The Cockpit Is NOT As Safe As It Feels

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It’s well worth reading the excellent report from US Sailing on the tragic person overboard (POB) death in the 2022 Bermuda race.

Lots of good analysis and some great recommendations.

That said, the biggest takeaway for me is that the cockpit of a sailboat at sea can provide an illusory sense of safety.

The fact is that even with:

…the wind in the low to mid 20s, with some higher gusts…

US Sailing Report

a wave can near-broach the boat and wash a person right out and over the lifelines, as happened in this case.

…this wave washed Colin over the top of the leeward lifelines and into the water…

US Sailing Report

Phyllis and I have always tethered in the cockpit, even in much more benign conditions than that.

In fact, our rule is to be tethered, even in the cockpit, any time we are sailing in swell, which is pretty much any time out of sheltered waters.

Reading this report was a good reminder for us to stick with that policy.

Much more on POB prevention.

Spinlock 6D—One Size Does Fit All

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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.

Slippery Deck Shoe Fix

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My Gill deck shoes were completely losing their grip. We are talking scary-slippery, to the point I nearly went on my ass, and overboard was a real possibility.

We have seen this before. Seems like whatever material deck shoe soles are being made of these days, it develops a hard yellowy layer way before the shoe is worn out—shoe on right.

We have tried sanding before, but with not a lot of success, so this time, in desperation, I took a grinder with an 80-grade disk to them—shoe on left.

That fixed it, as grippy as new.

Keep at it until the yellow is gone and wear a respirator, I can’t imagine the dust is good for us.

Safer Transom Ladder

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Our new-to-us J/109 has a robust transom swim ladder that could definitely enable someone who fell overboard get back into the boat, at least in smooth water.

But check out the photo above: There’s no way for someone in the water, particularly wearing a lifejacket, to deploy the ladder unassisted. The angle is just wrong for that.

So I made the modification in the photo below. Works a treat.

I will be writing more over the next year about changes we are making to the boat to reduce person overboard risk, in our Online Book on the subject.