where you put them last. I have seen pictures of people’s hands after being smashed under the door of a refrigerator. Hard to believe those were previously attractive fingers.
Ceiling handholds run the length of salon. We're tall so we
can easily reach them. Make sure you can reach yours.

Spills. There will be some. Wipe them up before someone slips in them. I think it’s a good idea to have some kind of mat at the bottom of the companionway. If you’re going below from on deck and it’s raining or you’ve gotten wet, your shoes or bare feet will be wet. When you hit the bare sole, it will be very slippery.

Handhold at the entrance to
companionway.
Lastly, hand holds. You can’t have too many of them.  If you’re looking at a boat to buy, I suggest that every person who will be living onboard take a walk through the cabin to see if they can reach hand holds in order to move below deck. Short people might not be able to reach the ones on the cabin ceiling.  If not, hopefully there are handholds placed at lower heights. If the beam of your boat is quite wide, there might be nothing, I repeat, nothing that a person can reach to hang onto while moving around below while underway. I am of the opinion that that is a foolish thing in boat design, giving up safety for luxurious space, but that’s just me. All about safety Ardys.
Well, there, those are my observations and opinions about safety below deck on a sailboat. Next up, safety above deck. Won’t that be exciting?





Sunday, August 4, 2019

A Quiet Inlet




We won’t live on a sailboat forever. Oh, there are many folks who continue to live on their sailboats that are much older than we are. But 4 ½ years ago when we moved aboard, we said that it would be for 2 to 10 years, “as long as we’re enjoying it."


Well, it is beginning to feel like we are on the backside of that mountain with regard to our live-aboard years. We talk about living on land again from time to time. We try to figure out what we will do next. How fortunate we are to have the luxury of thinking about it for a while.

Today we are alone, resting in the Winyah Bay, just off the Atlantic. We’ve seen a few fishing boats across the inlet, but other than that, it’s very quiet here. Just nature and us. Earlier today, we watched a pod of dolphins, through our binoculars, as they were some distance away.  


There were at least 6 of them that we could see based upon the number of fins that broke the surface in various locations. They were swimming slowly round and round in a long loop. Gathering their dinner we figured. Occasionally, we saw one big splash and sometimes a small bit of some thing come flying out of the water and land back in again.  Part of a fish, no doubt. The rest of the fish would have been in a dolphin’s mouth, I’m sure.


It made me wonder about the things that I might miss the most when we no longer live on the water. I think it will be things like those dolphins over there, catching their dinner. They weren’t put there for our entertainment. We didn’t pay anything to see them. The dolphins couldn't care less that there were two people watching them. There are lots of other things just like that, too, that I think I will miss the most.

It probably won’t be the many islands we’ve visited or the U.S. cities we’ve visited, like St. Augustine, Florida and Savannah, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina. It won’t be sailing through New York City, although that was very cool. I don’t think it’ll be going to Plymouth, Massachusetts or Newport, Rhode Island or Bar Harbor, Maine.  

I guess the reason that I think it won’t be those things is that a person could get on an airplane, or drive a car to go see those places.  When we arrived there, we and every other tourist was interested in seeing the same things—historical sites and local foods and art. And we enjoyed them thoroughly.

But the part that only we will see, we and about a few thousand other cruisers that travel by boat, is all the wonderful stuff that wasn’t planned or expected.  After we live on land again, we will most likely never see dolphins in a quiet inlet, corralling their dinner together. Why? Because at this time, we are living on a boat at anchor in that inlet and we have all day to sit here for whatever happens next.

We will never have the good fortune to be escorted across the Bahama Bank by a group of dolphins that take turns at our bow. When the lead dolphin peels off another immediately takes his place as the lead. As if they are playing with us and saying, “come this way.” Oh, and the hundreds of dolphins that we met one day, all day on the Atlantic—we were sailing south off the New Jersey coast and the dolphins were all headed north to the fall hunting grounds.

There are incredibly beautiful places along the waterways: the rivers and ICW, bays, and oceans, as well as in natural harbors that only people on boats will ever see. We will likely never see these kinds of places again.  When we live on land, we will never see phosphorescence on the ocean in the night. Thousands of little sparkles on the water alongside the hull as it moves through the water.  Fireflies of the ocean. Carl has explained to me that they are actually plankton emitting light when the water is disturbed. An amazing phenomenon, I think.

We will never hear snapping shrimp on the other side of the hull, sounding for all the world like popcorn popping. We will probably never go out in a dinghy in the nighttime and see little flying fish jump out of the water across our path by the light of our headlamps.  

I am quite certain we will never again be surrounded by thousands and thousands of flying fish all going in the same direction that we were, off the island of St. Lucia.  Northern Star flying along under full sail, and the flying fish flying with us, probably being hunted by bigger fish.

We will never again watch a circus while sitting in our dinghy being performed across a stage of three connected sailboats, using the rigging for aerial acrobatics, as we did on the island of Martinique. Never again be rocked asleep to the sound of island music in the distance.  Nor are we likely to ever wander over to an uninhabited island and go exploring by ourselves.

It is unlikely that we will spend days and evenings anchored in quiet places like this one, miles from any other person, surrounded by marshland, open water and birds of all kinds. Terns that dive headfirst into the water from great heights. 

Pelicans who do the same, but without as much grace. Herons and egrets that can stand in the marsh and yet still be above it on their pencil-thin legs.  Flamingoes that look like pink flying sticks. Sea birds that fly in synchronous patterns evenly spaced—when their backs are to us, they make a herringbone pattern; when as one, they turn their chests to us, the pattern is like black and white lace.  

And of course, the Magnificent Frigate birds whose mating ritual is a soaring and swooping dance so beautiful that it took my breath away.  Oh, to see love expressed in such elegance! Or lust. It’s possible to see Frigate Birds on land, too but rather unlikely to see the dance in the sky.

And oh my, I have fallen in love with snorkeling. I guess I could go on snorkeling vacations again when I live on land, but it won’t be anything like jumping off the back of the boat and seeing incredible creatures right there, beside our home.  There are so many things that live in the water that I had no idea existed.

Seventy one percent of the earth is covered with water, and we have seen only a tiny bit of it.  I guess it will have to do, won’t it.