Prevention is better than cure...15 safety tips in no particular order...
1 - One hand for yourself, one for the boat. This is an old saying that is the most important thing to remember when moving around a pitching deck. It’s easy to slip on board: the boat can move unpredictably when the waves are running. You are never more than a few steps from the side, and an unwelcome man-overboard experience. Best not to test your skipper’s skill that way!
2 - Slow down. You are on vacation - there is no rush. Think about where the boat will need your crew in advance, and pre-position them. If you find yourself short handed and are tempted to send someone to the bow in a hurry, don’t! Go around again and take your time.
3 - Before you start ensure all hatches are shut and clipped from below. This is easy to forget; some of the crew may like the idea of airing their cabins with the hatches open when sailing… but resist the urge. At best you may end up with a wave crashing over your open hatch and soaking the bedding below, at worst you may end up with a vacation ending flood and an unwelcome salvage bill!
4 - Is the dinghy safe, where are the loose ropes? You may be dragging your dinghy behind you, or you may have it hoisted on davits at the stern. Either way make sure she is secure. It would be frustrating to lose her on the voyage and not have a means of getting ashore from your evening mooring, not to mention expensive. Additionally pay attention to loose ropes in the water at the stern, like the dinghy painter, when you are maneuvering. It’s very easy to wrap a loose rope around a prop if you aren't paying attention and that can ruin your day as well!
5 - Don’t forget the swim steps… easily done, but they won’t help the aqua dynamics of the hull, and could break off at speed. Make the ‘steps up and secured’ check a part of your leaving the mooring/anchorage pre departure checks.
6 - Sunscreen. Sun, the open water, and a white boat will always create the perfect opportunity for a decent sunburn. It’s easy to underestimate the need for a good covering of sunscreen and then there is never enough aloe on board to relieve you of the suffering at the end of the day! Take the time, protect yourself and enjoy a discomfort free trip!
7 - Jelly fish - do you have the appropriate cures? These little beasties are not so prevalent in the islands but from time to time you come across one, and one of your crew will learn just how painful they can be. There are many apparent first aid actions that are suggested, but removing the stinger cells from the affected area is important to minimize the transfer of venom. Rinsing the affected area with sea water, or vinegar is noted as way of achieving that. Careful watch to ensure the patient isn’t developing an anaphylactic reaction is important, and anti histamine may be appropriate to ease the effects. If emergency help is needed or you are in any doubt, VISAR is there.
8 - Watch your fingers in the winches. This is so important. The weight in the lines that lead to the cockpit winches is huge. When taking a line on a winch do so when there is no load on it - either by using the jamming cleats on a loaded line, or by preparing the lazy sheets prior to a tack. If the line develops a riding turn on the winch take the load off before trying to free it. Take care at all times to keep your fingers away from the space between the line and the winch drum!
10 - Don’t try and fend off a 22 tonne Cat with your feet. When coming alongside a dock, or another boat, use the fenders wisely. Fix a few at intervals along the side, and have a couple of crew stationed with wandering fenders for emergencies. Approach slow, dead slow. Get a line on and then use the engines to swing in the stern, or bow, depending on how you approached. Caution the crew about using their legs or arms to fend off a crunch if you end up going too fast. They won’t be able to stop the inevitable impact, seriously - they won’t, and they are likely to crush a limb if they try!
11 - Secure gear below before the boat movement breaks it. Obvious I know, but it’s very easy for the inexperienced crew to leave the jug of iced lemonade in the middle of the saloon table, or the recently washed up lunch plates and glasses on the draining board next to the galley sink. A few waves, or a quick tack, even in a Cat, will send that sort of load flying around the cabin, and then the afternoon’s activity will start to look quite different to what you had planned!
12 - Secure the guard rails, especially if you have younger crew members. It’s easy to overlook this, especially for the stern access steps, but it’s worth the pre-departure check. Whilst the guard rails won’t prevent anyone falling over the side, they will certainly reduce the risk of simple stumbles turning into an unwanted man overboard. For sailing with very small kids we have seen some boaters add a fishnet style of covering to their guard rails… don't know how effective that is but we can understand why it’s done.
13 - Keep sight of each other - watch for the quiet man overboard. On a big Cat there are many parts of the yacht where crew members may be out of sight of each other. Keep in touch, especially when people go below to visit the head, or sit alone at the bow or stern. Don’t lose track of each other.
14 - Know where the lifejackets are onboard. The chances are that most of the crew won't be wearing them all the time, although the young kids maybe. In the event of a man overboard its useful to heave a few of those over the side, as well as the stern rail lifebelt, to give the person in the water options of what to hang onto!
15 - Avoid propane accidents - switch off the gas before switching off the flame. Propane is used to fire the stove, and possibly the BBQ grill as well. The propane tank can be isolated at the tank itself by shutting the screw valve, or your boat may have a solenoid isolating valve. Either way, shut one of them before you switch off the grill/stove. This simple step ensures that trace gas is burned off and doesn’t stick around in the lines waiting for the next time you light the appliance… with every accident risk that involves!