Safety on Boats 

Safety on boats, how do you improve the safety on board? Its hard when you are stuck with a design from a manufacturer.  Unless the manufacturer is really building for extended offshore cruising then there will be deficiencies.  My first old Herreshoff ketch I had really good handrails along the coach house roof. Some people install what are called granny bars around the mast base to lean back into. High lifelines is also an option with far more engineering bases, besides preventing your departure overboard they also allow you to hang on and prevent slips and fails. Boats with deep bulwarks are increasingly rare but offer somewhere to jam your foot against when heeled, and some manufacturers have solid guardrails, rather than wire. As you will have read the whole mainsheet traveller location has inherent risks.

Safety on boats – Working on Deck 

When working on deck and in particular when heading forward, when in heavier weather this has got be planned carefully.  Total focus and concentration is required. Before you head out of the cockpit make sure you understand the boat motions and wave periods, is every seventh larger, are you experiencing increased wind gusts? I nearly went overboard when younger on a commercial vessel during a hurricane in the North Atlantic, when looking back I was too inexperienced to understand all the factors and when I went forard I got washed down the length of the ship, banged up by life saving high bulwarks. Better to be slow, crab forward timing each step until you get there, always keeping a weather eye on sea conditions.

Safety on boats – Taking Precautions

Other mitigating actions include improving what you were, along with absolute adherence to harness and tether wearing.  You can look at furlers which are almost standard these days on cruising yachts, although I do recall my first yacht having to hank on headsails and trysails.  Having everything operated from the cockpit voids the need to go forward. Also more controversial are the use of head protection by wearing sailing helmets in severe conditions.  Some have looked at raising the boom several inches to increase head clearances and also whether mainsheet and traveller location can be modified. It is a bit more intangible but making sure there is good communications between everyone is critical. So many injuries are caused by simple miscommunications. 

Safety on boats – Identifying Concussion

What is concussion? A severe whack on the head can lead to so many situations. One is subdural hematoma, where blood forms under the skull next to the brain and builds up pressure. Get the symptoms below and get to shore and get to a medical center.  A tale about this, my good mate Mark had a slight fall, banged his head lightly on a sidewalk, and though nothing of it. Two days later he started getting all sorts of symptoms and started vomiting and so on. Into hospital and he had a severe hematoma, nearly cost him his life, and after several days in and ICU came out minus taste and smell, he never was 100% again and is happy to be alive.

Safety on boats – Identifying Symptoms

Check the eyes.  Is one pupil is larger than the other pupil?

A headache that is persistent, acute, constant or a feeling of pressure in the head.

Nausea and continual vomiting, sometimes convulsions and seizures occur.

A deep drowsiness and trouble in waking up or increasing to normal alertness, hazy or foggy feelings.

Slurred speech, a feeling of weakness or numbness and lack of coordination issues, disorientation or mental confusion.

Confusion, agitated state, restlessness, inability to concentrate, abnormal behaviour, irritability or sensitivity to light.

Memory loss and ringing in the ears, double or blurred vision.

Loss of consciousness, fainting and passing out. Poor balance.

Concussion can be fatal, so understand it. Safety on boats is critical, as is general boat safety.