Updated: Jan 6
We all do it, we are all guilty of it. We all at times think "It won't happen to me" and then..... it does!
Safety on board a sailing vessel of any kind is paramount to you staying alive from the beginning to the end of a journey. It is your sole responsibility to yourself, and whilst with Shadow Wind measures are always in place to ensure a safety, it is still down to the individual to take stock and heed the advice, not just for themselves but for every other person who is on board the boat.
Obviously, like anything to do with Health and Safety this list seems to be pretty extensive, things to be aware of, things to do in case of an emergency etc etc etc. However, this isn't a blog to tell people what to do, this is about just making you aware of a small selection of hazards that can happen in a blink of an eye but unlike when you are on land, at sea, you really are at the mercy of mother nature.
Life jackets, they are not just a trinket that comes with a boat, they are an integral part of sailing. They may save your life should you ever fall overboard but not if they are still sat next to your bunk keeping yesterdays old socks company. With a life jacket comes a safety line, this can be attached to your life jacket and then clipped on to the boat, there are hooks around the boat for this, especially during bad weather, night sailing and any time you personally feel the need to have it on. Think you don't need to wear one? Then just imagine your jib is stuck as you are trying hard to pull it in, it's dark, raining hard, the boat is rocking and bouncing over the waves and yet you really need to get the jib in. That means, you now have to go up to the bow, and whilst it may of been easy in daylight avoiding all the obstacles of lines, grabrails, skylights, boom, mast etc, you are now fighting against the elements of wind, sea spray and rain and a bouncing yacht that seems to be hell bent in throwing you over the side! Your safety line will give you a peace of mind which now means you can focus more on the jib and getting it fixed and returning to the cockpit safely. Any crew members who are with you will also feel more relaxed in the knowledge that you are safe.
Keeping warm - when we think of yachts and sailing we automatically switch our mind to those lovely sailing cruises in far away lands where the sea is calm and crystal blue. Cocktails on board, beautiful sunsets and sunrises to brighten everyone's mood, a splash of the sea spray becomes a welcome reprieve from the hot glorious sun. You can already picture this can't you, maybe with a nice cold beer in hand. However, let's come back to sailing on the Irish sea and outside the river Mersey in the early hours of a morning.
It's not so sunny now. In fact whilst the weather is dry and cold on land out at sea with the wind blowing even a little, whatever the temperature was on land it is now much much colder and the central heating is quite literally, your clothing. Layers, plenty of layers are needed to help you keep warm during the night, waterproofs, boots, gloves, hat plus all your other clothing. Sounds a lot I know but you will be glad of the warmth when you are steering the yacht anytime between 11pm to 6am and treble glad of the heat at 3am in the morning! Without these items to keep you warm, you will possibly not be fit to sail your crew much further than 5nm without becoming too cold to think or do anything manually required at speed.
And then there is the other extreme of heat/sun stroke. Oh yes, it happens to the best of them! Our good 'ole Captain James whilst he has never ever been sea sick, has been victim of circumstance to the good old British sun. The sun beating down on your skin during a long sail feels oh so good and add to it a gentle breeze and you just never want to hit land again, rarely do you take into account how warm it actually is on your skin whilst sailing. However, being out in it without protection from those rays can leave you in a bit of a state, and it can have a debilitating effect on anyone it happens to catch out. We always make sure to carry sun cream, a hat or peaked cap and obviously sun glasses. However, remembering to use all three at the same time is totally up to the individual but I would definitely recommend them together!
However you sail, sail safe.
"It's remarkable how quickly a good and favourable wind can sweep away the maddening frustrations of shore living.”
Ernest K. Gann