Safety Systems


I've arbitrarily divided Sister's safety systems into three categories. The first includes the equipment intended to keep crew members on the boat. The second category includes the gear that keeps the crew member alive and afloat should she go overboard. The third category includes all the gear that is intended to go with the crew should they have to abandon ship.

Keeping them on board:

Life lines: Life lines are like a fence around the edge of the decks. They provide the crew with handholds as they negotiate the decks and they help crew members keep themselves from going in the drink. They seem fundamental but for years boats without them were common.

Harnesses, tethers and jack lines: This "system" provides a means by which each crew member can attach himself to the boat. Sister has several discrete attachment points on deck and in the cockpit and long strips of webbing material running the length of the port and starboard decks. These strips are called "jack lines". Each crew member will have a harness with a built in stainless steel "D ring" and a tether with safety hooks at each end. One clips one end of the tether to one's harness and the other end to a discrete attachment point or to the jack line. Clipping to the jack line allows one to move fore and aft along the deck. the tethers are about 6 feet long to allow as much freedom of movement as possible yet keep the person on board. Too short and you can't move. Too long and, if you go overboard, you get drug through the water by the boat. This is not good.

Ship's rules are that no one is on deck alone without being tethered to the boat.

Keeping them alive and afloat:

Personal flotation: Each crew member has her own auto inflating life vest. The vests are small and rather unobtrusive when being worn. If one falls into the water they inflate automatically so one floats even if one is unconscious. The vests are designed to keep the wearer floating on his back and to keep her head out of the water. Attached to each life vest is a personal strobe light and whistle. Actually most of the life vests include a built-in harness so one doesn't have to wear a separate harness.

Retrieval: We have a piece of gear called the Man Overboard Module. The MOM is an inflatable, throwable flotation device mounted in a case on the life lines on the stern. The idea is to have something readily accessible that can be thrown to the person in the water and used to retrieve her. The flotation device is sort of a harness and it is attached by a line to the boat. The person in the water puts the harness on then the crew can pull him back to and lift her up on to the deck

Abandon ship gear:

"Never get into your life raft until you have to step up to do so." Source unknown:

Life Raft: Sister carries a 6 person life raft. The raft is stowed in a sealed canister on the foredeck just forward of the cockpit. With the flip of a lever the life raft comes out of the canister and automatically inflates. Packed in the life raft are convenient items such as drinking water, flares, signal mirror and fishing gear. We keep additional emergency equipment in our abandon ship bag.

Abandon ship bag: This is sometimes called a ditch bag. It can take many forms but ours is a nylon bag with built-in flotation. In the bag we've put an EPIRB, a handheld VHF radio, handheld GPS, manually operated water maker, lots of flares and miscellaneous flashlights, knives, mirrors, whistles etc.

The EPIRB is a device about the size of a football. It's purpose is to send an emergency signal to an overhead satellite. The EPIRB floats and it's signal can be activated manually or simply by immersing the device in water.  The signal includes a number that I have registered with the US Coast Guard so the CG knows which boat the signal is coming from. From the satellite they also have a clue where the signal is coming from. The EPIRB transmits a second signal which the search and rescue team, as it comes near, can home in on.

Emergency medicine:

Although not really a "safety system", Sister carries a very comprehensive medical kit. It was designed by an MD for off shore cruisers and includes all manner of bandages, splints, skin staples etc. She will carry a selection of antibiotics, allergy treatments etc.  So far we haven't used any of them and I hope we can keep it that way.

Also in the category of emergency medicine is a device called an Electronic Defibrillator - an AED. The AED is a unit about the size of small shoe box. It is intended to deliver an electric shock to a person who's heart is fibrillating. The AED is particularly easy to use. One simply turns the device on and follows instructions as the machine speaks them to you. It tells you to attach leads to the victim. Graphics on the leads show you where and in what orientation to attach them. 

The machine then determines whether the victim is really a candidate for defibrillation. If so then it determines how much energy to use, charges itself and tells you to press the button to deliver the shock to the victim. The AED then reevaluates the situation to determine if further shocks would be beneficial or not.

The AED is intended to be used in conjunction with Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation.


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