Last week I asked Steve Lacey to come up with a blog around winter sailing.
Steve is actually one of the only team members who actually does any sailing or regular activities on the water.
So if you are thinking of sailing over the winter, take a few minutes to read this.
Winter Passage Making
Winter sailing or boating can be very rewarding, with the potential for relatively uncluttered waters and crisp, clear days. The time of year can also provide additional challenges.
Being competent, experienced and having a well found craft with which you are familiar and knowing the combined limitations of both the boat and crew are significant safety factors
Assessing the sea and weather conditions and producing a passage plan for the anticipated conditions can mitigate the level of risk. During winter, days are short and nights longer and colder. Wind chill can become significant at relatively low wind speeds. Clothing needs to be suitable for the conditions and endurance adjusted to the conditions.
Wearing a lifejacket, in the conditions prevailing in winter along the UK South Coast may not in itself sustain life beyond an hour, even one with a spray hood. An immersion or dry suit allied to a personal locating beacon, waterproof flares and a strobe light will give an enhanced probability of survival and a significantly increased chance of location and recovery.
SOLAS Regulation V/34 ‘Safe Navigation and avoidance of dangerous situations’, is a relatively new regulation. It concerns prior-planning for your boating trip, more commonly known as voyage or passage planning. Voyage planning is basically common sense. As a boat user, you should particularly take into account the following points when planning a boating trip:
• Weather: before you go boating, check the weather forecast and get regular updates if you are planning to be out for any length of time.
• Tides: check the tidal predictions for your trip and ensure that they fit with what you are planning to do. Consider the implications of wind over tide, especially at critical points such as headlands and narrow channels.
• Limitations of the vessel: consider whether your boat is up to the proposed trip and that you have sufficient safety equipment and stores with you and know how to operate them, including in the dark.
• Crew: take into account the experience and physical ability of your crew. Crews suffering from cold, tiredness and seasickness will not be able to do their job properly and could even result in an overburdened skipper.
• Navigational dangers: make sure you are familiar with any navigational dangers you may encounter during your boating trip. This generally means checking up to date charts (whether electronic or paper) and a current pilot book or almanac.
• Contingency plan: always have a contingency plan should anything go wrong. Before you go, consider bolt holes and places where you can take refuge should conditions deteriorate or if you suffer an incident or injury. Bear in mind that your GPS set is vulnerable and could fail at the most inconvenient time. It is sensible and good practice to make sure you are not over-reliant on your GPS set and that you can navigate yourself to safety without it should it fail you.
• Information ashore: make sure that someone ashore knows your plans and knows what to do should they become concerned for your well being. The Coastguard Voluntary Safety Identification Scheme (commonly known as CG66) is also free and easy to join. The scheme aims to help the Coastguard to help you quickly should you get into trouble while boating. It could save your life.
Seafaring is a risk activity of which the outcome can never be certain.