Top Ten Tips for Safer Sailing

These are things we learned, often the hard way, on three Atlantic crossings and many more offshore passages. What things have you learned that can help others sail long distances safely?

1. The No.1 rule of sailing: STAY ON THE BOAT! Having a healthy dose of fear of falling overboard can save your life. Remember: 'One hand for the boat, One for yourself.'

2. Always clip in with a tether before leaving the companionway when sailing offshore. Sailors have been washed overboard when coming up to assist in an emergency.

3. Descend a companionway ladder facing the ladder. It allows you to grip both handholds as you descend. And if you slip, you are less likely to sustain a back or neck injury.

4. Use binoculars to inspect rigging every time you survey the horizon for vessels. Make log entries at least once per hour and maintain a good watch schedule.

5. Make accentuated and early maneuvers to avoid collision – alter course by 90 degrees or more so your actions are obvious to anyone observing, but assume they do not see you.

6. If you think about reducing sail, then it’s time to do so. Close hatches and ports, remove cowl vents, and don safety gear before heavy weather approaches.

7. Know your boat’s maneuverability in tight quarters. If your engine fails, you must be able to hoist sail quickly and sail away to safety.

8. When anchored, always have an exit strategy. Note exits from the anchorage, other boats, and alternate spots to re-anchor if necessary.

9. Be prepared for emergency response. Take on a precautionary ‘what if’ mentality. What if we lose steering? What if a shroud breaks? What if the engine cuts out? Don’t panic!

10. Practice heaving to, MOB and other heavy weather tactics in varying conditions before you need to deploy them.


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