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Sailing alone safety question

windsurfer2

New Member
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?
 

Deimos

Member
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
 

AlanD

Former ISAF Laser Measurer
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.
 

Sailorchick

Member
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.
 

LooserLu

LooserLu
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.
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
 

torrid

Just sailing
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.
 

glexpress

Member
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.
 

Gfinch

136069
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.
 

Kratos

Member
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.
 

WestCoast

New Member
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!
 

windsurfer2

New Member
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.
 

Der_Dude

Member
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?
 

Deimos

Member
However, I think I will seriously consider adding the safety harness and line, so that I can fasten myself to the boat.
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
 

glexpress

Member
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.
 

torrid

Just sailing
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.
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.
 

Attachments

Kratos

Member
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.
 

AlanD

Former ISAF Laser Measurer
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.
 

Zoophyte

New Member
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.
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!
 

nesdog

Member
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.
 

Jeff Connelly

Radial Newb :-(
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
 

AlanD

Former ISAF Laser Measurer
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!
I suspect it probably they did something along these lines on the old sailing ships.
 

AlanD

Former ISAF Laser Measurer
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
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.
 

windsurfer2

New Member
Life jacket + dry suite + mobile phone + helmet
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.
 

LiamMcLennan

New Member
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.
 

vtgent49

Member
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.
 

chicagolaser09

New Member
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
 

bjmoose

Member
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.
 

bjmoose

Member
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.
 

windsurfer2

New Member
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.
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!
 

Sailorchick

Member
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.

This all depends on how good a swimmer you are. Many years ago sailing on a inland lake I was separated from my laser on a capsize. It was windy enough I couldn't catch my boat swimming after it. I was shattered by the time a rib picked me up and took me back to my boat!
 

Deimos

Member
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.
This all depends on how good a swimmer you are. Many years ago sailing on a inland lake I was separated from my laser on a capsize. It was windy enough I couldn't catch my boat swimming after it. I was shattered by the time a rib picked me up and took me back to my boat!
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
 

Braecrest

Member
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!
 

Dennis

Member
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
 
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