No Second Chances in Tasmanian Waters – Wear and Use the Best Safety Gear

by Ian Kuhl on August 19, 2016

in Featured, Marine Safety, Sailing Adventures

Imagine yourself on a windy late afternoon sailing or motoring down wind up the coast. Looking for that next headland which should have a light on it. The crew are below cooking. With the southerly and dark coming in, you think you had better go forward and secure a sail or gear.

Autopilot is on and you don’t want to worry the crew so you do it yourself. In the rush of the moment you don’t clip on to the boat. Two minutes later whilst wrestling with the sail, the boat rolls and you are in the water, overboard!

The boat charges on past you as you recover from the shock of going overboard.

There is no help from the crew because they are down below with the music on!

You wonder how far to shore: 2 miles? 6 miles? and the 3 knot current won’ t help. It’s getting cold, you’re treading water and the waves keep landing on your head. It looks like a long night. Where’s the boat? Surely they must be looking for me by now? Guess they will back track. Forty minutes have passed and you’re getting tired. You don’t think you can beat this current to get ashore. You will have to tread water to save energy.

Three possible scenarios come up as the boat charges past and the lighthouse in the distance start to flash.

Scenario 1:

You are wearing a jacket, pants and boots or less (standard attire for most cruisers). It’s time to kick the boots off (that’s why you always have them one size too big!) and start to swim to a least keep position.

Scenario 2:

Along with your jacket you have a standard manual inflate Personal Floatation Device (PFD). So if you didn’t crack your head on the boat on your way over the side, you will be able to pull the string and start inflating your jacket. You can see the lighthouse flash. Is that a stern light you can see? Bugger, no torch!

You’re floating well but there are lots of waves around and the wind is getting up.

Scenario 3:

Imagine the surprise when the cylinder goes off and the auto PFD inflates around you as you’re starting to get your breath, swim and yell to the boat. You had better grab the whistle and give that a go. The auto strobe light attached starts to blink – handy that! Now I know why Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST) required them for commercial fishing boat PFDs

Better set off the PLB (personal locator beacon). This compact wearable EPIRB with built in GPS gives ultimate safety. You can be sure the signal will go straight to a satellite then to sea safety HQ. As the registration included your name, boat and family contact details, the authorities will know who is in that 5 square meter search zone as given by the GPS unit.

Things are looking better. Twenty minutes they reckon. Bit o’ luck they will call the boat and give them your position. They must be worried and back tracking the plotted course by now. You can feel the current taking you out. The lighthouse blinks are fading you’re getting cold, but still optimistic. An hour later the keen lookout aboard your boat spotted the strobe light and heard your whistles.

As they ran past to get down wind a call was heard and a life ring flew out with an attached flashing light going off.

Swim, swim, let’s go! The boat’s coming up into the wind and the swell crew have the super bright LED torch on you. They drive past dragging the rescue sling and haul you aboard up the transom boarding ladder…


So is the safety equipment you have aboard good enough to save you in a situation like this?

Tasmania’s waters aren’t forgiving (or warm) – and a situation like this could happen easier than you think.

With the boating season shortly upon us, it’s time to start thinking about the safety equipment you have aboard. Do you have enough – and is it good enough to save your life? Download this checklist from MAST for an easy safety gear audit that you can complete yourself. It’s free!

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