Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This 30 Second Marine Safety Skill Could Save Your Life!

In his column this week, Captain John teaches a life saving skill for that critical moment when someone goes overboard...

Guest blog by Captain John
Author of Seamanship Secrets and publisher of the popular boating education website

What's the first thing you should throw to someone when they go overboard? 
It may not be what you think. Photo © Nautical Sites Media

What’s the number one piece of marine safety sailing gear you should toss to a person who has fallen overboard? Life ring? Man overboard pole? Flotation cushion?

Nope - none of those.  Just one piece of equipment aboard your boat will keep that person afloat in cold water or warm. A wearable personal flotation device (PFD). Why?

Go into the water and your body begins to cool down. Even in summertime, the average water temperature throughout the US averages just 65° F (18° C). Your body core temperature stays at about 98.6° F (37° C), so immersion in cooler water guarantees that you will become cooler. And that can mean big trouble…

Get a Grip
In warm weather, you will lose your ability to grasp a flotation device (life rings, cushions, etc.) within a few hours. In colder water, it takes just a few minutes. Your arms and hands will become numb and the flotation device could slip from your grasp.

Remember this - never, ever count on someone to pick you up right away if you fall overboard.  No matter what the books say, finding a person with any sea running offshore - full of foam, spray, and white-caps can be compared to a search for a Styrofoam paper cup in a snowstorm.

Toss over a wearable flotation device first and foremost. 
If the person’s inflatable vest fails, they’ll need a wearable PFD to free them from the task of grasping a flotation device. And not just another inflatable either... make it the real-McCoy... a Type I life jacket.

Have at least one Type I life jacket onboard
Carry one or more Type I life jackets aboard your boat (see photo). These jackets are the best design for any type of sailing weather. They are simple to put on, provide maximum flotation, give good warmth in colder weather, and keep you right side up in the worst weather.

Keep one or two Type I life jackets in the cockpit of a sailboat. On a powerboat, store one or two near the steering console.

Even if a person is wearing an inflatable vest, toss a Type I  life jacket to them first. Then, send over the rest of the gear. This “initial action” - those first steps you take in an emergency - could make a big difference.

Learn this 30-Second Lifesaving Skill!

It’s easy to don (put on) a life jacket or inflatable vest in the cabin or cockpit.  Just like a coat, you stick one arm through a hole; swing the jacket around your back; then stick your other arm through the other hole.

However, this sequence of actions will be impossible to duplicate in the water. Most of your body will be submerged with just your head and shoulders exposed above the sea surface.  You must use a simple, little-known method to don any life jacket in the water.

Practice this important skill in the comfort of your home. Train your crew. After two to three minutes of practice, most folks can do this in less than 30 seconds.   

Follow these five easy steps.
1.  Grab the collar of the life jacket. Pull the life jacket close to you. Turn the jacket so that it floats with the front pointed toward the sky. Unclip all snaps and straps.

2.  Open the life jacket all the way so that it lies almost flat on the water surface. Keep the collar close to you (illustration 2).

3.  Thrust each arm as far as possible through each arm hole (illustration 3).

4.  Raise both arms in a smooth, fast motion above your head and slightly back (illustration 3).

5.  Fasten all snaps and straps.

Practice this at home:
Kneel down next to a table about chin height.
Place the life jacket on top of the table.
Follow steps 1 – 5 above.
Practice until you can complete all steps within 30 seconds.
Train your sailing crew.  

Equip your sailing crew with unique marine safety skills like this for survival. Sail with peace-of-mind when you know you have prepared your crew to meet the unexpected with confidence!

Captain John teaches sailing skippers the no-nonsense cruising skills they need beyond sailing school. Sign up for his highly popular FREE sailing tips newsletter at Become a member for instant access to 425+ articles, video tutorials, newsletters, and free eBooks.


1 comment:

  1. Keeping your eye on the person's location is important too.