We have all made New Year's resolutions that we have more often than not given up on. But the best resolution for cruisers is to remind ourselves not to be complacent and to refresh our diligence about safety consciousness aboard. So here's my list of resolutions for cruising in 2019.
- What if someone falls overboard?
- What if the mainsail halyard jams while hoisting?
- What if the anchor drags on a dark and stormy night?
- What if the engine quits in a busy thoroughfare or crowded marina?
- What if a windward shroud snaps while beating?
- What if the backstay parts while sailing downwind?
- What if the spinnaker jams while dousing?
- What if we hit an object in the water?
2. Make collision avoidance maneuvers early and alter course dramatically by 60 degrees or more. Always assume that the other vessel cannot see you. If in doubt, hail them on the VHF.
3. Never leave the companionway without wearing a harness and clipping in to attachment points or lifeline when coastal or offshore sailing. Veteran offshore sailors often rig chest-high lifelines and work their way forward only on the windward (higher) side of the boat.
4. Descend a companionway ladder so that you face the ladder. Grip with both hands and work your way down the ladder on the balls of your feet. If you slip, this position is less likely to result in a back or neck injury.
5. Protect rope from chafe. More anchored vessels are lost in storms due to parted anchor lines than dragging anchors. Use lots of chafing gear, make sure you secure it adequately and check it often.
6. Deploy a trip line. Tie a sinking line with a float on one end to the inner end of your anchor rode or chain. The marker will stop people from dropping their anchors on top of yours. In an emergency, you might be forced to cut the anchor line or chain (make sure you secure the bitter end of the chain with rope so you can cut it away if necessary). The float will serve as a marker so that you can retrieve your ground tackle later on.
7. Restrict helm duties in fog or rough weather to 30 minutes. Research has shown that fatigue sets in and attention span drops after this period even among those who have extensive experience at sea.
8. Make it standard practice to make log entries at least every hour. That will force the watch person to survey everything going on and notice changes as they occur.
9. Subscribe to the philosophy that the time to reduce sail is when you first think of it. Heeling does not increase speed. Practice heaving to under normal conditions so you can apply it readily when needed under deteriorating conditions or those 'what if?' scenarios.
10. Prepare your boat well before heavy weather arrives. Close hatches and ports. Remove cowl vents. Remove excess windage. Secure sails on furlers so they won't get loose. Apply extra lashings to dinghies or anything that must remain on deck.