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Lost at Sea

Recreational boating is an engaging and tranquil sport. However, it is haunted by the possibility that the unexpected can happen at any moment, to any boater, on any boat. In a previous issue we addressed what to do if a person onboard goes overboard. But, serious boaters should also know what to do if the boat sinks in an area that is not near shore and is not populated by other boats. Skippers need to be ready to act when everyone onboard is suddenly in immediate peril.

Overcoming the Obstacles … It is highly likely that the number one obstacle everyone subject to a sudden perilous event will need to overcome is fear. Multiple studies show that surviving in such a situation depends the survivors’ ability to remain calm and mentally strong, to be thoroughly familiar with the location and operation of the ship’s safety and survival equipment, and be properly dressed for the current weather. In addition, while most boaters have equipped their vessel with all of the basic safety equipment, novice boaters might not realize that having these items only meets minimal requirements.

Survival Gear … Adding a measured amount of survival gear on-board takes your boat’s preparedness to a new level of safety. If you engage in long distance offshore cruising, or deep sea fishing, it a good investment to have at least one survival vest onboard and readily accessible. Survival Vests ... These are pocketed mesh vests that fit over all types of PFDs with the exception of a Type V inflatable. The pockets are designed to hold specific types of survival gear. Signaling Mirror … These are pocket sized mirrors with a lanyard that is attached to a pocket on the vest. They are used to attract attention of another vessel, or a person on shore. To use a signaling mirror put your free hand in front of the boat, or person whose attention you want. Position the mirror so that it shines the sun’s reflection on the back of you hand. One achieved, lower your hand and the sun will shine on your target. Strobe Light … Mostly intended for use at night, strobe lights can quickly attract the attention of other boats and beachgoers. Signal Whistle … A signal whistle is especially loud. It is required equipment for people using paddle crafts and PWCs. Survival Knife … This basic tool allows an endangered boater to escape after becoming entangled with lines in the water following an accident. Personal Locator Beacons … When activated, PLBs function much like an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) with one major difference. In an accident at sea, the PLB remains attached to your survival vest, the EPIRB goes down with the ship, or floats free and drifts away. Assuming that you are wearing a PFD and a life vest that includes a registered PLB, rescuers will receive a signal that includes the owner’s name and the device’s location. Lanyards … Most survival vests are equipped with lanyards. In cases where multiple people have ended up in the water awaiting rescue lanyards are used to keep people in the water together so they can support one another, and be more easily spotted by a rescue craft. Illuminated, and Smoke Signals … Illuminated, and smoke signals can be included on a survival vest. Smoke signals are best during daylight hours, while illuminated signals are best after dusk.

Tenders, Lifeboats, Inflatables, Dinghies, and Life RaftsTenders … A ship’s tender is a boat that is used to ferry passengers on mega yachts to and from shore. They can be quite large and housed within the mother ship. Cruise ships also use tenders. These tenders double as lifeboats. Smaller yachts have tenders too. Mostly these are motorized open skiffs or ridged hull inflatables that can be winched on and off a cradle located on deck. Lifeboats, Inflatables and Dinghies … Cabin cruisers typically use lifeboats or small inflatables. A lifeboat, is smaller than a skiff. They can also be referred to as Dinghies. These can be powered by a small outboard motor, or oars. Life Rafts … Life rafts are life-saving inflatable vessels that are much easier to launch as compared to lifeboats during emergency situations. Some life rafts are designed as an auto-inflatable system. When properly mounted these rafts will automatically float free from its storage canister and inflate. The raft is attached to the boat by a special line called a Painter that will remain attached to the boat. However, the raft will not go down with the ship because the painter line is designed to break free if the raft is being pulled underwater. All rafts will come with basic survival items such as a knife, heaving line, sea anchor, light(s), pump, and repair items. High-End Rafts … These rafts are designed for serious off-shore boaters and commercial boats. They feature separately inflated canopies that provide protection from the elements. Once inside the raft you’ll want to have an inflated floor. This is an important barrier between you and the sea that protects against hypothermia. High end rafts will come standard with some form of ballast that provides stability in rough seas. You want a raft with two to four points to board and rigid steps to grab, stand or kneel on (rather than a flexible webbed ladder). This is important on offshore rafts with higher freeboards. Required Equipment … Each survival raft should be equipped with an approved beacon light, a pyrotechnic signaling device, a survival kit, a radar reflector, repair kit, bailing bucket, signal mirror, whistle, knife, pump, oars, 75 ft of line, water and survival rations.

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