An explanation of the IALA maritime buoyage systems – IALA A and IALA B

By on Nov 24, 2015 in Navigation, Preparation | 0 comments

What are the differences between the two IALA buoyage systems, IALA Region A and IALA Region B, and where are they used?   As recently as the 1970s there were more than 30 buoyage systems in use around the world. This caused confusion and accidents and it was after two fatal incidents in the Dover Straits in 1971 that the IALA (International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities) was established.  There followed a worldwide effort to develop a safe, unified maritime buoyage system that could be followed by all vessels at sea. This resulted in the IALA Maritime Buoyage System and by 1980 there were just 2 systems in use, IALA A and IALA B. Although there is not as yet one unified system for the whole world, this was a major achievement nonetheless and the differences between IALA A and IALA B are only minor. The IALA chose the two systems in order to keep the number of changes to existing systems to a minimum and to avoid major conflict. IALA REGION A IALA A is used by countries in Africa, most of Asia, Australia, Europe and India. IALA REGION B IALA B is used by countries in North, Central and South America, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. The differences – lateral marks The difference between the two systems is the colour and light characteristics used for lateral marks, as follows: •  IALA REGION A port lateral marks and lights are coloured red.  IALA  A starboard lateral marks and lights are coloured green. •  IALA REGION B port lateral marks and lights are coloured green.  IALA B starboard lateral marks and lights are coloured red. Lateral marks indicate the port and starboard sides of navigable channels. These are used in accordance with the direction of buoyage for the region or specific location, as indicated on marine charts. Where a channel divides a modified or “preferred” channel mark may be used to indicate the preferred route to take.  In IALA Region A the lateral marks on the starboard side of the channel are coloured green and should be passed on the starboard side of the vessel. Those on the port side of the channel should be passed...

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Passage Planning Advice & Safety for skippers

By on Nov 16, 2015 in Navigation, Preparation | 1 comment

Passage planning helps you to: • Decide where to go • Calculate how long it will take to get there • Avoid bad weather • Take advantage of favourable tides • Be aware of possible hazards, eg shipping lanes, tidal overfalls • Decide a watch system • Decide if the crew is experienced enough for the trip • Be prepared to react in case of emergency   A well prepared passage plan can make the difference between a safe, trouble-free trip, or an experience that could prove unenjoyable and possibly hazardous. When planning a passage, small scale charts are used to create an overall strategy. This helps the skipper and crew consider such factors as the most efficient route, alternate routes and possible ports of refuge in case of emergency. Large scale charts are needed for destinations and hazardous areas of the route. If going outside your country’s territorial waters, make sure you have original documents on board including ship’s log, registration certificate, insurance, radio licence, International Certificate of Competence and courtesy flags for your destination. Tips • Carry large and small scale paper charts in addition to electronic navigation aids • Carry pilot books that provide harbour information and passage notes for your cruising area • Study the tidal heights and streams and make notes to cover the whole trip. • Check on customs regulations if applicable • Check you have all necessary documents Contingency Plan Before going to sea, make a contingency plan in case conditions deteriorate unexpectedly or there is a problem with your vessel or a crew member is injured. Ensure you could navigate safely to places of refuge without the need for electronic aids, in case of power failure. Make a note of the tidal predictions at the emergency destination, to be sure of accessibility. Information Ashore Make sure someone ashore knows of your plans and how to raise the alarm if they become concerned for your well being. (taken from the Safe Skipper app for iPhone, iPad &...

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VHF DSC radio – how best to communicate at sea

By on Nov 2, 2015 in Communications, Emergencies, Preparation | 0 comments

There are many ways to communicate with others at sea. What makes the VHF DSC radio the best form of short range communication and why is it recommended?   The controls of a basic VHF DSC radio There are many ways to communicate with others at sea, ranging from signal flags to satellite phones. While it is not a legal requirement in most countries, leisure vessels are strongly encouraged to use VHF DSC (Digital Selective Calling) radio as their primary means of communication, since this is used by the rescue authorities and commercial shipping.  VHF has a maximum range of up to about 30 nautical miles, but for ocean cruising SSB radio is the preferred option as it has a much better range than VHF. Is VHF DSC radio really necessary for inshore sailing? It is a mistake to believe that a mobile phone is all that is required for inshore sailing. Mobile phones are a useful back up means of communication but cannot be relied on, as even when close to the shore signal can easily be lost. VHF DSC radio features A VHF DSC radio allows users: to communicate with shore-based VHF users such as the Coastguard, harbour masters, lock-keepers and marinas to dial up other vessels by using a unique identity number to have one to one conversations with other vessels to send distress alerts at the touch of a button to automatically send your vessel’s identification number and position to others Operator’s licence Anyone who uses a VHF DSC radio must have an operator’s licence, the Short Range Certificate.  In an emergency, any crew member can use the radio, but it is advisable for those who sail regularly to do the one day course and get their own certificate, so that if for any reason the skipper is unable to use the radio, there are others aboard who know the correct radio procedure and can act quickly if the need arises. A VHF DSC radio that is linked to a vessel’s GPS shows its position on the display screen, as well as the current time Fixed radios vs handheld VHF DSC radios are available as fixed radios attached to a vessel or as handheld, personal...

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Essential yacht tender safety for skippers and crew

By on Oct 7, 2015 in Boat Handling, Practical, Preparation | 1 comment

Essential yacht tender safety – the dangers inherent in using a dinghy to get ashore from a moored or anchored yacht are all too easily underestimated. A recent experience caused me to have a serious think about essential yacht tender safety. Recently I faced the prospect of coming ashore from my mooring in the pitch dark, in wet, breezy conditions with a strong tide running, over a distance of about 300 metres. I was by myself and it prompted me to ask myself before setting off whether it would be unsafe to use the tender or should I spend the night on board? Consider your options Yes, the driest and safest option would have been to stay on board, but I had my wet weather gear and a lifejacket, I hadn’t been drinking and I was confident that my little Zodiac inflatable was up to the job. OK, if the outboard packed up then it would be a challenging row against the fast running tide.  However the tide was coming in so I wouldn’t be swept out to sea and, with wind against tide, there were going to be sharp little waves to contend with. I decided to go for it and quickly got completely soaked by the spray, as did the gear. Finding my way through the boats on their swinging moorings in the pitch darkness was a challenge.  I was greatly reassured to have my truly excellent Exposure Marine X2 torch. I would urge all those who use a tender to buy one – expensive but worth every penny. They are waterproof, lightweight and incredibly powerful. For details see here . There are inherent risks in most boating activities and this includes using a yacht tender to get ashore from a mooring or anchorage. After last week’s soaking, I have compiled some hints and tips about essential yacht tender safety – see below. Essential yacht tender safety : Plan ahead and make notes of the tide state and weather forecast for when you set out and expect to return from a trip. Wear lifejackets, even for short trips. Wear a killcord, even for short trips. Carry oars as back up in case the outboard fails. Carry a means of communication...

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Fire prevention on boats

By on Sep 24, 2015 in Emergencies, Practical, Preparation | 1 comment

  Fire prevention on boats – common causes of fire: • Smoking below decks • Galley cookers • Build-up of butane or propane gas in the bilges • Faulty wiring • Petrol/gasoline vapour in engine bay • Flammable paints and solvents Fire onboard a boat – fire prevention tips: • No Smoking below decks • Butane and propane gases are heavier than air and leaks will result in a build up of gas in the bilges. To clear gas, open hatches, head downwind to allow fresh air into cabin areas and pump the bilges • Keep gas valves turned off at the bottle and cooker when not in use • Fit gas and smoke detectors • Regularly check butane and propane gas fittings and tubing for leaks • Keep butane and propane gas bottles in cockpit lockers which drain overboard • Stow all flammable liquids in well secured, upright containers in lockers that vent outboard • Never leave naked cooker flames and frying pans unattended • Always vent engine bays before starting inboard engines • Have the wiring checked regularly All crew should know the location of fire extinguishers and fire blankets on board and know how to operate them. (info. from Safe Skipper app for iPhone, iPad &...

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Capsize – understanding the risks

By on Sep 23, 2015 in Boat Handling, Emergencies, Practical, Preparation | 2 comments

A skipper should know how their boat will cope with rough seas. By working within known limits and understanding the risks, then the chances of a capsize occurring are much reduced. Safety is all about improving the odds. When considering the odds of a boat capsizing, knowing the limitations of its design and stability are critical. In order to do this, it helps to understand the basic principles of how a boat remains upright. Basic principles A boat remains upright because of the way its weight and buoyancy interact. The basic principle of buoyancy is that the upward buoyant force on a body immersed in fluid is equal and opposite to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces. The weight of the fluid displaced is known as displacement and the displaced water has an up thrust, or buoyancy, which is equal to the weight of the boat. The displaced water has a central point, or centre of buoyancy, which varies according to the shape of a boat’s hull and keel. The centre of buoyancy is not to be mistaken for the centre of gravity. The weight of a boat is distributed along its length, pushing the entire vessel downwards.  All the weight acts downwards through a central point, or centre of gravity, which is similar to the fulcrum or central point of a seesaw.  All the structure and the distribution of weight aboard contribute to a boat’s centre of gravity. To keep a boat stable in the water and prevent it from toppling over requires the centre of gravity to be low, which is greatly helped by having a deep, heavy keel and an engine below the waterline. Angle of heel If a sailing boat heels over in a strong gust of wind or is forced over by a big wave, then it will right itself once the gust or wave has passed. When a boat is upright then the force of gravity is directly opposed to the force of buoyancy.  As the boat heels over the centre of buoyancy moves outwards and acts as a lever does, pushing upwards with an increasing force. This is fine up to a point, but eventually as the boat continues to...

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