Anchoring – getting it right is not always straightforward

By on Jun 10, 2015 in Boat Handling, Practical, Preparation | 1 comment

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  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...

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Safety Briefings – leave nothing to chance

By on Jun 10, 2015 in Practical, Preparation | 0 comments

Before giving your crew a safety briefing, it is worth considering the specific circumstances of the planned trip, the experience of the crew and their familiarity with the vessel and each other. If the crew already know the drill inside out and you know each other well, then the safety briefing can be limited to a discussion of the passage plan for the day, when and how you plan to leave the berth and the watch-keeping rotas. If a crew does not fully understand the safety drill and does not know where the safety equipment can be found on board, then you will need to brief them on this before departure. It is a good idea to have a safety briefing checklist at hand so you can go through everything in detail.  The items to cover include location of safety equipment, use of gas stoves, what to do in the event of fire, actions for man overboard and abandoning ship. Ensure that at least one of the crew in addition to yourself can operate the radio and knows the routine for sending distress signals.  Also, remember to ask the crew if any of them are on medication and give out seasickness tablets if necessary. If you have very young or novice crew aboard, then have a quiet run through with them and leave nothing to chance. The secret here is not to alarm inexperienced crew in any way and to reassure them that the boat is not going to heel over and sink as soon as it leaves the harbour.  Keep a positive attitude and don’t dwell on the likelihood of gas explosions, but on the great time everyone is going to have out on the water. Safety Briefing Checklist Down below: Lifejackets and harnesses – fitting, when to wear, clipping on Gas – risks, precautions, gas bottles and taps Fire prevention – extinguishers, fire blanket, where and how to use Moving around – companionway, handholds,  galley safety Heads – how to use Seacocks – location of Hatches – opening and closing, risks VHF – how to use Engine – basic operation Batteries – location On Deck: Hazards – boom, tripping, slipping, hatches Clipping on – jackstays Heaving line...

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

By on Jun 7, 2015 in Boat Handling, Emergencies, Practical | 0 comments

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...

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Boat Engine Failure – what to check

By on Apr 18, 2015 in Emergencies, Practical, Preparation | 1 comment

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: Keep the engine regularly maintained Always do engine checks before setting out Check fuel and oil levels regularly (don’t rely 100% on gauges!) Check drive belts for wear and tightness Look out for oil and coolant leaks Check fuel filter for water or dirt. Drain off any contaminants until the fuel in the clear glass bowl by the filter is clear 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 for...

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Boat Engine Safety Checks

By on Feb 25, 2015 in Practical, Preparation | 0 comments

  Boat Engine Safety Checks Every skipper needs to make regular essential boat engine safety checks. Below you will find tips, all featured in our Safe Skipper app, guiding you through Pre-start Checks, Running Engine Checks, advice about troubleshooting and helpful tips. Boat engines on the whole are pretty hardy, but they all need regular inspection and servicing, as recommended in operator maintenance manuals. Engine failure is the most common cause of pleasure vessel rescues at sea, for both power and sailing cruisers. Rescue service records confirm that many breakdowns could have been avoided if engines had been checked prior to departure. Regular examination helps to identify problems at an early stage, so reducing the risk of engine failure. There is a great diversity of marine craft and engines, so it is essential to have aboard an operator’s maintenance manual for your vessel’s engine, together with the engine’s service history. The performance of engines depends on the use of correct fuels, lubricants and inhibitors and it is important to follow the recommended procedures for winterising and laying up procedures as recommended in your manual. The golden rule that applies to all engines is to carry out regular boat engine safety checks. Pre-start Marine Engine Checks: •  Fuel levels for main and reserve tanks •  Batteries are fully charged •  For signs of oil, fuel or water leaks •  Engine oil level •  Gearbox oil level •  Prop shaft stern gland is greased (if fitted) •  Engine belts for wear and tension •  Engine hoses for signs of perishing or leaks •  Impeller for signs of wear •  Fuel filter for dirt or water •  Seawater cooling filter is free of debris •  Seawater cooling seacock is open •  Coolant levels of freshwater systems (if fitted) •  Loose wiring Running Engine Checks: •  Seawater cooling system is flowing correctly •  Engine hoses, cooling and fuel systems for leaks •  Engine has no unusual vibrations Troubleshooting: Engine problems at sea can often be remedied by working through a problem’s possible cause and solution. A good operator’s manual should advise what to do if an engine does not start, the starter motor does not turn, the engine overheats, vibrates or makes unusual...

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Hourly Checks when sailing or motoring

By on Jan 11, 2015 in Boat Handling, Practical | 0 comments

  Hourly Checks Get into the habit of carrying out these checks and both yourself, your crew and your boat will be safer: Fill in log book Filling in the log book can seem an unnecessary chore but having a record of courses and positions is valuable if you have an electrical or electronic failure. You can also see weather trends.   Engine compartment A regular check in the engine compartment can detect any leaks or problems before they get serious.   Weather forecast Update the weather forecast at regular intervals if you can.   Course and position Check both the course you are steering and the course being followed on the plotter and adjust if necessary.   Double checking Try to check your position by visual means or with the echo sounder if you are within sight of land to confirm that the GPS is working satisfactorily.   Fuel If you are running under power check the fuel being used and the fuel remaining to ensure that you are not consuming more than expected.   Crew OK? Check that the crew are all OK and in good shape. Look for any signs of seasickness.   From the new app for iPhone & Android: Dag Pike’s Boating Checklists About the author: Dag Pike began his career as a merchant captain, went on to test lifeboats, and took up fast boat navigation, winning a string of trophies for powerboat races around the world, including navigating Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Challenger on the record-breaking fastest Atlantic crossing by...

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