Sailing alone safety question

Discussion in 'Laser Talk' started by windsurfer2, Oct 14, 2009.

  1. windsurfer2

    windsurfer2 New Member

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    I am new to the forum, and am in the process of getting my first laser. I plan to use the boat for recreational day sailing. Hopefully, as my experience increases, I will be able to use it in heavy weather. I will be sailing on a fairly large, inland salt water body, Puget Sound in Washington state. I will mostly be sailing alone. BTW, the water is cold here, year around!

    My concern is: what is the likelihood of the boat sailing off without me, if I should somehow get separated from it? Will the boat round up into the wind, and just drift a little? I have seen reference to making sure you hold onto the mainsheet if you go overboard, but sometimes, stuff happens, and you may not have the mainsheet.

    I know that when I used to solo sail my monohulls in really fierce weather, I would wear a safety harness, and strap myself to the boat. Is this something that could be used on a Laser, or is it even necessary? Or are there other options?
     
  2. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    I have capsized to windward on a run before and the boom ended-up vertical (sail held up) with the boat "sailing" away (slowly - but how fast can you swin in wetsuit, lifejacket, dinghy top, etc.). I have also gybed in a F2 and the traveller blocks have broken apart (the hooks holding them together broke - and they were only a few months old) - fortunately in an F2 I could sail back in un-assisted.

    I cannot offer advice about sailing a Laser alone but it is not something I would do (not even on an inland lake/reservoir).

    Ian
     
  3. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    The laser will nornally fall over, but even in that state it can drift away from you. IMO, the trick is never let go of the mainsheet and never cleat it. Many of the members of our club sail several kilometres offshore by themselves without much thought other than picking suitable conditions, but all of us who do it are experienced laser sailors. If you're still learning to sail a laser, I wouldn't sail solo until you've got a lot more experience.
     
  4. Sailorchick

    Sailorchick Member

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    If you are not a confident sailor I wouldn't recommend sailing without rescue cover.

    At my club we can launch whenever we want, on our own if desired. However, you should always ensure someone knows when you are launching, when you intend to land, and rougly the area you will be sailing in. Also carry a mobile phone so you can get help if need be. I sail on Southampton Water which is a fairly busy bit of water so always other boats around, whether they are sailing or container ships but I still wouldn't sail on my own without some form of back up in case it all goes wrong.

    A much better solution is to get yourself a buddy and always sail as a pair. More fun on the water and you have another person around should something go wrong.

    Ps - if you fall out of the boat, hold the mainsheet, not the tiller.
     
  5. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    Particularly if it's a carbon tiller or extension.
     
  6. LooserLu

    LooserLu LooserLu

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    I definitely agree to this what Alan D writes.

    I am doing advanced recreational solo Laser "cruising" for many years, often at the big (sometimes tricky) lakes of northern Netherlands.

    If there is no one on the area of the lake, and I play thith the thought to go out for a sail alone, and it is blowing and it is cold: I don't go out . I do some sigthseeing onshore etc.
    The difference between a wise sailor and a dude in that point is: to be clever enough to conquer the feeling to be a "fraidly cat" and serious enough to itself to not go out, no matter what others may say.

    Think about the situation the boom hits you hard at our head or: you get suddenly a lumbago etc. How do you wil come home, if there is no one on the lake than you.

    "Sailorchick" is definitely correct: if you fall out, it is better to never lose the mainsheet out of the hand, thats a reason, why I never knot the main to the hikingstrap. Allways try to stay next at (better on) the hull and never think of swimming alone back to the shore, you definitly lose that game.

    If it is cold (air and water) you want to wear the correct warm wetsuit stuff or drysuit stuff. If the water is cold, you not have many time (only a few minutes) for a swim to get into the boat again or you become f.e.unconscious. Take care, you are able to get into the boat, if you wear the heavy drysuit stuff, practice that. You definitly wear a proofed "Life Jacket" and ont only a so called "buoyancy aid".

    First go, if you want to go out alone is: visit the harbor office (or the next local fisherman etc.) for the weather forecast of the hours you plan to go out. A for you in the morning unknown local afternoon thunderstorm perhaps will make a quick bad end of your day sailing, if you missed to care for it, early enough... We have had this at the German East Sea with a recreational Laserite in 2006, I guess (I did reported it somewhere here) and his luck was, the wind not was blowing him to the open sea. He was out ~15 hrs, only with a thin wetsuit on, sitting on the full-capsized defect Laser the complete night, but survived, only by luck.

    To the other side: Find an answer to the question: "How do I come back?", if you're out, far from the shore, and the wind suddenly lulls down to "0 Bft." for the rest of the day.... Then you want to have a small paddle (ore something equal) on deck/board.


    However, have fun and

    Ciao

    LooserLu
     
  7. torrid

    torrid Just sailing

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    One sailing club where I was a member had an informal policy. It was a wide open area with lots of commercial and recreational traffic. Plenty of opportunities to get in trouble or lost.

    If you went out sailing on your own, you were asked to write your name and the time you left on the chalkboard.
     
  8. glexpress

    glexpress Member

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    Wear a lifejacket
    File a "flight plan" ie tell someone when and where you're sailing and when you expect to return.
    Wear a lifejacket
    Don't go sailing if you aren't comfortable with the conditions.
    Wear a lifejacket
    Bring a VHF or cellphone
    Wear a lifejacket
    Try and arrange a sailing buddy to be out on the water with you be it on another Laser or chase boat. This is especially true as you're reaching your comfort threshold with regard to conditions on the water. Having someone with you helps you gain more skill and push out your comfort threshold.
    Wear a lifejacket


    Does a lifejacket guarantee survival? Nope, but it increases your chances.
     
  9. Gfinch

    Gfinch 136069

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    I do; but I sail on a relatively small river; which is often full with people. When I sail on my own, I only go less than a mile away from the slip. One thing to do, is try and race another form of transport if you can't find a sailing buddy. I've raced a bike up river before, having checkpoints along the way.
     
  10. Kratos

    Kratos Member

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    As others have said, once you get used to the boat, you should be fine.

    Just make sure you let someone know where you're going and don't overstep your boundaries regarding weather/wind.

    Also, wear a life jacket.

    It may be worth giving your gear an extra look over, as well.

    Keep some extra pin, split rings and line in your life jacket.
     
  11. WestCoast

    WestCoast New Member

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    There ARE some boats that can cause problems like you describe, but the laser generally isn't one.

    Some catamarans, moth, and a few others will keep sailing away, or, while capsized and being very light, get pushed away.

    If you're sailing in the sound, it is cold, so dress for the water, not the air.

    --
    Also, check the tides and sail in a spot where if the wind shuts off, you won't be pushed into a bad spot.

    Here on the columbia, we'll sail upriver, so if the breeze dies, we can at least end up back from whence we came.

    --
    Hope to see you at some of the District 6 events and other laser gatherings!
     
  12. windsurfer2

    windsurfer2 New Member

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    Well, thanks for all of the great responses. It looks like it is as I thought it was, a dicey situation trying to sail alone. However, as I stated originally, I live on an island, and although there are a few windsurfers, and a lot of kiters, it is rare to see a dinghy sailor. And then only on nice sunny days. I prefer the windy, nasty days, so I think I'm stuck with sailing by myself, or not sailing at all.

    That being said, I am extremely careful about not putting myself in harms way. These waters around here can and do kill. I have sailed monohulls for 10+ years, power boated for 10+ years, and windsurfed for the last 19 years. I only had to get rescued once, when I ran out of wind, but I was well equipped for the occasion.

    I used to carry flares as a back up system, when I was sailing alone in remote areas. But I always found that when I tested them at the end of the season, they were wet and just fizzled. Recently, I have started carrying a waterproof, hand held marine radio, in a water tight bag, pre-set to channel 16. There is always plenty of marine traffic in the area, and the coast guard is always flying around here, in their helicopters. I always wear a PFD, regardless of conditions. And carry a strobe light. And a helmet, which I may bring along on the Laser. And wear a Kokatat dry suit.

    However, I think I will seriously consider adding the safety harness and line, so that I can fasten myself to the boat. I don't trust myself to always end up holding onto the mainsheet in a capsize or overboard situation. Unless someone thinks it wouldn't work, for some reason. I'm surprised that other offshore Laser sailors haven't tried it, so there may be a reason why it doesn't work. But unless I hear otherwise, I'll probably give it the empirical test.
     
  13. Der_Dude

    Der_Dude Member

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    Think twice about the harness. There are many cases, some lethal, where people got caught in lines under their capsized dinghy, trap lines and sheets especially. Even though the Laser is a small boat and getting caught under it is unlikely, I wouldn't try it. The idea of getting tangled and pulled under is just horrifying. Unlike other dinghys, a turtled Laser will not have a large air bubble inside to come up into and sort things out because the cockpit is so small.

    Also, you might tangle the harness in the sheet or vice versa. Laser sailors get their feet tangled in the sheet regularily without using a harness. That might provoke the capsize that might then lead to the problems you were trying to avoid.

    I think the furthest I have been seperated from the boat in a capsize was maybe by 10 meters.

    Re. mobile phones: how do you people who carry them along protect them against water?
     
  14. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    Not something I would ever do in a dinghy. If you do capsize (which in the strong winds you say you prefer) then being attached by a harness would potentially cause big problems. If the harness line to decently long it will just be a problem with tangling around everything, whilst if shorter would potentially trap you under the boat should you capsize and turtle. One thin I have noticed in a Laser is that if you step over onto the dagger board when you capsize things are easy (and dry) but if it catches you and you fall in the water on the mast size the boat turns upside down quite quickly.

    Ian
     
  15. glexpress

    glexpress Member

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    Think of it this way, if it’s windy enough for a capsized Laser to be blown away from you faster than you can swim it’s pretty darn windy. If you are even considering tethering yourself to the boat for safety then you should consider. Not sailing in those conditions or having a sailing partner / crash boat.


    Also I'm in agreement on the dangers of tethering yourself to a boat that easily capsizes. There's too many ways to get trapped.
     
  16. torrid

    torrid Just sailing

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    Hotshot 470 crews used to keep the jib sheet running through a shackle connected to their trap harness or life jacket. Made it easy to retrieve the line when tacking or if you drop it. However, I don't fancy being attached to the boat rigging in event of a capsize.
     
  17. MasterMike

    MasterMike D22

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    I have a waterproof bag / case called "Aquapac." It is very thin, the bag folds with the phone, and you can talk and hear clearly through the material. I put it in my PFD pocket or inside the inspection port bag. I bought it from a very good whitewater supplier called NRS.

    http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp?pfid=28421&deptid=1631
     

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  18. Kratos

    Kratos Member

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    I would have to agree that tethering is not a good idea at all.

    The chances of the tether causing you major problems > your boat getting away from you in the event of a capsize.
     
  19. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    Just tie an old mainsheet (laser length) to the transom and let it trail behind the boat. Since you're not racing it won't impact on your performance. I've you go get separated from the boat, without hanging onto your mainsheet, you should be able to pick up this trailing line. Tying an empty plastic drink bottle or two may also assist in highlighting the rope.
     
  20. Zoophyte

    Zoophyte New Member

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    Great idea Alan.

    I recall reading that Sir Robin Knox-Johnston did a similar thing on Suhaili during the inaugural Golden Globe Race. He had lines trailing behind the boat so he could dive off the bow, let Suhaili pass by, catch the end of the line and use it to pull himself back on board. Brave man that!
     

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