Sailing alone safety question

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

  1. nesdog

    nesdog Member

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    As a long time cat sailor, we used to have this discussion about tethering ourselves to the boat since we did lots of solo sails. Some of my friends would tie the end of the main sheet to their harnesses; others would leave a trailing line.

    I opted for none of these. If the trap broke and I went overboard, there is little chance I could grab a trailing line with the boat going at speed. It would just either rip my arm off or I'd get rope burns. Additionally, I didn't want lots of extra lines in the water to get tangled in. It's hard enough to get off a trapeze in some capsizes as it is.

    So my solution was just to try to sail near others or be very careful when out solo. Actually one of the reasons I just sold my cat and purchased the Laser was because i prefer to be a bit more self-sufficient in capsizes. And I still sail cautiously even in the Laser. In bigger winds, I'll just duck in and out of the harbor mouth and play inside.

    With the smaller cockpit of the Laser, I wouldn't want to have more lines to mess with. I agree with the posts above; hang onto the main if you can.
     
  2. Jeff Connelly

    Jeff Connelly Radial Newb :-(

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    From what you're saying, it sounds like you're going far offshore. I try to stay within swimming distance of shore, just in case something REALLY bad happens!

    But to be honest, sailing really far offshore probably won't help much with training.
    Anything you can do offshore, you can do close to shore.

    With Lasers I find that there isn't much risk of them sailing off, because when you fall out of the boat while going upwind, it rounds up, and if you fall out downwind, it either death rolls or rounds up. Either way, you should be able to swim to it without too much difficulty. If it capsizes and you fall off, it's going to turtle quite quickly, so you won't have to worry too much about it sailing away!

    But, again, unless the wind is very different where you are, there isn't really much need to sail really far offshore.

    Peace,
    -Jeff
     
  3. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    I suspect it probably they did something along these lines on the old sailing ships.
     
  4. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    I find there are benefits to endurance training and also at some regattas you are sailing in the ocean, so getting used to sailing in those conditions are important, particularly working the swell particularly upwind, getting used to not having a definite point to focus on to maintain your bearing etc. At the Terrigal Worlds you could easily pick to those sailors who had been training offshore, as opposed to those who hadn't. The course area was up to 2 km offshore.
     
  5. harraz

    harraz New Member

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    Life jacket + dry suite + mobile phone + helmet
     
  6. windsurfer2

    windsurfer2 New Member

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    Harraz-

    That is pretty much what I have decided on. Although I'm adding the marine radio to what I carry on my body, and will probably add an inspection port with storage for the cell phone, bananas, etc. :)

    I'm also going to try to get someone with a jet ski or boat to follow me out when there is a decent blow going on, so that I can "abandon ship" on different tacks, and see for myself how the boat actually responds to being skipperless.
     
  7. LiamMcLennan

    LiamMcLennan New Member

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    Several people have commented that in strong weather a capsized laser can blow away faster than you can swim. While this is true for a very short distance a laser will quickly turn perpendicular to the wind and then capsize completely. Once the boat is completely upside down it will not move very quickly. Then the problem is how to get it back up, especially if the centre board has fallen out.

    A helmet, lifejacket and mobile phone seems like good advice. Perhaps I am reckless but I have never thought twice about going out by myself. One of the biggest problems is being stranded if the wind drops out, but even that is just a matter of waiting. If you get caught in extreme weather (> 30 knts) then you will probably end up holding onto an upside down boat and waiting for it to end or for rescue. If it is shallow then you will probably lose a mast as well.
     
  8. vtgent49

    vtgent49 Member

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    In my experience broken gear presents a more likely issue for a solo sailor. It doesn't take much of a breakdown to make it impossible to sail upwind. A broken mast is the obvious example, but there are others, such as a broken boom, gooseneck,main sheet blocks, traveler lines etc.

    Even a broken hiking stick joint is enough when it's howling such that you really have to hike out. I once tied the tail of my main to the tiller so I could use it an an extension allowing me to " Hike home".

    So, my suggestion is to have a plan for a dead downwind landing site. In Barbados they lose fishermen all the time because their outboards crap out with 20 kts of wind and 3-4 kts of current. Some are them are never found.
     
  9. chicagolaser09

    chicagolaser09 New Member

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    Get an inspection port with a radio that could contact the CG in the event of an emergency. Or keep the radio on your person or tied to the boat.

    Don't go out in conditions that are dangerous and windy. Don't go to far offshore, where even in a drysuit you couldn't swim or drift to shore.

    People all over the world sail in cold conditions and sailing alone is only out of the question when you don't prepare for the problems that could occur.

    By the way you should be more concerned about the boom knocking you out rather than the boat getting away from you and never tie any part of the boat to you that is how you could get killed.


    go sail, you don't have a problem
     
  10. bjmoose

    bjmoose Member

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    The problem with putting a radio in an inspection port pocket is the difficulty in accessing if inverted. I just clip mine to my hiking strap.
     
  11. bjmoose

    bjmoose Member

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    Actually, on reconsideration, I realized that last time I sailed with the thing, In order to avoid losing it I had the wrist strap looped through the hiking strap in a way that also would have been difficult to undo if inverted.
     
  12. windsurfer2

    windsurfer2 New Member

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    I simply carry mine in a waterproof pouch inside a little waist pack, sort of like a fannypack. It's always with me, regardless of where my boat or board is. I've never used it, except for weather forecasts - hope I never have to!
     
  13. Sailorchick

    Sailorchick Member

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  14. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    Whilst I have never been separated that badly from my boat, sometimes the gear you are wearing (drysuit, spray top, lifejacket, etc., etc.) can make swimming somewhat harder than just going for a swim in the local pool in your swimming costume - and that needs to be taken into account.

    Ian
     
  15. Braecrest

    Braecrest Member

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    Due to my work schedule and suck, I often find myself sailing alone. And will so until I get home from deployment and can teach my Fiancee to sail. Since I work on the water, alot of this is a no-brainer.
    just to re-state the logical;

    -Wear A PFD type III or better
    -get a MARINE weather report (local weather on the news channel isn't good enough)
    -File a float plan either with a friend or the local marine (tell your friend you'll call them when you're off the water)
    -Get a chart of the area and know where there are tidal rips/AToNs/CG Stations/ Major landmarks
    -Dress for the weather conditions(wetsuit/drysuit/spray top/etc...)
    -I wouldn't wear a harness, its one thing on a keel boat, but unless you've got a trapeze on your Laser, there really is no reason.
    -I always wear my dog tags (for non-military types there is a similar product worn by runners and cyclists called RoadID {www.roadid.com} that provides first responders a link to your medical records)
    -never sail a new area at night
    -never sail beyond your limits, skills or physically.

    (other good ideas)
    -carry a VHF radio (cell phones are good, but reception can be patchy, they are line of sight ONLY, and do you know the number of that 60,000 ton frieghter bearing down on you?)
    -wear a helmet
    -flares or a waterproof light

    Sail safe!
     
  16. Dennis

    Dennis Member

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    Interesting Thread...

    I have sailed my Laser mostly solo since 1982. On the chilly waters of San Francisco and Tomales Bays, a full wetsuit, boots, gloves, and a good lifejacket have always been my battle dress.

    Who would have thought my sketchiest incident would occur in a big wind hole on a very warm day just off Sausalito?

    I had been out for 2-3 hours already before sailing into this calm zone. As I bobbed without any wind (or enough tide to move the boat, either) I became aware that nature was calling: I really needed to pee… and I wasn’t going to sail to shore any time soon.

    The surfer’s method of just letting go in the wetsuit is not acceptable when you aren’t getting rinsed out by submersion in the waves – trust me on this. So, I took off my lifejacket, unzipped and rolled the wetsuit down to my knees. Kneeling thus, off the transom, I was just about to achieve the act when a sudden puff – a rotor off Hurricane Gulch, caught me. The boom caught my shoulder and over we went.

    So there we were; boat capsized on its side, lifejacket floating, unworn, and I am trying to tread water, mostly naked, with my wetsuit down, hobbling my ankles. In the midst of this mess, suddenly there’s a boat motoring over and hailing me: “Do you need help?”

    I couldn’t cop to it – “help” would be too embarrassing. I said “no, thanks, I’ve got it under control,” and waved them away.

    I had sense to quickly get hold of the boat, and I eventually got it sorted out and back onboard and re-dressed.

    It’s like piloting a small plane. Poor planning and these little things can surprise you and ruin your day. Proper clothing, gear, planning, and judgment - know your weather and water conditions – are paramount. I have at various times carried flares, waterproof phone and VHF, but the best safety factor is time in the boat. Keep practicing. Solo, if you have to.

    In my experience, the worst mistakes I have made in the Laser are while sailing with others: the “Hey, watch this!” factor. I maintain that the most dangerous part of your solo sailing day is the drive to and from your launch spot.


    Dennis Olson
    Tomales Bay, CA
     
  17. windsurfer2

    windsurfer2 New Member

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    Dennis,

    That is a great story - I laughed and laughed! And also entirely believable.

    I pretty much agree with your arsenal of safety equipment for sailing. I just added another little item that you might consider, that may have helped you in your described incident. I bought a little collapsable paddle from West Marine for $24-$25. It collapses to 18" inches, and telescopes out to 48". It has an aluminum shaft with plastic paddle, and appears quite sturdy. I drilled a hole in the paddle, and tied a line from it to a point in the cockpit, in case of capsizing.

    Tim Hanson
    Whidbey Island, WA
     
  18. Dennis

    Dennis Member

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    Tim,

    I did carry a stubby little paddle (lashed between the bow cleat and mast) for many years, but never used it. It's pretty rare to get "stranded" type calms here where I sail, and when it has happened, I find the "rocking the boat" method of propulsion to be easier and faster than paddling. BUT, that one doesn't work when you've been dismasted....

    Dennis
    Tomales Bay, CA
     
  19. windsurfer2

    windsurfer2 New Member

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    Dennis,

    Could you descirbe this "rocking the boat" technique? I'm all infavor of doing things the easy way. Maybe I can still return my paddle! :D

    Tim
    Whidbey Island, WA
     
  20. Dennis

    Dennis Member

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    Tim,

    There are probably other variations to the "rocking propulsion," but here's how I do it:

    - center the tiller (I lock mine with a bit of shock cord that stays tied to the rear of my hiking strap.

    - sheet in the main all the way. Centerboard down.

    - I tie a slip-knot to keep the mainsheet tight at the block, but always keep the tail of the mainsheet in hand.

    - get up on your feet, forward of the mast, facing aft.

    - with foot and hand-pressure, start rocking the boat, slowly and firmly from side to side, handing the mast back and forth.

    - this will generate lift from your centered sail, and you can steer a bit by favoring which way you hold the rolling motion.

    - soon the boat will pick up speed and your motion will resemble that of a stairmaster; you get a workout and you get home.

    The bottom line, though, is, invariably, once you commit to this whole exercise, the wind will pick up and send you scrambling back to the cockpit!

    Dennis
    Tomales Bay, CA
     

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