In honor of the National Safe Boating Week, I’m going to talk a bit about a few of the safety systems on Tahina. I also suggest boaters should check out the excellent US Coast Guard Boating Safety site which has all kinds of information on boating safety. It is important that all boaters learn basic boating safety facts, and be cognizant of the rules and safety recommendations from the USCG. The USCG has limited resources – yet, thousands of boaters each year make mistakes requiring USCG response – in many cases, these mistakes could have been prevented by following safety guidelines. Especially annoying mistakes are inappropriate use of radios, non-emergency use of flares, unintentional EPIRB beacons, and false “mayday” calls.
So, what kind of safety systems does Tahina have on board? Here’s a brief overview:
- Life raft – we have an inflatable life raft on board (which includes a number of related items in the system)
- Life jackets – we have standard issue life jackets, and plan to have automatically inflating jackets (which are more comfortable to wear for long passages.
- Life Tags – we have elastic band radio beacon devices (about the size of a watch) that are tied into our navigation system. While on passage and on watch you simply wear one of these devices and if they separate from the boat (if you went overboard) they automatically initiate man overboard procedures including recording the GPS location, and setting off alarms.
- Jack lines – we have harnesses which can be attached to jacklines so you can safely walk on top of the boat. This insures you don’t go overboard unintentionally. A little known fact: one of the most common overboard scenarios is a male relieving himself at the back of the boat.
- Communications – an essential part of safety are communications systems. Being able to call for help, or to contact another boat to avoid collisions are essential.
- Radar – being aware of other boats and objects at sea is critical. Keeping a lookout is essential, but having an automated system with alarms can be a life saver. Also, radar can make you aware and sometimes avoid some forms of bad weather.
- Fire – we have several fire prevention systems on board: fire hydrants in several areas of the boat, fire blanket near the oven in the galley, and automated fire suppression in the engine compartments.
- Carbon Monoxide – we have CO detectors with loud alarms to help warn of possible danger.
- Lights – having functional navigational lights and spotlights are essential for night time safety. We have full spares on all essential lights on board on passages.
- Anchor – having an appropriate sized anchoring system can be critical to safety (waiting out a storm at anchor).
- EPIRB – We have a regular 406 MHz EPIRB that came with the boat. We plan to upgrade to a GPS enabled EPIRB before we leave. EPIRBs are the new internationally accepted emergency beacons and have saved many lives. They are detected by satellites circling the Earth. The beacons can be set off manually, or automatically when they float in water (boat sinking).
- First Aid – we have a large collection of first aid, medicines, and medical tools on board. Before we leave, we will get some prescriptions from our doctor for essential pharmaceutical supplies required for off-shore first aid emergencies.
- Training – probably one of the most critical items to safety is training. Knowing what to do for different emergencies is essential for the crew on board. My wife and I have practiced a number of emergency scenarios in the past, and will do more both before leaving and periodically during the trip.
That’s just a high-level overview of safety related systems and items on board. Boating safety is really important when you go around the world. What you have on board may be the only thing keeping you alive in an emergency. Also important is having a well-equipped boat, good sailing knowledge, and safe crew policies so you can avoid situations which might require an emergency (such as storms, running aground, collisions, fires, etc.).