Safety For Ocean Sailing Yachts
So you may be planning for a sail to Bermuda over the North Atlantic and like to know the safety equipment that you should carry for an ocean sail, the key safety measures and other nice to have gears that can make your voyage more comfortable and less risky.
Well the answer depends on the type of yacht that you are sailing on. For example sail boats that are less than 30-foot in size are more vulnerable to the ocean risks and the ride may also not be as comfortable as the bigger yachts. So safety measures in such cases should be more elaborate. Also remember that electronic navigation equipment are quite vulnerable in marine environment. So it is always advisable that at least one of the crew members is experienced in celestial navigation.
Below are the basic safety gears that you should carry during your ocean sail. They are by no means exhaustive and you should contact your local coast guard office to know the full details of equipment and measures that may be applicable in your case.
A 406 MHz EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). This has only one control - an ON switch. Once switched on, it sends distress signals to the Coast Guards over the satellites giving your boat location and serial number. This device must be stored in place which should be safe and always accessible.
A VHF radio-telephone transceiver capable of 25 watts power output. This is what you will need for usual communications with the coast guards and Bermuda Harbor Radio (if you are sailing to Bermuda).
A Single Side Band radio-telephone transceiver operating on medium and high frequencies, or satellite telephone;
A life raft for emergency that you may use if your boat sinks. It should have capacity to hold all the crew members and contain a survival bag containing pre-packed rations and other essential items;
A radar reflector;
Parachute rockets, smoke flares and dye markers;
Enough battery backup to keep the navigation and communication systems running for several days incase of generator failures.
Important charts including Bermuda Approach Chart that shows you the location of the dangerous reefs and other obstacles on the way as you approach Bermuda. You will also get the positions and details about the navigational beacons and guides on the charts.
Many sailors carry a Loran (Long Range Navigation) which works using low frequency radio transmission with homeland. It is used to fix the boat's position and speed. However as you go far into the ocean and start approaching Bermuda, it may not give accurate readings. It starts becoming somewhat unreliable as you come within 50 miles of Bermuda. Update: Loran is no longer used these days. GPS devices are used instead for satellite navigation.
Another great instrument to carry is the Sextant. It allows you to measure angle between two objects quite accurately. It has two glasses that can move against each other, one partially silvered so that you can see through it. So if you want to shoot the sun, get the reflection of the sun on the fully silvered glass and see the horizon from the other, and then adjust the angle to line up the sun with the horizon.
The instrument will then show the angle between the sun and the horizon, which will help you find the location of the yacht. This often helps cross check the location reported by GPS. It takes only a few seconds for experienced sailors to take the measures.
Sea Anchor can be of great use if you happen to fall in a rough ocean with heavy winds, and do not want to sail until the weather turns good. It is a 12-foot parachute tied to a 300-foot line that is launched from the bow of the boat. It keeps the boat still and pointing into the wind. The sail needs to be brought down. Unless there is ocean current, the boat will not drift once it's sea anchored. This is done when the ocean depth is too high to try anchoring to the bottom.
While you are preparing for a watch in a sail, you should wear a warm clothe (the type and thickness should depend on the prevailing weather) and then a waterproof foul weather gear over it to stay dry, and a type-I offshore life jacket. There should be a whistle around the neck to wake others up if you have problems. At night have a bright strobe light strapped around your arm so that others can easily locate you and a harness tied to the boat so that you don't fall overboard.
Other than these, while on a watch you need to have a flash light and a handheld compass. The compass is to determine if you are in a collision route with another ship and take appropriate action if necessary.
On a long watch, you will also need some snacks and drinking water to keep yourself going. There are other small accessories like binoculars that will come handy in locating the landmarks and fixing your position.
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