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Sea Survival Tips - How to Protect Your 'Heat-Loss' Zones!

by John Jamieson on 7 Feb 2013
Use the H.E.L.P. position to conserve body-heat and slow down the onset of hypothermia, which happens quicker than you would think, even in quite warm water. Protect the major heat-loss zones as described below. (illustration from "Seamanship Secrets") Captain John Jamieson http://www.skippertips.com
If you or your sailing partner or crew fall overboard, will they know to protect the six major 'heat loss' zones in the body? Even in warm water, anyone will begin to lose heat. And the longer you are submerged, the faster the heat loss. Heat loss leads to hypothermia, or the cooling of the body core temperature. Protect these six body zones to conserve energy longer.

Train your partner or crew to toss over a life jacket as soon as a person goes into the water if they are not already wearing one. Life jacket, not just a pfd. The Type I pfd is called a life jacket because it's the only type of flotation device designed to turn most unconscious persons 'right side up' from a face down to face up (and a bit back) position.

And, it will enable a person in the water to perform an easy survival technique without a lot of effort. This one (see photo) comes from the Merchant Marine service. It's comfortable, easy to adjust and this model will help protect several of your body's most important heat-loss zones. These are made for all waters, but in particular tough conditions offshore.

Never assume that an inflatable will inflate. Recent incidents show that these devices may or may not work. And, some inflatables have a nasty reputation of rising up over your head unless held down with groin straps - which is always recommended. Toss over a Type 1 first if necessary, then liferings and other flotation devices.

As technology has been moving quite quickly to make rescue systems of all kinds become better and better, it is best to research what is available on the market when fitting out your boat with pfd's.

How to Protect Your Body's Heat Loss Zones :
You may have heard of the Heat Escape Lessening Position, or H.E.L.P. This overboard position keeps you in a relaxed position and should slow the onset of hypothermia to a large degree. But, it does require that you wear a life jacket.

The illustration of the person in the water shows the proper posture with the arms relaxed against the sides and crossed over the chest. The legs are crossed and drawn up toward the body in a fetal-like position. This posture will help slow heat loss from the six body zones. Read the descriptions below to learn ways you can protect each heat-loss zone:

• Head:
Stuff a microfiber knit watch cap in your pocket or in the pfd designated to go over the side. This provides insulation and slows heat loss from the head.

• Back of Neck:
Type I life jackets have a large collar, so this will provide ample protection for the neck (see Type I pfd photo).

• Chest:
Again, the bulk of the Type I gives superior protection to the huge heat loss area of the chest. Make sure to adjust the chest straps so that they are snug to provide superior insulation.

• Groin:
Once you don the Type I pfd, try to keep the legs bent and together to encourage protection to the groin area. Notice in the H.E.L.P. position, the legs are crossed and drawn up toward the body in a fetal-like position.

• Armpits:
Note how the arms are down by the side and crossed over the chest once you assume the fetal-like position. This will help slow heat loss from beneath the armpits.

• Back of Knees:
When you draw up the legs toward the body, this bends the knees to close the back of the knee area. This helps stem the flow of heat from this area.

Share these sailing survival tips with your sailing partner or crew so that they know what to do if they fall overboard. This will provide them with the knowledge and confidence they need to prepare for the unexpected--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!

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