Phyllis and I have done a couple of crew overboard recovery drills lately (with more planned) and one of the many things we learned was that a wrist remote autopilot control is extremely useful in a COB emergency.
But what happens if the person wearing the only control is the one who went over the side? So now we have two. Highly recommended.
Last week I linked to a well-done report and some associated testing over at Practical Boat Owner that made a convincing argument that sidedeck jacklines are worse, at least when used with a standard 6′ long tether, than not clipping on at all, because of the risk of being killed by dragging.
And then a few days later I came across a Scuttlebutt article titled, “Nearly half die when falling overboard”, with statistics from the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch supporting the title.
At first I was going to link to the latest piece in a tip with a scary title like “Why We Clip On” or some such.
But that felt kinda wrong so close to the first tip—when does informing turn into scaremongering?
So I decided, instead, to just remind us all that offshore sailing, at least when done with common sense and basic seamanship, is pretty safe.
And if you are wondering about the photo, that’s Phyllis with our good friends and experienced offshore voyagers Wilson and Thelma, taken in Quebec during our drive of the Trans-Labrador Highway in 2019.
Yours truly demonstrating where we end up—without the convenient dinghy to keep me out of the cold water (what a wuss)—if we fall in while attached to a sidedeck jackline by a standard-length tether.
According to Practical Boat Owner (PBO), at 6 knots we only have minutes to live in this situation.
We at AAC have long argued that sidedeck jacklines (jackstays) are not safe because of drag risk.
But PBO are taking that up a level by suggesting, based on some very sobering testing as well as even more sobering analysis of sailors falling overboard and being dragged by their tethers, that it might even be safer to not be clipped on at all than to use a standard-length tether clipped to a sidedeck jackline.
We agree with the problem they identify, but feel we have a better and well-tested solution that reduces drag risk to near zero while still staying tethered.
If we are sewing a loop into a piece of webbing to cow hitch it to something, as is often the case with jacklines, the end result will seat better and be way neater if we sew the loop with a half turn in it as shown below.
I have to confess that unpacking, test inflating (24 hours), and repacking lifejackets is one of my least favourite chores—getting them back together all nice and smooth with no lumps is just one of the many tasks I’m not naturally gifted at.
We go through this process once a year, at the beginning of the sailing season. Here’s a good instructional video for the 6D.
One piece of good news, one of the many improvements Spinlock have made to the new Deckvest 6D is that it’s easier to repack neatly than the older 5D—I will be writing more about the 6D in a future full article.
I have quoted Morgan Housel, one of the smartest people in investing as well as one of the best writers, before.
His thoughts about investing often make sense for life, and offshore voyaging.
Here’s Morgan again:
A question I love to ask people is, “What have you changed your mind about in the last decade?” I use “decade” because it pushes you into thinking about big things, not who you think will win the Super Bowl.
I am always so suspicious of people who say, “nothing.” They act like it’s a sign of intelligence – that their beliefs are so accurate that they couldn’t possibly need to change. But I think it’s the surest sign of ignorance and stubbornness.
Here’s an interesting article about a triple crew overboard emergency from the point of view of the crew of the rescuing boat.
I learned from all the lessons shared, but the two that really jumped out at me were:
If we have a COB, be very careful and methodical while responding, lest we go overboard ourselves. In this case three people ended up in the water, but two of them fell in when trying to recover the first COB.
On a sailboat, don’t mess with those block and tackles that are often sold with a LifeSling, use a halyard.
Phyllis and I carried one of these tackles for years, but some years ago decided that it was a distraction and not useful.
I’m not even sure these tackles are useful on a motorboat. After all, what are you going to hook it to? And what about a winch? Three-to-one is not going to cut it. Better a hoist.
Our friend Margaret, who is of the petite persuasion, wearing the Spinlock 6D we are testing here at AAC.
One of our concerns with the new model was that with only one size, instead of three as the 5D we have used for years was available in, was that fitting a smaller person might be a problem, particularly since we think that it’s vital that the chest strap be snug.
Turns out we need not have worried. Thanks, Margaret, and Spinlock for providing the jacket free for evaluation.
We will be publishing a full report once we have had more experience with the 6D, but so far we are liking it a lot.