Out of Sight, Out of Mind, and in Danger!
Boaters are often out of sight, depending on what size of boat you are sailing and where you are. Larger and professionally operated boats take going to sea very seriously and do not put themselves, their passengers and crews, at risk. Should problems happen may be both out of sight and out of mind – in other words does anyone know where you are?
Dingy sailors and other folks with smaller boats tend to forget that whilst they can see the coastline (or not) people on the coastline may not be able to see them. At sea level your horizon is closer than it would be when standing on a cliff looking out to sea. Knowing where you are relative to a fixed landscape feature can be more difficult allowing you to drift away from safety, or further out to sea than you wish, inexperienced boaters must be aware of this and make sure they follow the rules. Once night falls the problems will increase making signalling for help even more urgent.
The first rule of boating: Get trained by professionals before setting sail.
Always inform someone reliable that you are sailing (inland waters) or at sea. Tell them where you plan to go to, when you will set sail, and when you expect to be back in port. Stick to your sailing plan so that rescuers, if needed, can trace you and come to your assistance. Experienced sailors will always do this, it is a good precaution.
If you own the boat fit dayglo or brightly coloured sails they are a great idea allowing you to be seen against the surface of the sea.
Always wear fluorescent coloured sailing gear and a life preserver that will make you easier to spot and they will keep you warmer should you fall overboard, and the life preserver will help to keep you afloat even if you are unconscious.
Carry with you some means of knowing which way you are going i.e. a compass – a pocket compass will do so long as you know how to use it -to keep you sailing in the correct direction, and some means of raising the alarm. Be aware, most smaller boats do not have radio.
From land observers will only see a boat on a wide ocean-scape (if at all) and they will not know that you are in trouble unless you have some way of telling them. Your mobile phone/cell phone may assist you provided you are in range of the transmitters – just remember to have it fully charged and with you when you sail. Other means of raising the alarm may include flags to wave, a whistle to blow, anything with which to attract the attention of other people on land or sailing or cruising close to you.
Carry a powerful light/torch with which to signal for help, in low light or at night a light will be visible over very large distances.
Flares are also very good, most commercial boats will carry these in case all else fails.
Accidents do happen, illness can occur out of the blue, and boats can be dismasted, rip a sail, become holed or flooded to the gunwales etc.
Always, hope for the best but plan for the worst.
Sailing is fabulous fun, just be aware of the risks and make sure you know how to cope if you need to.
Post Script always carry a fully stocked and up to date First Aid kit, just in case.
Sail safe and enjoy.
Author: Roger Langley