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Looking for safety tips for sailing all alone

stollie

Member
Hi all,
I’m looking for some tips on how to sail safely, especially when it’s only me out there. I’ve only been sailing since last year and my home waters is the Shrewsbury river in New Jersey which, along with the Navesink river, feeds out into the bay.

Basically what I’ve been doing is going out close to high tide so I’m not dealing with the strong pull of the outgoing tide. I check the forecast and look at the water to see if I’d be comfortable going out there at that time.

Of course my wife knows where I’m headed to when I leave home.

I leave my cell phone in the car because I know it will end up at the bottom.

I'm in my late 50's, fairly fit, and I’m comfortable righting the SF if it goes over.

Any suggestions on basic safety that I may be overlooking would be most appreciated.
 

gzblack2

Member
Not to mention the obvious but since you didn’t, PFD?
I consider myself a confident above average swimmer. Comfortable swimming in open water, especially enjoy the ocean, finished a handful of triathlons, but wearing a life jacket just seems like a no brainer. It’s not just how fit you are, weather can change, your boat disabled or you injured. In all these cases a PFD Could be a life saver.
I actually keep my cell phone in a dry bag with me on the boat. Even if it fell from the boat it will float.
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
You need security in case something breaks or you get hurt somehow and you won't be able to sail home. A phone or an EPIRB type alarm? One can even rent the latter from BoatUS.
 

Weston

Member
Hi all,
I’m looking for some tips on how to sail safely, especially when it’s only me out there. I’ve only been sailing since last year and my home waters is the Shrewsbury river in New Jersey which, along with the Navesink river, feeds out into the bay.

Basically what I’ve been doing is going out close to high tide so I’m not dealing with the strong pull of the outgoing tide. I check the forecast and look at the water to see if I’d be comfortable going out there at that time.

Of course my wife knows where I’m headed to when I leave home.

I leave my cell phone in the car because I know it will end up at the bottom.

I'm in my late 50's, fairly fit, and I’m comfortable righting the SF if it goes over.

Any suggestions on basic safety that I may be overlooking would be most appreciated.
I glued a small stainless steel U bolt to the inside of the cubby and bungeed a small waterproof box to that. Inside, I have a small airhorn, a handful of zip ties for repairs, an expired drivers license for identification, and my cell phone. Even if I flip the boat, I won’t lose any of that.
 

wjejr

Active Member
Hi Stollie. I grew up sailing on the Shrewsbury and did a lot of water skiing there and on the Navesink. I launched my boat (Laser) from the Oceanport side. I can't think of a much safer place to sail, but here would be my advice on what not to do.

1. You don't want to get anywhere to close to Sedge and Gunning islands, or anywhere that far east, especially if the tide is going out. The current can be strong there and if there isn't a lot of wind, you will end up getting swept towards the Rumson Bridge. That would be scary, especially with power boats about.

2. At high tide you can sail under Gooseneck bridge, but at low tide you will be running aground in a lot of muck with the daggerboard down.

3. If you sail up Branchport creek, I would not go any farther than the Port Au Peck bridge. Not sure that's what you call that bridge, but it's the one that crosses from Oceanport into Long Branch (Monmouth Blvd.)

Here's what I would do:

1. Have a look at the chart for the "Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers", and figure out where you can sail without running aground. Honestly, I think that, running aground at low tide, will be your biggest problem.

2. Especially if the wind is light, bring a collapsible paddle. I have the yellow one from West Marine, and it's great, just make sure to wash the salt water off it thoroughly when you are done. On the paddling topic, you can bring a bungee cord that will hook to the traveler eyes. That will keep the sail and booms out of the water. Of course if there is no wind, just leave the sail up.

3. If you have an inspection port, get a "cat bag" for it, so that you put your keys, phone, and VHF radio (Marine Police on channel 16), if you have one. For the Shrewsbury and Navesink, I think a phone is enough.

4. Having a line so that someone could tow you would not be a bad idea. 1/4" -3/8" x 20-30 feet of whatever, just not cotton, will do.

5. If the boat goes over, try desperately to keep the boat from turtling. The water is shallow and if the mast, or in the Sunfish case the upper boom, gets stuck in the sand/mud, it will be harder to get it upright. The more you get up past the bridges the muddier you will find it. If the mast comes back up slinging mud everywhere, it will be an ABSOLUTE mess.

6. One odd thing that sticks with me, is that in light air in the summer, you can get green head flies. Once one finds you, it will not leave you alone until you squash it. I find hats are good for that purpose. :)

That's all I can think of for the Shrewsbury.

For the Navesink it's similar. I would stay between the Molly Pitcher, better yet Blossom Cove, at one end, and the Oceanic Bridge on the other. Once you are past the Oceanic Bridge, it's really shallow and again the closer you get to Seabright the stronger the current is going to be.

Feel free to ask any questions you can think of.

Hope that helps.

Good luck!
 

stollie

Member
Wow, I'm really glad I asked you guys for this info!

Andy, launch point is at the end of Seawaneka Ave, which angles off to the left of Pocano Ave. Shrewsbury yacht club is just south of launch site; lot of catboats there.

Wjejr, thanks very much for this invaluable info, which I'll be printing and using as my bible for the Shrewsbury. Thanks for mentioning the Navesink as well; I'd like to sail there, I just don't know where to launch from that's free and easy. Please share any knowledge about this. Thanks.

The town of Keyport is actually much closer for me than where I currently sail, but Keyport is on the Raritan Bay. Right now, I'm not ready for that big body of water, knowing how fickle the wind can be. At some point, I'm gonna pick a nice mild day with onshore wind and go out at high tide, and just putter around the boats at Keyport yacht club, which is just east of the launch site.

Green flies, eh? Years ago at Island Beach State Park, my wife and I ran as if somebody was chasing us with a machete, trying to get away from those suckers!

Thanks again, one and all!
 

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Float Plan
Flotation
Fone
Flashlight
Fluids
Friend

I'll caveat this, I flew helicopter Search and Rescue in the Marine Corps, desert environment, so I know what helped folks increase their survival chances and what helped us find them.

Someone knows to know when and where you are going to be, so they know when to launch SAR.
In over 3/4 of fatalities in small craft last year folks weren't wearing a PFD .
If you get hurt or come across someone hurt, gear fails, etc...you need to have a way to contact rescue agencies of friends. Fone or VHF are some of the ways to do this
If your area is remote, you need a way to signal rescue crews. Whistle, mirror, strobe, flares, flashlight...
Drinking water is especially important if you get stuck out overnight somewhere
Find a sailing buddy

Yuma SAR rappel.jpg

Keep boat ship shape to avoid unexpected breakdowns

Good luck with your mess abouts!
 

andyatos

Well-Known Member
Hi Stollie,

As usual, the folks here on the Sunfish forum provided great advice. Wjejr's words are particularly valuable because of being so familiar with the area. I grew up on coastal Massachusetts and was on, in or under the water throughout the year, so I'm familiar with your conditions.

As far as safety gear goes, what about this. Do you have several wetsuits? As in, a 4/3 mil full length one, a 3/2 mil full length one and a shorty wetsuit for warmer conditions. And do you have a "Squid Lid"? See the attached photo.

Out here in coastal Northern California, the water can be quite cold even during the summer. And when we have upwellings of deep ocean currents push up against the coast, the water gets really cold. As in, walk into knee deep water in July and in less than a minute your ankles start to hurt.

Yet we can be wet all day while windsurfing and not get cold. Particularly when we are wearing our Squid Lids. Neoprene is a great safety tool.

- Andy

squid-lid.jpg
 

stollie

Member
Thanks for the additional info and suggestions.

The PDF is my first piece of gear for sure. I have a full length 3mm wetsuit that I'll probably have to start using, with the weather cooling down. No headgear but I like the look of that Squid Lid...will definitely be getting one of those.

This summer in the Shrewsbury river. The sail kept dropping that day so I put in a mast cleat to help keep it up there.
 

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wjejr

Active Member
Wow, I'm really glad I asked you guys for this info!

Andy, launch point is at the end of Seawaneka Ave, which angles off to the left of Pocano Ave. Shrewsbury yacht club is just south of launch site; lot of catboats there.

Wjejr, thanks very much for this invaluable info, which I'll be printing and using as my bible for the Shrewsbury. Thanks for mentioning the Navesink as well; I'd like to sail there, I just don't know where to launch from that's free and easy. Please share any knowledge about this. Thanks.

The town of Keyport is actually much closer for me than where I currently sail, but Keyport is on the Raritan Bay. Right now, I'm not ready for that big body of water, knowing how fickle the wind can be. At some point, I'm gonna pick a nice mild day with onshore wind and go out at high tide, and just putter around the boats at Keyport yacht club, which is just east of the launch site.

Green flies, eh? Years ago at Island Beach State Park, my wife and I ran as if somebody was chasing us with a machete, trying to get away from those suckers!

Thanks again, one and all!
Glad to be able to help.

Here are my replies to your questions:

For the Navesink you can try the Rumson Municipal Boat Ramp (Ave of Two Rivers). I don't remember much about it, but I just looked at a map and it is still there. It's on the wrong side of the Oceanic Bridge, but I think a Sunfish can sail under it towards Red Bank.

Where you are launching is pretty much where I used to launch many years ago. If you find yourself sailing regularly, I would strike up a conversation with the SSYC members. They were, and I am sure still are, good people.

I think for a Sunfish the Shrewsbury is going to be more enjoyable than Raritan Bay. It's a good size, relatively flat, and the water is warm. If you do sail out of Keyport, I would head over towards Sandy Hook.

The green flies are only a once in awhile thing, and nothing like where I live now (North Shore Boston) where a couple of the beaches aren't worth going to if there's an offshore breeze.

One other thing is that you will get stinging jellyfish late in the season. I never remember getting stung when the Laser went over, but I sure do remember getting stung water skiing.

Hope that helps and good luck!
 

Weston

Member
I glued a small stainless steel U bolt to the inside of the cubby and bungeed a small waterproof box to that. Inside, I have a small airhorn, a handful of zip ties for repairs, an expired drivers license for identification, and my cell phone. Even if I flip the boat, I won’t lose any of that.
wjejr's notes below about carrying spare line remind me that I also carry 20' of ⅜" line coiled in front of the cowling and attached to the handle on the front of the boat. It could be used for towing; I can use it to create a stirrup to get back in the boat if needed; and I also use that line to tie the fish up to the dock at the loading ramp while I run off to get the trailer.
 

stollie

Member
OK guys, thanks a lot! I'm good to go.

Wjejr, a special thanks to you. Your info is invaluable, and will keep me out out trouble per the specifics of that locale. If anything else comes to mind at any point, please be sure to let me know. Thanks.

Be well, all.
 

Mediocre_Fred

New Member
I just skimmed thorough and don't know if it has been mentioned, but you can get a waterproof phone pouch with a lanyard on amazon for pretty cheap. you can even use the touch screen through the pouch!
 
If you are still hesitant to take out your cellphone with you, you do have two options.
  1. Buy a prepaid phone (you can get them most anywhere for less than $100). They might have data and text as well as phone capability
  2. Take an old (but still charged) phone with you. Even though you won't be able to make regular calls, in an emergency you should still be able to call 911.
 
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L&VW

Well-Known Member
Maybe $6, :oops: I got mine at Ocean State/Big Lots, but maybe that chain is only in New England. IDK.

On the end that opens, there are three ZipLock seals, which get folded over.

When starting your sailing day, and putting essentials in the pouch, make sure the pouch isn't filled with rainwater. :confused:

If the pouch was filled with rainwater, remove the cellphone and don't check for operability. Immediately remove the battery, take it to a vacuum cleaner, and remove any water that's collected inside.

I saw that nifty trick on the Internet/YouTube and it's worked three times for me. :)
 

3RiverSunfish

New Member
One thing that I haven't seen come up: take an aural and a visual method of signaling for help appropriate for where you are sailing and time of day.

I sail my Sunfish on inland rivers and lakes, so the waters are pretty tame. I make do with a really loud waterproof blast whistle tied on to my pdf, which i'm always wearing if i'm totally alone. In my small drybag, which is stuffed in the cubby and clipped to a fixed eyestrap, i keep an old CD. Modest, but in the sun its actually a neat trick.

On more open water, you might want to upgrade to a airhorn, and as far as visuals go, a fold out orange flag, or even flares.

I happened to be in a west marine the other day, and they had cell phone sized EPIRBs for around $300. If i were sailing somewhere where those channels were monitored, my wife would buy me one whether I wanted it or not. :)
 
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