Protecting Against Lightning Strikes

Lightning strike! Just the words can make us cruising sailors, who sail around the ocean with the highest thing in hundreds of square miles sticking up above our heads, nervous. In this chapter Matt, AAC Engineering Correspondent, will help you understand how lightning strikes happen and what you can do to reduce the associated risks.

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Certificate of Competency


Due to pressure building on all sides (Canada, Norway, etc.), I finally caved, took a Boating Safety Course, passed the exam, and am now the proud bearer of a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (Canada).

Can We Have Too Much Safety?

Scott and Amundsen

I have been thinking about safely a lot lately. I guess that stands to reason, given that I’m in the middle of a series of posts on person overboard prevention—not to speak of the fact that I had a very nasty accident a few months ago—and, up until a couple of days ago I was OK with that.

But then I started to get uncomfortable and started to wonder whether I’m getting fixated on safety and on safety gear particularly. I also worried that my fixation might be colouring the posts I have been writing lately. So, I decided to take a step back from the details. To go back to basics. Here is what I came up with:

Staying On Your Feet—The Right Footwear

Grippy soled, well-protected sandals

One thing we have a ban on aboard Pèlerin is going around the decks with no shoes. Stubbed toes can easily be badly damaged, as I found out one night in a pitch-dark harbour when another yacht announced that they were coming alongside by the simple expedient of slamming straight into the side of us. Leaping from my bunk and dashing on deck in a totally befuddled state I stuck my toes straight into the jaws of a self-tailing winch, let out a huge shriek that scared the living daylights out of the offending crew (no bad thing) and then retired hurt below with two broken toes. And there are few things that are as painful as broken toes…

Staying On Your Feet—Deck Coverings

Staying safe on deck needn’t be an eyesore.

Question: What’s one of the easiest ways to sustain a serious injury on a yacht?
A fall.

Question: What’s one of the easiest ways to prevent that happening?
Decent non-slip everywhere!

So why is such a simple way of staying safe so often ignored? When something goes wrong in the middle of the night and you need to move up on deck fast, there’s no time to look around for a safe place to put your foot, so it’s best to make all walkable surfaces as grippy as possible.

Emergency Tillers—Easier Said Than Done

Is your emergency tiller usable?

At the beginning of each working season we used to take our old boat out on a really breezy day and push the boat hard to check that everything was in good working order. Whilst we had run through our winter maintenance schedule with great care, winter always seemed to find a chink in our armour. And so it proved on one occasion—two hours beating in a good 25 knots, and suddenly there was a loud bang and she rounded up with the helmsman spinning the wheel merrily to no effect—steering failure. A cable had parted up inside the binnacle, so we dug out the emergency tiller, clamped it on, and within two minutes we were making slow, steady progress back to shelter.

Friday 13th and The Importance of Testing Engines

Just when you think you’re safe.

Sailors can be a superstitious lot, and the idea of setting sail on Friday 13th has always alarmed mariners. But as the latest one came around we weren’t worried. As we were simply minding our own business alongside a pontoon, and planning on going nowhere we were in a risk-free place – or so we thought.

Upwind from us lay the travel hoist at the boatyard, and the usual stiff north-easterly was whistling through the harbour. A slow stream of boats came and went from the hoist on their way to or from their annual spring clean. We took no notice of their comings and goings, getting ready, as we were, to return to the UK for work.

Jonbuoy—Stuff That Works (We Hope)

We have lots of ways to get out of the water on “Morgan’s Cloud”. From left to right: ladder that can be deployed from the water with a pull of the lanyard; custom-built swim ladder; Lifesling; JonBouy.

The winter we spent in London England living on Morgan’s Cloud at St Katharine Haven next to Tower Bridge, was wonderful. We walked all over the city and soaked up the history and culture. And the pubs…wow!

Q&A: Radar Reflectors and/or AIS Transponders?


Question [Edited for brevity]: We have been upgrading the safety equipment on board our boat and are thinking of installing radar reflectors to amplify and enhance the radar signal we create to alerting oncoming vessels of our position during offshore sailing in bad weather and heavy seas.

The Echomax Active-XS-Dual Band reflector seems very good, though at a high price. We’re also considering mounting a passive reflector, Echomax 230 or 305, in case of electrical failure.

What do you think?

Piracy—Trouble In Paradise

A peaceful spot to watch the world go by

For most cruising yachtsmen there are few more beautiful, peaceful or congenial places to down a cold Tusker beer, than on the Kenyan shore of the Indian Ocean. Such places form the backbone of the dream for so many, and it’s not hard to see why.

But outside in open waters things are less idyllic, due to the presence of Somali pirates patrolling the sea, looking for vessels to hijack.

Spinlock Lifejacket

deckvestOne of the many things that attracted John and I to each other is that we are both gimped. John has one leg shorter than the other and a slight scoliosis and I have congenitally flat feet and knock-knees. John walks like a duck and I walk like a penguin. It is a match made in heaven!

Fire Blankets

Fire blankets are a great idea, particularly to smother a grease flare-up in the galley without the mess of a dry powder extinguisher, and we have long carried one on Morgan’s Cloud; however, it was bulky and ugly and so was relegated to a locker up forward, much reducing its effectiveness in a fire where speed of response is of the essence.

Safety By Reason, Not Rote

We spent a month taking care of Polaris, a sailboat wintering over on the west coast of Greenland. Before he left for home, Michael (owner of Polaris), Phyllis and I talked about managing risk, particularly as it related to falling overboard into the sub-freezing sea water there.

Obeying The Rules

It has been something of a culture shock to be back in Cornwall, where the volume of boat traffic is on a completely different level to the western isles of Scotland. Up there other yachts really are few and far between, whereas sometimes around the Falmouth area we may be altering course for another yacht every ten minutes!