Learn to sail with the mindset that sets you apart from the crowd. Acclaimed author and sailor John Vigor makes a great point in his book 'The Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat' to 'think inverted' when provisioning or cruise planning. Read on for what this means to sailing safety.
Now, none of us plan to face the ultimate storm at sea. Matter of fact, most of us will never set sail in an area where such storms are probable. But you could keep this thought in mind each and every time you stow the smallest item aboard. Whether it's silverware in a drawer, dishes in a locker, books on a shelf, a portable CD player in the cabin, or a spare anchor in a sail locker--'think inverted'.
If the boat were to invert, where would that heavy book, radio, or anchor end up. Would it become a deadly 'missile hazard' or stove a hole in the hull or keel? Here are some other samples to think about, in particular if your plans are for cruising in unsettled weather or unprotected waters. Take a quick look at this list of 'think inverteds' to see which may apply to you.
Seven 'Think Inverted' Sailing Safety Ideas
1. Will your ports be strong enough to keep in one piece? Will they leak? Vigor recommends custom made storm covers about an inch larger than the ports. Pre-drilled and tapped stainless retainers are installed around each port. When needed, you secure the storm cover to each port by screwing wing bolts into the retainers. This provides a strong 'bullet proof' cover to protect these large openings in your boat.
2. How strong and waterproof are your hatches? How can you make them more watertight? Could they use more gasketing or stronger dogs (latches)? Make hatches more secure to keep water out and the sailing crew dryer and more comfortable down below.
No nonsense blue water cruising boats like this Westsail 32 have minimum cockpit volume (see photo) to prevent stability problems in case of boarding seas.
3. Are your companionway boards loose? Would they fall out in rough weather? Would it be better to have tighter-fitting or gasketed boards (or a single board) in a blow to prevent water intrusion down below?
4. How watertight is the companionway slide? That's the cover that slides over the cutout. Often, this area will be weak and leak like a screen door on a submarine in driving rain. Discuss modifications with your marina experts if going offshore to make this vulnerable area stronger and safer.
5. Could your deck stowed dinghy, liferaft, or jerry jugs use more or better lashings? Lashings sometimes become slack over time. How could you make lashings stronger (bungee cord?; automotive type luggage rack tie-downs?).
6. Are your cockpit scuppers of large enough diameter to drain a filled cockpit in a matter of seconds? Or would it take several minutes to empty a cockpit filled with water. Test it out. Close off both cockpit scupper seacocks. Fill the cockpit with a hose as high as practicable. Time how long it takes to drain. Increase scupper drain diameter if necessary to get rid of water in the cockpit as fast as possible!
7. How could you reduce the area of your cockpit (if necessary). Take a look at the Westsail 32 cockpit (photo above) designed for offshore sailing. It has minimum volume so that if filled, the weight of seawater (about 8.5 pounds per gallon), will not lead to stability issues that could cause capsize. Decrease cockpit volume to increase sailing safety in less protected waters.
Check your sailing boat inside and out to think of ways you might improve her watertight integrity while sailing. This will give you the confidence to know she will take care of you in the worst sailing weather--wherever in the world you choose to cruise!
John Jamieson (Captain John) with 25+ years of experience shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need for safer sailing worldwide. Visit his website at www.skippertips.com. Sign up for the Free, highly popular weekly 'Captain John's Sailing Tip-of-the-Week'. Discover how you can gain instant access to hundreds of sailing articles, videos, and e-Books!