Safety Boat Good Practice

Even for those people with qualifications and experience it is sometimes difficult to remember/decide what to do when faced with real and multiple capsizes in strong winds and big waves. Below are a few reminders of good practice.

  • Race Officers to lay courses away from the lee shore on days of strong wind forecasts (especially easterlies)
  • Race Officers to consider abandoning the race in good time if conditions deteriorate/ safety boats are compromised
  • Safety boat crew and drivers must be dressed ready to enter the water and be prepared to do so
  • Always wear the kill cord and cut the engine when near people in the water
  • Always prioritise people before boats
  • In the case of multiple capsizes, prioritise who needs help most – those trapped, injured, least experienced, children, those nearest the lee shore
  • When dealing with one incident, ensure a good look out for other (more serious) incidents on the water
  • Count heads
  • If someone is trapped underneath an inverted dinghy, the quickest way to help is for two people to climb on the centreboard and right it as quickly as possible
  • When considering attempting a rescue, think first about not endangering yourself or making the situation worse. Are you able to help or will you get into trouble yourself?
  • Before you go in to rescue think : ‘plan, manoeuvre, escape’
  • If boats are abandoned always try to alert other safety boats so they do not go looking for entrapped bodies etc. If possible mark with ‘safety boat aware’.
  • Radios should be secured to the driver of the Safety boat, not to the boat, so that if the boat inverts or the driver gets separated from the boat he is still able to use the radio
  • If trying to assist a stricken craft from a lee shore in difficult conditions, the safest and best way to do it is:
    • Stop directly upwind of the stricken craft, and turn the safety boat to face head to wind.
    • Deploy the anchor, and keeping engine running, drop back on the anchor line until close enough to be able to throw a line to the stricken craft. (If a safe distance is too far to throw, attach a fender to the line and allow it to drift in to shore). Anchoring allows you to keep the bow facing into the wind at all times which, in turn, enables you to power away from danger, (the lee shore) in forward, at any time. (It will not be possible to tow a boat out in reverse in heavy winds and big waves and turning round can be difficult).
    • Once the tow line is secure the rescue boat can start moving forward both by pulling on the anchor line and on the engine. Always make sure the tow can be easily released in case of the towing vessel getting into difficulty. Have a sharp knife to hand.
  • If uncertain of your ability to deal with an incident in the prevailing conditions, seek help from more experienced operators
  • If an engine cuts out suddenly check for the following:
    • run out of fuel
    • something caught around the propeller
    • valve on top of fuel cap on fuel tank has not been released causing a vacuum in the fuel tank
    • fuel line is kinked/ compressed/ become partially detached
    • fuel line has been attached wrong way round (check direction of arrows on bulb)
    • water jet clogged up
    • power switch inadvertently switched off
  • If the engine won’t start after you have cut it/pulled the kill cord check it is in neutral properly
  • Take care not to damage the propeller or prop guard when leaving and returning to the shore, partially tilt the engine until in deep water/as you come into shallow water. Always check the cooling jet is working
  • The use of powerboats at Grimwith is a sensitive issue. Never ‘joyride’; the powerboats should only ever be driven at high speed when going to investigate an incident/dealing with an emergency or as part of necessary training on official courses

I hope this isn’t teaching grandma to suck eggs too much but serves as a useful reminder to all of us.

Erica Caswell  Training Officer