Sailing safety

Finding opportunity in gale-force winds

Yesterday, Caye wrote about the oncoming 30-50mph winds (or in super-scientific meteorological terms: dark red through pink) and how we were planning to deal with them. This morning, we have a new plan… we’re going to take those lemons and make proverbial lemonade. The plan is motor about 1 mile offshore this afternoon, set both of our anchors and spend the night learning, crash-course style, about anchor dragging, resetting and how to sleep in 6-8 foot waves with 30-50mph winds…

Just kidding folks… we’ve actually decided to head to a marina in a few hours and tie up in a slip with all fenders out. We’ll stay there until the winds drop to a reasonable speed. Probably tomorrow afternoon or Saturday morning. This option will give us electricity (without needing to run the engine constantly), easy access to dry land for running errands, laundry facilities and an opportunity to get our bikes ashore – although the wind may keep our biking to a minimum.

There is a  lot more news – about our river trip planning, mast shipping vs carrying on deck, more visiting friends, farmers market visits and more. But that will all need to wait. There is coffee to be consumed and farm-fresh produce to be found.

Have a great morning!

Port Washington1

Unexpected stop at Port Washington

Against my better judgement, I’ll write a short summary of our day. This, of course, is parents rated! For those, like us, relatively new at sailing, I would say that 15mph winds from the South with a strong current, not worth it. I am sure that people who have been sailing for years could have had a lovely time, especially because it was warm, but for those of us who are not in a hurry or new to the whole thing, there are simply better things to do.

Our morning stared out at 7 am. Already running a little late on schedule, we decided to set off as soon as possible. We had studied the weather intensively the night before and the forecast showed 5 to 10mph winds from the South, temperature in the mid 70s and sunny. So, today we just took a  quick peak and we were on our way. As predicted, the wind was from the South and not very strong, the temperature was not in the 70s, but not uncomfortable either. For 3 hours we motored and worked, everything was fine.

Four hours into our trip, the waves were getting misted by oncoming waves, so computers were set inside and we started talking. From there on, it all got more intense, the wind quickly picked up from 10 to 15 mph. The waves’ were 2-3 feet with the occasional  4 to 6 footer. Within a couple minutes of this adventure, we had decided not to continue our journey South to Milwaukee, now we just needed to wrestle our way into port. Fortunately, we had Port Washington at our starboard side. The sun was shining and the sky was clear, so we knew that we were not about to hit a storm. Jax, handled the tiller like a pro, while I made sure everything was in order.

Not to elongate the story further or make it intense, I will conclude by saying it was not fun, but, yet again, we learned another lesson. We handled the boat great and there were no mishaps, but this easily could not have been the case. I am glad and very thankful that Jax and I are such a great team and that he is so calm in high pressure circumstances.

When we came into Port Washington, the anchor area was not unlike the weather out in the lake, so we decided to dock in the marina. Cabin fixed, sheets dry (due to water coming in through our hatch), tummies full and getting ready to go to bed. Tomorrow, Milwaukee.


The Ship Captain’s Medical Guide Review

“The Ship Captain’s Medical Guide” 22nd edition, published by Maritime and Coast Guard Agency of Great Britain in 1998, is a free ebook or purchasable physical book that provides readers with the basic knowledge needed to be prepared for medical emergencies onboard when a doctor is absent. Although mainly catering to large ships, “The Ship Captain’s Medical Guide” offers an undeniably good amount of information about possible human injuries and how to treat them on any kind of boat. It also provides general facts on sanitation, mental health problem awareness and general safe conducts when away from land.

As a biology and medical information junkie I enjoyed the majority of the 248 pages of the book. However, knowing that my stomach is strong for excruciating details about painful medical procedures I do recommend that if yours is not, avoid reading this book after a meal, while traveling in a car, boat or feeling sad. Yes, especially the first chapter of this book made me doubt my passion for medicine a couple times and made me realize just how severe many injuries can be when medical attention is not around the corner. The guide provides useful diagrams that help the reader visualize what the authors are trying to communicate. However, at points I felt that explanation was missing, especially in sections where urgent care is a must to save the person’s life. The repetition of procedures that needed to be done was also lacking in this book. For example a broken neck and broken spine call for similar procedures, however both injuries are life threatening and quick information is a requirement in order to optimize chances of survival and avoiding paralysis. In case of an emergency of this sort, if I ever needed to refer to the book, I do not want to find “refer back to back injury”. As well, when reading, I am more likely to remember a procedure in time of an emergency if I have read it a number of times in the guide prior to encounter.


As with every medical procedure double-checking and making sure one is well informed is an important piece to avoiding catastrophe. This book is a good guide to have aboard as an ebook or paper book. However, I would supplement this book with one more relevant to smaller vessels. I am still seeking for other guides. Once I find one and read it, I will offer more advice on good options as well as good medical kits. Hopefully, I won’t ever have to review how effective this book was in practice, but if we do run into an injury, I will.

Get the book:

Safety while underway and inflatable personal flotation devices

Well before finding Ranger 28, we had already added “good life jackets” to our pre liveaboard shopping list. At that point, the only exposure I had to life jacket shopping was what I had done/seen in the little bit of whitewater kayaking I did during my teen years. Kayaking life jackets, as i remember them, were big in the front ant back, not too tall on the abdomen and had lots of neat pockets, straps, clips and general gizmos. Turns out that a few hours of web research during some of our “downtime” while buying the Ranger 28 gave an entirely new perspective on this area.

First things first, a life jacket is like a camera – it is only as useful as how often you have it with you. So your $3000 Canon SLR with a Nat Geo$2000 lens probably misses a lot of important photos because it is sitting at home in safety while you are out doing the exciting stuff. Similarly, life jackets suffer from the “left at home syndrome” as well – not because of value/risk, but because they can be unsightly, uncomfortable, cumbersome and just generally annoying – thereby causing them to only be worn in the most extreme situations.

This “use it when you need it” attitude actually works okay a lot of the time because most time spent around water does not end disastrously. Sailing and living aboard as a reasonably inexperienced sailing couple changes the equation a bit (lot) though. First of all, we need the option of being alone on deck – it isn’t practical/desirable to think that we will always be on deck together while underway. That said, any number of minutes in which one of us is on deck and the other is busy belowdecks is a potential disaster, if a “(wo)man overboard (MOB)) were to occur. This is the specific situation that I believe warrants a fair bit of thought, research and preparedness.

The first and most obvious precaution is simply to wear a life jacket if you are on deck alone. But that brings us all the way back to this issue of leaving the camera at home. If the life jacket is heavy, chaffing, encumbers movement, is ugly, etc. – despite good intentions – it will likely not be on all the time and as a consequence will become a chore to remember to put it on every time the other person goes belowdecks. This is where those resourceful marine safety equipment companies come in… Inflatable PFDs offer the flotation/safety benefits of there traditional counterparts, but with virtually none of the bulk. The look like big thick collars with straps and really don’t get in the way too much at all. In a perfect world, this major advance in convenience would mean that there would just be no reason at all to take your PFD off ever and thus no chance of breaking the “PFDs when alone” rule. In the real world, or at least our world, there will still be times when we aren’t wearing the jackets when under way, but my guess is that they will be unobtrusive enough that it will be rare to run into the chore situation of needing to put on a PFD just because the other person wanted to go use the head.

This was about as far as my research/theories had gotten a few days ago. I have since, picked up quite a bit more about the various options of Inflatable PFDs and the bells and whistles they include. Look for another post about choosing an Inflatable PFD in the next few days.