When we think about boating safety, all of us can come up with a specific story, perhaps several, that previously taught us about the ocean, how sailboats perform, and how to avoid trouble. Frequently, these stories involved trouble of one sort or another, since the school of hard knocks provides a pretty effective education.
In the early 1970s, a new method of categorizing life jackets was introduced by the Coast Guard and Underwriter’s Laboratories, using five “types” and a new, strange name for life jackets: the Personal Flotation Device.
The five types fell into recognizable styles: Type I were for commercial use and had the most buoyancy; Type IIs were inexpensive “yoke” style; Type III were vests that were more comfortable, but had relatively low buoyancy; Type IV were “throwable devices” for man overboard; and Type V were anything that didn’t fit into the previous definitions.
In August of 2014, Fortress Anchors conducted an extensive anchor test on Chesapeake Bay, south of Solomon’s Island, in deep, sticky mud. I was asked to be the impartial observer, based on my participation in anchor tests for several decades.
On the night of November 29, 2014, while competing in the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, Vestas Wind ran aground on Cargados Carajos Shoal shortly after local sunset. The crew consisted of eight seasoned professional sailors with multiple Volvo Ocean Races in their past; the vessel was essentially new and in perfect condition; the visibility was excellent except for lack of moonlight; and the shoal was charted on virtually every paper chart of the west Indian Ocean from extremely small scale 1:45 million charts to an extremely detailed 1:75,000 chart.
A new set of Safety Equipment Requirements (SERs) replaced the ISAF (formally ORC) Offshore Special Regulations in the US, effective January 2014. These new requirements were adapted and successfully used in the 2014 Pacific Cup and the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race and have since been adopted broadly in a wide range of offshore races.
Italics Note – Items in italics should be read to an audience before the paper is distributed.
Eliminating a trip up the mast becomes the safest trip.
Check for chafing frequently - daily underway. One way is to use binoculars to inspect the rigging. It should not be necessary to go aloft underway to retrieve a lost halyard on a cruising sailboat. Instead, mast messengers should be rigged fore and aft and a spare halyard kept aboard to replace any lost halyard until you arrive in port.
This list started when a CCA member tried to identify what changes he had to make to his boat when he started cruising with just himself and his wife. Others have added too, and this may give you a great starting point for your list!
Dinghy Safety Checklist
It only takes a few minutes to verify that your dinghy is "good to go."
USCG Federal Requirements - IMPORTANT NOTE: States may have additional requirements for registration of all types of boats and young passengers, including young operators of propelled dinghies