Is your pipework double-clipped to your skin fittings and is a suitably sized softwood plug tied to each one?
While boat owners are mostly diligent in checking their safety equipment, it’s all too easy to lose track of the passage of time. It’s therefore important to record the last time each item of equipment was serviced or checked.
It’s also worth looking to the racing community to see the standards to which boats are required to be equipped. These regulations, published by World Sailing as the Offshore Special Regulations, also form the basis of the requirements for long distance cruising rallies such as the annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers.
The regulations state that lashings must be no longer than 50mm and must be replaced annually to avoid the risk of degradation in sunlight. This one is a clear failure on both counts.
Many of the fundamental requirements relate, for example, to the fact that (almost all) keelboats can sink, that it’s possible for a boat to be knocked down even when close to shore, and that heavy items can move around and damage the vessel or crew. Equally, the loss of a washboard in heavy weather could spell disaster, so the simple idea of attaching them to the boat with a lanyard makes sense.
Skin fittings also come in for scrutiny. In addition to pipework being double clipped to the through hull, a tapered softwood plug of the correct size should be tied to the fitting. This level of detail may sound like overkill, but time is crucial in an emergency situation and if the boat has rolled, the plug could end up anywhere if it’s not tied on. Equally, on a less dramatic level, if the boat is filling with water, a softwood plug that’s not tied in place could simply float away.
It’s incumbent on builders to ensure stanchions and stern pulpits are not too far apart, but there are examples where the distances exceed 2.2m.
Similarly bilge pump handles should be secured by a lanyard. Boats entering events of Category 3 and above need at least two bilge pumps, one that can be operated from below and a second that can be operated on deck, without opening a locker lid. Knowing where all the safety and emergency kit is stowed is important – so a stowage plan in an easily visible place is essential.
There are also specific requirements relating to what might outwardly appear to be simple items such as lifelines. Stanchions must not be more than 2.2m apart, the stainless steel wire must not be sleeved with plastic (so that it can be regularly removed to inspect the wire’s condition) and rope lashings must be replaced annually.
Do you have an effective means of cutting the rig away in the event of a dismasting? Bolt cutters will suffice on a smaller boat, but cannot be guaranteed to work with rigging sizes above 8mm.
The regulations also require all vessels to carry an emergency tiller, unless it’s a tiller steered boat that’s normally steered by an “unbreakable metal tiller.” Total rudder loss is also something that must be prepared for in advance: “…crews must be aware of alternative methods of steering the yacht in any sea condition in the event of rudder loss. At least one method must have been proven to work on board the yacht. An inspector may require that this method be demonstrated.”