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Bakewell-White Yacht Design

Eight skills for non-sailing partners

by Des Ryan on 2 Apr 2012
Idyllic one moment, an emergency the next - are you ready? .. .
It is remarkable how often Sail-World reports how a Coast Guard is called when a skipper is incapacitated because the partner cannot handle the boat. With much cruising carried out by couples, it is vital that the non-sailing partner (usually, but not always, the female) knows enough to get the sailing boat back to shore in case of an emergency. How does your boat rate on the following vital skills that a partner needs?

Skill No. 1: The Marine Radio
The marine radio, a key piece of boating equipment, must be understood and how to use it for emergencies and non-emergency and should become second nature to the first mate.

Skill No. 2: To start and stop the engine
To be able to safely start and stop the boat’s engine is important for the non-skipper to master and the many safety procedures that precede starting the engine and getting under way.

Skill No. 3: The helm.
Partners should know how the helm functions, and the basics of steering with a sail raised.

Skill No. 4: How to sail simply.
It's not necessary for the mate to know how to win races, but there should be enough knowledge to be able to aim the boat for shore with a small amount of sail to assist the engine.

Skill No. 5: Safety equipment.
Not so much a skill, as knowledge. The partner should know where safety equipment is located and how to use it. Safety equipment includes life preservers, fire extinguishers, bilge pump and signaling equipment.

Skill No. 6: Navigation
Navigation charts aren’t complicated and should be studied by the first mate. The mate should also be familiar with the marine compass, which is used in conjunction with a chart, and with the reading of a GPS. It's not much use being able to aim the sailing boat unless one knows in which direction to aim it.

Skill No. 7: How to deploy the anchor.
Depending on the emergency and the boat's location, anchoring the boat can offer much need time and respite. Anchoring requires hands-on training to help the mate fully understand and appreciate the mechanics used when performing this task. Less important is docking, as by the time the yacht reaches shore there should be help on hand to achieve docking the boat.

Skill No. 8: An emergency routine.
It is important that an emergency routine be established so that, in the case of the incapacitation of the skipper, the mate, in a time of high stress, can easily follow the pre-arranged steps.

There are also many courses that are offered for the non-sailing partner. Check out one in your area so that you can go to sea confident that the second crew member on your boat will know what to do when the unexpected happens.
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