Safe Skipper Blog

Anchoring – getting it right is not always straightforward

Posted by on 1:39 pm in Boat Handling, Practical, Preparation | 1 comment

IMG_2321

If you can set an anchor correctly with confidence and know your boat will be safe in a secure anchorage, then you can rest in comfort and will not need to rely on moorings and marinas when cruising.

Anchoring is one of the most important boat handling skills. If you do not know how to anchor correctly then you risk endangering your boat and also others who might be anchored nearby.  And if your anchor is unsuitable for the type of seabed beneath your keel then there is a high chance of the anchor dragging.  For some boat owners, the fear of the anchor dragging means they stay awake all night, as a result getting little or no sleep and most likely stressing out their crew into the bargain.

Getting anchoring right is not always straightforward.  It can be confusing with the many types of anchor available and there will always be conflicting opinions on which anchors would be best suited for your boat and your chosen cruising ground.  Anchors and chain weigh considerable amounts, so loading up with excessive amounts of chain and anchors can affect a vessel’s performance and only really be necessary if planning a long distance voyage along a variety of potentially exposed stretches of coastline.

Types of anchor 

Anchors all

Choosing the type and size of anchors and cable to carry aboard will depend on the type and size of your vessel and the sea area it is being used in.  Most importantly, choose anchors that are big enough for your vessel and those which are recommended by the manufacturers.  Cruising yachts normally carry at least two types of anchor, plus suitable lengths of chain and rope cables.  Types of anchor include:

  • Bruce – good power to weight, easy to handle, holds well in mud, sand and rock
  • CQR or plough – good power to weight, stows well on bow roller, though awkward on deck. Holds well in mud and sand.  Very popular and reliable
  • Delta – good power to weight, also plough shaped. Stows well on bow roller
  • Danforth – stows flat, good kedge anchor, hard to break out of mud. Excellent back up anchor. Prone to pull out if the wind or current reverses
  • Fisherman’s – the traditional anchor. Good for rocky and heavily weeded seabeds, but heavy and awkward and not so good in sand and mud.

Chain and warp

Anchor cables can be either chain or rope, or both.  For an anchor to work effectively, the vessel’s pull on its cable must be parallel with the sea bed, otherwise the anchor will break out from the sea bed and drag.  The weight of chain prevents this from happening, providing there is sufficient length of chain lying on the sea bed.

A further factor that helps is the effect of the catenary curve of the cable between the boat and the anchor. This acts as a shock absorber between the boat and the anchor, so if the boat is hit by a sudden gust of wind the cable will straighten and tighten before it pulls hard on the anchor.

Hauling in an anchor and chain can be very heavy work if your vessel lacks an anchor winch, but chain is much stronger and will not chafe on the sea bed, unlike rope.  A workable solution is to have the anchor cable consist of part chain, which lies on the sea bed and part rope, to make it more manageable.  An all rope cable is much lighter and easier to manage, but less secure and prone to chafe.  All rope cables are normally used with kedge anchors.

anchor 2 a:w

How much cable should you use?  The amount, or scope, depends on the type of cable, the depth of water beneath the keel, plus the weather conditions and the height of tide.  If anchoring in calm conditions with little or no tide, then the absolute minimum scope for chain is considered to be 3:1 and 5:1 for rope. In light to moderate conditions a ratio of 5:1 for chain and 8:1 for rope is generally accepted and in worsening conditions a ratio of 8:1 for chain and 10:1 for rope.  In tidal areas, the rise and fall of the tide needs to be allowed for and if necessary adjustments will need to be made if at anchor for several hours or over night.

Trip line

Most anchors have a small hole for attaching a trip line, for use if there is risk of the anchor becoming fouled. The line is either brought back onboard and cleated or connected to a small buoy which floats above the anchor.

Choosing an anchorage

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a place to anchor.  Begin by studying the chart and look for recommended anchorages near your destination, which are marked on the chart with anchor symbols.  Look for a location that will be sheltered from wind and waves in as many wind directions as possible and away from strong tidal streams.  Also check the chart to see whether the ground will be suitable for anchoring and make sure you check the charted depths.

You will also need to bear in mind the wind direction and forecast for your planned stay and the state of the tide and tidal streams.  Anchoring on a lee shore should definitely be avoided, even if the chart has an anchor symbol on it.

Anchoring Tips

Choosing an anchorage:

  • Study Charts and almanacs to find a suitable anchorage.
  • Consider the seabed, (also on charts). Sand or firm mud are ideal.
  • Check the charted depth.
  • Consider the conditions forecast for your planned stay, especially wind direction and strength – will the anchorage be sheltered?
  • Consider the state of the tides – check the rise and fall and calculate the best depth to anchor in. Doublecheck there will be sufficient depth at low water, and sufficient chain for high water.
  • Check the anchorage is well away from strong tidal streams.

Preparing the anchor:

  • Is there sufficient cable on board for the depth?  In light to moderate conditions use a ratio of 5:1 length of chain to depth, or 8:1 length of rope to depth.
  • Approach the anchorage, check other boats. Are they anchored or moored? Where are their anchors? Are they a similar size to yours?
  • Choose the spot to lay anchor, check depth is good, approach the spot slowly into the wind or tide (check how other boats are lying).
  • If you have crew ask someone to operate the anchor at the bow.

Laying anchor:

  • Stop the boat, lower the anchor under control to the seabed.
  • Reverse slowly away, laying out cable in a controlled manner.
  • When sufficient cable is let out, select neutral and check that the chain is tight and anchor is set and holding .
  • If unsure, use a little reverse thrust to check it is holding.
  • Take visual bearings of objects ashore to check the anchor is not dragging, remember the boat will swing on the anchor.
  • Set deep and shallow alarms on the depth sounder. Then relax…

Weighing anchor:

  • To raise anchor, motor slowly towards it until the chain is vertically above it. Ask a crew to indicate when, with hand signals.
  • Now bring in the chain, keeping it as near vertical as possible.
  • If the anchor does not break out, cleat the chain tight and motor gently astern until the anchor breaks out.

All of this advice and more is available in our easy-to-use, quick to access app for iPhone and Android. Go to SafeSkipper.com for more.

Getting a tow for your sail or power boat at sea or on inland waterways

Posted by on 9:44 am in Boat Handling, Emergencies, Practical | 0 comments

Getting a tow for your sail or power boat at sea or on inland waterways

Getting a tow for your sail or power boat

FREE tips from the Safe Skipper App for iPhone/iPad/Android:

Getting a tow for your sail or power boat

  • Plan how to secure a tow rope to your boat. The tow rope must be attached to strong deck fittings
  • As a rescue boat approaches, warn them of any debris or loose lines in the water
  • If you are being rescued by a lifeboat, follow their instructions – they are experienced in rescue techniques
  • If necessary back the tow rope with other ropes to lead to other cleats and strong points on deck
  • Avoid using knots or loops that cannot be released under load
  • Protect the rope from chafing using plastic tube, rags or fenders
  • When being towed in a small boat, you will need to keep the weight well aft to keep the bow up
  • If the boat is down by the bows you may need to be towed from astern
  • The towed boat should always steer to follow the towing boat unless the steering has been disabled
  • The use of a drogue to aid towing can be used

Always have an emergency grab bag to hand when at sea…

Posted by on 9:20 am in Boat Handling, Emergencies, Preparation | 0 comments

Always have an emergency grab bag to hand when at sea

Always have an emergency grab bag to hand when at sea

 

Grab bag:

In the event of having to abandon ship, it is recommended to have a designated waterproof bag to carry essential emergency items. 

These might include items already in use on the boat, as well as some already stored in the bag.

Emergency at sea – bag contents:

• Handheld GPS 
• Handheld VHF 
• PLB/EPIRB 
• Flares 
• Sea sickness pills 
• Torch and batteries 
• First aid kit 
• Thermal protective aids 
• Medication 
• Food and water 
• Ship’s documents 
• Personal documents 

(see Safe Skipper for more – the app for all boating enthusiasts)

Distress flares – which flare, how & when to use?

Posted by on 8:55 am in Emergencies, Preparation | 0 comments

Distress flares - which flare, how & when to use?

Distress flares

How to use distress flares at sea

Flares should be kept in a waterproof container in an easily accessible location such as a cockpit locker. There are several types of flare for different purposes:

Red handheld flares:

Use as a line of sight distress signal by day and night.
Hold with arms outstretched.
Point downwind.
Don’t look at flare.
Lasts approx 1 minute.

Orange smoke distress flares:

Use as a line of sight distress signal for daytime use only.
Handheld and Floating canister versions, which last approx 3 minutes.

Red parachute or rocket flares:

Use for long range distress signalling.
Up to 10 miles in daylight, 40 miles at night.
Height 300m if fired vertically.
Fire at 45º downwind in low cloud or strong winds.
Lasts less than 1 minute.

Illuminating flare
White Handheld:

Only available in some countries.
Use to signal your position at night if there is a risk of collision.
Hold with arms outstretched.
Point downwind.
Don’t look at flare.
Lasts approx 1 minute.

Tips

• Handheld flares get very hot. Keep a pair of gloves with the container to prevent burns.

• Check your expiry dates and replace when necessary. Take advice on disposal of expired flares locally.

• All crew should know the location of the flares on board and know how to operate them.

(info. from Safe Skipper app for iPhone, iPad & Android)

Distress flares - which flare, how & when to use?

Rocket flares

Boat Engine Failure – what to check

Posted by on 11:48 am in Emergencies, Practical, Preparation | 1 comment

Engine Safety Checks

Engine failure

If your engine fails or is overheating there are a number of things to check immediately:

• Air filter blocked – check, clean or replace
• Cooling water low – fill when engine is cold. Check for leaking hoses
• Exhaust pipe blocked
• Fuel filter – a blockage reduces power and can stop the engine stop. Check, clean or change the filter
• Lack of lubrication – check engine and gearbox oil levels
• Oil filter blocked – replace
• Raw water inlet filter – a blockage causes overheating and can lead to engine failure. Close seacock, check and clear filter. Re-open seacock. Check object (eg. plastic bag) is not obstructing seacock
• Water pump impeller failure – cooling system fails and engine overheats. Check the rubber impeller is slightly flexible, not hard, and replace if necessary
• Worn drive belts – replace if they are frayed or shiny

Many engine failures at sea are caused by lack of maintenance, resulting in filter blockages, engine pump failures, overheating and then breakdown.

It is worth remembering that one of the most common reasons for marine rescue service call outs is for boats running out of fuel.

Tips to avoid engine failure:

  1. Keep the engine regularly maintained
  2. Always do engine checks before setting out
  3. Check fuel and oil levels regularly (don’t rely 100% on gauges!)
  4. Check drive belts for wear and tightness
  5. Look out for oil and coolant leaks
  6. Check fuel filter for water or dirt. Drain off any contaminants until the fuel in the clear glass bowl by the filter is clear
  7. Learn how to bleed the fuel system if air gets into it

All of this advice and more is available in our easy-to-use, quick to access app for iPhone and Android. Go to SafeSkipper.com for more.

Man Overboard Drill

Posted by on 11:31 am in Boat Handling, Emergencies, Preparation | 0 comments

How to respond to crew overboard under sail

1_41_MOB_under_sail

• Keep the MOB in sight

• Tack into the heave-to position, do not adjust the headsail sheets

• If under spinnaker, alter course to windward and haul sail down immediately

• Throw buoyancy to the MOB

• Mark MOB with dan buoy

• If within earshot of MOB reassure them you are manoeuvring into recovery position• Steer onto a beam/broad reach and sail away• Sail for about 5 or 6 boat lengths• Tack, aiming the leeward side of the yacht at the MOB

• Let out the headsail and mainsail sheets until the main flaps

• Keep the angle of approach as a close reach, so the sails can be powered and de-powered under full control

• Use one sail only in breezy conditions

• Approach the MOB slowly. Don’t be tempted to approach too quickly

• Pick up the MOB to leeward, aft of the mast

• In light conditions, approach MOB to windward and drift down towards casualty so they can be recovered on leeward side

(taken from the Safe Skipper app for iPhone, iPad & Android)

Man Overboard Drill

Posted by on 10:43 am in Boat Handling, Emergencies, Preparation | 0 comments

Man Overboard Drill – Getting the MOB aboard

Man Overboard Drill

Man Overboard Drill – Getting the MOB aboard

Getting an MOB aboard a boat can be very challenging. The MOB is likely to be exhausted, shocked, cold or injured and will have little strength to help themselves aboard.

• Once alongside, tether MOB to the boat using a line looped around their arms with a bowline

• Ensure boat is stopped and engine in neutral• An uninjured, conscious MOB may be able to be helped aboard by another crew member in calm conditions via a stern ladder or bathing platform

• Consider launching the boat’s tender as a first step to full recovery

• Deploy a sling and lifting tackle prepared for the purpose. Attach the tackle to the boom or main halyard and lift casualty aboard by pulling on the pulley or via a winch block hoisting the halyard

• Prepare thermal protective aids and first aid

Man Overboard Drill

Tips 

• It may help to remove the guardrail to bring the MOB aboard

• There are many types of kit available designed for retrieval and recovery of an MOB including throwing strops, inflatable horseshoes, rescue slings and parbuckles

• A 5:1 pulley and rope slung over the boom will improve the ability to recover a MOB if specialist kit is not aboard

• Practise recovery and using the tackle before it is needed for real

(Info taken from the Safe Skipper App for iPhone, iPad & Android)

Boating emergency – how to broadcast a MAYDAY emergency call

Posted by on 5:24 pm in Communications, Emergencies | 0 comments

Boating emergency - how to broadcast a MAYDAY emergency call

How to broadcast a MAYDAY emergency call

 

How to broadcast a MAYDAY emergency call if a vessel or person is in grave and imminent danger and immediate assistance is required:

• Check that your VHF radio is on and high power setting is selected 
Select Channel 16 (or 2182kHz for MF) 

• Press the transmit button and say slowly and clearly: 
“MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY”

“THIS IS… ” 
(say the name of your vessel 3 times. Say your MMSI number and call sign) 

“MAYDAY, THIS IS…” 
(say name of vessel) 

“MY POSITION IS…” 
(latitude and longitude, true bearing and distance from a known point, or general direction) 

“I AM…” 
(say nature of distress eg SINKING, ON FIRE) 

“I REQUIRE IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE”

“I HAVE…” 
(say number of persons on board PLUS any other useful information – such as sinking, flares fired, abandoning to liferaft) 

“OVER”

• Now release transmit button and listen for reply 

• Keep listening to Channel 16 for instructions 

• If you hear nothing then repeat the distress call 

Vessels with GMDSS equipment should make aMAYDAY call by voice on Ch 16 or MF 2182 kHz after sending a DSC Distress alert on VHF Ch 70 or MF 2187.5 kHz 

DSC Radio Emergency Procedure

• In an emergency, press the DSC radio’s red button for 15 seconds and then transmit a voice message on Channel 16. 

• Prepare for sending/receiving subsequent distress traffic on the distress traffic frequency (2182 kHz on MF, Ch16 on VHF) 

• NOTE: The nature of distress can be selected from the DSC radio receiver’s menu.

Information from our Safe Skipper App

“A well written and detailed app for yachts & inland craft also quite useful for ocean going vessels – well done.”

First Aid Afloat – how to deal with a fracture at sea

Posted by on 11:12 am in Emergencies, Preparation | 0 comments

First Aid Afloat how to treat a fracture

First Aid Afloat – how to deal with a fracture at sea

First Aid Afloat

A closed fracture does not break through the skin. An open fracture is when the bone punctures it.

A fracture of a bone is certainly a possibility at sea, with boats heeling over and crew members moving around the boat.

One way of reducing the risk of fractures is to ensure your crew move around the boat with bent knees, weight low and the golden rule of one hand for the job and one hand for the boat.

There are two types of fractures that we may come across.

Open and closed fracture: open fracture is where the broken bone has punctured through the skin, closed fracture is where the broken bone is still under the skin.

 

The signs and symptoms of fractures are:

• Bruising

• Pain

• Swelling

• Unnatural position

• Open wound

• Non weight bearing on the limb

Be aware that these signs and symptoms are very similar to sprains and strains. If you are unsure treat as a fracture

 

How to deal with the fracture when at sea:

• Check for dangers

• Check for level of response and for normal breathing

• Ask the crew member to support the injury with their other hand or other available item (cushion or sleeping bag)

• Treat any severe bleeding

• Possibly a Pan Pan or seek medical advice from the coast guard on VHF channel 16

 

If assistance will be some time you may need to consider splinting the limb, but only if you really need to.

• Splint injury in the position you found the crew member. Do not try to straighten and minimize movement while splinting.

• For closed fractures apply a cold compress to area to reduce swelling.

• Use the secondary survey to check for other injuries, the pain of the fracture may mask other serious injuries.

Fractures can be very painful particularly on a moving boat in a rolling sea. Make your crew member as comfortable as possible and make for your port of refuge. The Coastguard may well send a lifeboat with pain relief to assist you.

(check out the new First Aid Afloat app by Paul Hopkins)

First Aid at Sea – strains and sprains

Posted by on 10:59 am in Emergencies, Preparation | 1 comment

First Aid at Sea how to deal with strains and sprains

First Aid at Sea – strains and sprains

Strains and sprains respond well to rest and cooling. Wrap ice in a tea towel before applying.

First Aid at Sea

Strains and sprains are relatively common onboard boats.

This may be due to the fact that the boat is pitching and rolling, also there are often trip hazards.

Just to be clear a strain is muscle damage and sprain is damage to a joint such as the wrist or ankle.

The signs and symptoms of a strain or sprain are:

• A sudden movement to the part of the body
• Pain
• Swelling
• Bruising around the joint or muscle
• Difficulty moving the limb

Beware that these signs and symptoms are very similar to a fracture. If you are unsure whether a crew member has a sprain, strain or fracture it may be better to treat the injury as a fracture.

You can use the acronym of RICE to remember how to treat a sprain or strain.

R
Rest

I
Ice

C
Comfortable support such as an elasticized bandage

E
Elevate

First Aid at Sea

Elevate the injury and rest it.

 

Most sprains and strains will respond to rest and cooling the injury. So there will probably be no need for a Mayday or PanPan, although your crew member may appreciate making for the port of refuge so they can rest up on land.

Don’t put ice directly on the injury, put the ice in a tea towel first. It is recommended that the ice stays on the injury for no longer than 20 minutes.

If you don’t have access to ice on your boat a towel soaked in cold water and wrung out can work well also.

(from the First Aid Afloat app by Paul Hopkins)