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How to avoid expensive mistakes when you buy a new or second-hand yacht. 

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Icom IC-M35We review the Icom IC-M35 handheld.  Read the full review here.

GMDSS A User's Handbook

By Denise Bréhaut

GMDSS A user's handbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) provides a fast and efficient way of calling for assistance at sea, whatever the size of craft or its geographical position. Since it was first published, this book has helped explain the system for anyone using GMDSS and has been excellent pre-course reading for students.

 

SAFASAIL CAP

SafaSail HatThe SafaSail Hard Hat looks just like a sailing cap, but will help protect you if you get a bang to the head.  See our review here

Anchoring - a key safety issue

Rocna AnchorRocna AnchorRocna AnchorA few years ago, while on passage I overheard a conversation between Solent Coastguard and a small motor vessel whose engine had failed. It went something like this:

“Hello, hello? Can anyone help us? Our engine has stopped and we're drifting towards the shore.”

“Vessel calling for assistance, this is Solent Coastguard. Please give your position. Are you able to anchor?”

“Hello Coastguard. We are about half a mile from some rocks. What is an anchor?”

(Somewhat ironically): “Vessel calling for assistance, this is Solent Coastguard. The anchor is the thing you use to tie your boat to the seabed. Please count slowly up to ten so we can get a bearing on you. Over.”


Apart from exasperation, what lodged the conversation in my memory was the use of the phrase 'tie your boat to the seabed'. The owners probably tied up to the marina often enough, so in that simple phrase the Coastguard conveyed not only the purpose and objective of anchoring, but also the sense of safety and security that the act of anchoring would give them.

When we think about safety equipment, we tend to think of flares and lifejackets. It's easy to forget that the anchor is equally important in terms of safety. Perhaps that's because it's mainly used to avoid expensive hazards like marina fees, but its fundamental purpose is to keep the yacht safely afloat, away from rocks and other fixed nasties.

So don't think of your anchor as an added extra that you might get around to using if there's no space in the marina, or while you all go swimming. Think of it first as your emergency brake - something that will, when all else has failed, stop you from piling up on a lee shore, or drifting into something that will cost you a lot more than a night in a marina.

Provided, of course, that your anchor is available and ready to be dropped. Most of us sail with the anchor fixed on the bow roller with a quick-release locking pin in place to stop the thing from bashing against the fibreglass. And if you're marina-based, you may not use it that often.

So before we get into detailed discussions about what kind of anchor grips best in seaweed, or what scope to lay out in six metres of water, the more important question to ask is whether the anchor can be quickly and efficiently released. Notice I don't say 'dropped'. Dropping the anchor, except in a dire emergency, is not to be recommended.

I suggest that the next time you're sailing - even if you're just going as crew on someone else's yacht - you have a good look at the anchor. How easy will it be to release the locking pin? Is the pin bent or twisted, making it difficult to get out?

A large number get bent because some well-meaning person puts the pin in, locks it, then gives the electric anchor winch an extra 'tweak', pulling the anchor chain as tight as a steel bar - just to stop it flopping about, skipper!. They don't realise that even a small electric windlass creates a hefty pull that can easily bend a small steel pin.

Is the locking-pin on the end free to move, or is it rusted in the 'locked' position, only to be moved by a lump hammer? And of course, the obvious question that can usually only be answered by letting out most of the anchor cable - is the bitter end properly secured to the yacht?

If you let the boatyard put your anchor chain back in the yacht, can you be sure they tied it on? No point in an emergency 'let go' only to watch the bitter end flying through the windlass and disappearing overboard. And yes, it does happen!

I suggest that you invite your crew to wear sailing gloves when handling the anchor or anchor chain. Anchors are dangerous things, and there is a risk of getting fingers trapped between chain and windlass, or in links. And those nasty anchors with hinged arms are just asking for trouble. A glove won't prevent a broken finger, but it might stop the worst of a scrape or mangle. And lead by example - the skipper has sailing gloves too!

It is important to think about the anchor as an essential piece of safety equipment and to make sure that the gear you have is ready to use in an emergency, and is treated with as much respect as the Epirb or the flares.
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