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Old 04-16-2007
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Safety Equipment for Offshore Sailing

Safety Equipment for Offshore Sailing

Personal Safety Equipment, Life Rafts, and Flares

Sponsored by Practical Sailor Magazine

Personal Safety Equipment
To some extent, common sense will dictate the personal safety equipment to be carried. There should be a life jacket for each crew member. It should be a type I PFD, designed to keep the wearer face up even if he is unconscious, and providing enough buoyancy that swimming is not required to keep your head above water. As previously mentioned, the life jackets should have the boat's name on them. They should also be equipped with reflective tape on the shoulders of the jacket, and should have whistles attached to them. Get the type of whistles without the little balls in them, as they're easier to blow when full of water.

Each member of the crew should have a safety harness. There has been a great deal of discussion about the proper configuration of safety harnesses. The Special Regulations contain a five-page appendix detailing the required construction and hardware specifications for approved harnesses. Unfortunately, few safety harnesses that we are aware of have actually been tested for conformity to the ORC specifications.

A few highlights of the ORC specifications include the fact that the webbing and attachment hooksshould have a minimum breaking load of about 3,300 pounds, and the tether or safety line itself, whether of webbing or synthetic line, must withstand a load of over 4,500 pounds. Obviously, the strongest webbing and hardware in the world won't do any good if the stitching and splicing aren't done properly.

We feel strongly that the designers and manufacturers of safety harnesses should pay for the testing of their equipment by an independent testing agency such as the Underwriter's Laboratory. Harnesses meeting the test specifications could then carry a seal of approval. It simply isn't possible for the average person to look at a safety harness and say with confidencethat it is properly designed or manufactured. If they could talk, we suspect that some of the sailors who died in the 1979 Fastnet Race would have a lot to say about the design of safety harnesses.In the May, 1958 issue, we discussed the proper installation of man-overboard equipment such ashorseshoe rings, poles, and strobes. This equipment is the key to finding and saving a man lost overboard, and it is no place to cut corners. Every boat should have one horseshoe ring attached to a manoverboard pole. It should be equipped with a drogue to keep it from blowing away from the man in the water, and should have a whistle, strobe, and dye marker attached. The dye marker will be an aid in an air search or a daylight recovery, while the strobe pinpoints the gear and man in the water at night. The sound of a whistle carries much further than a man's voice, and can be blown even when the man overboard is weak from injury or illness. A second horseshoe ringequipped with at least a drogue and strobe light should also be carried. The best overboard equipment in the world won't do any good if it isn't easily deployed. Install it, then try it out. If you can't get the whole rig overboard in less than 30 seconds, your installation needs work.You should also keep a 50-foot heaving line in the cockpit, handy to the helmsman. Even if you can't maneuver the boat close to a man in the water, you may be able to toss a line to him.
Life Rafts
The life raft may be your last chance of survival if your boat sinks. ORC regs require that the raft have a canopy, and we go further to say that you shouldn't consider a raft that doesn't have a self-erecting canopy, with a support filled by the CO, bottle when the raft is inflated. In our opinion, canopies erected by holding them up with a paddle braced in the middle of the raft are ajoke, and have no place on the offshore sailboat. You should also have a bag of emergency rations and water put together and stored in close proximity to the companionway. This "ditch bag" is sacrosanct, and shouldn't be raided by a hungry crew for snacks. The life raft storage systemshould allow you to get the raft to the rail in 15 seconds. This means that it can't be buried in the bottom of a cockpit locker or under a pile of sails. Can you really get it to the rail that fast? Try it. Very heavy rafts should not be stowed below decks. If the raft weighs more than 90 pounds, it's too heavy to keep below. The best life raft in the world won't help you if its inspection isn'tup to date. This usually means a yearly unpacking, inflation, and checkout by a factory-authorizedinspection station. Expensive? You bet! But what's your life worth?

Flares
Federal law requires you to carry three hand-held red flares, or a suitable substitute. This is a pathetic selection of pyrotechnics for offshore sailing. The Special Regulations are more stringent.A boat sailing in offshore races must carry 12 red parachute flares, four white hand-held flares, and two orange smoke signals, as well as four red hand-held flares. If you add that up, it means you're going to spend almost $400 on flares. While the flares are legally only usable for three years from the date of manufacture, they will last much longer as long as they're kept dry. Store the flares in individual plastic baggies, and keep the whole lot in a waterproof, non-rusting container.Everyone aboard should know the location of the flare box, and it should be the first thing grabbed if the boat sinks and the crew must abandon ship. You may not be able to eat a flare in the life raft, but it's going to be just as hard to signal a ship or airplane by throwing a can of beans or a granola bar at it.

Conclusion
The ORC Special Regulations are a basic textbook for preparing a boat for offshore sailing. The Special Regs won't tell you what brands of gear to buy, and they won't tell you how to install them in your boat. But they will give you a good idea of the basic equipment required for offshoresailing, and will help you find both the good and bad features of your boat. The Offshore Racing Council's "Special Regulations Governing Minimum Equipment and Accommodations Standards" are available from USYRU (P.O. Box 209; Newport, RI 02840). They cost $3, and they can be worth a fortune if you want to prepare your boat for offshore sailing.

Sponsored by Practical Sailor Magazine

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Old 05-10-2007
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Greetings All:
The ORC, "Special Regs....." Is downloadable at:
www.orc.org/
Best, G. Purmal
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Old 05-10-2007
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camaraderie is a jewel in the rough camaraderie is a jewel in the rough camaraderie is a jewel in the rough
GP...Thanks for the link!
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Old 09-13-2007
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John EAST

If you are concerned about your safety,you will ensure that your liferaft is firmly attached to the deck and is equiped with a hydrostatic release mechanism. You should never store it below deck.
You will not be able to deploy the raft manually if you have been run down by a large merchant vessel during bad weather were your yacht just looks like another broken wave on the vessels radar.
A father and child were lost off the northeastern tip of the North Island of New Zealand in just such circumstances. The mother survived because she was lucky enough to grab hold of a partially inflated dingy that had been stored on deck and the prevailing winds and current finally took her to land after four or five days.
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Old 09-27-2007
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re

very interesting. i liked the extensive information and resources
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Old 10-30-2007
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Jacklines & Harnesses - How Strong Is Too Strong?

The breaking strengths mentioned for the harnesses and jacklines were interesting. For a 200 lb. man, that means that the harness, for a 3300 lb. breaking strength, would have to be subjected to 16 g's!! Or 532 ft/ sec sec. I'm not sure at what point those acceleration forces would cause serious musculoskeletal or internal damage, but considering that the webbing of the harnesses is often not more than an inch or two wide, if someone were subjected to those forces, it would put a lot of pressure on the body.

I would be interested to know how the loads, factors of safety and breaking strengths were generated for the harness specifications. And to play devil's advocate, is there a load or acceleration at which one would in fact want the harness and/or jackline to part in order to prevent injury?


The jacklines are specified to be no longer than two (2) meters, or about 6.5 ft. allowing a crew member to move about the vessel and perform his duties. The length limit is probably in place to limit the potential of a large snap loading on the line, harness, and individual. However, the regulations specify "static" lines. This typically, e.g. in rock climbing parlance, means that the line does not stretch. This means that all (nearly) of the force is transmitted to the harness and person. Rock climbers use "dynamic" line which has a lot of stretch in it, reducing the acceleration, and hence force, in a fall.

There is a corollary to this in the building and construction trades, namely in OSHA regulations, which require the jackline to be constructed such that it has material built in which acts as a shock absorber and damps out some of the accelerations and force imparted to the worker.

In short, for most conditions, I'm sure the specifications are appropriate, but in the most extreme, is the crew member choosing between potentially thrown overboard or major internal injury / paralysis?
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Old 10-30-2007
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Ryan - the g-force calculations are actually computed differently - there is a very big difference betweenG-Forces and [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shock_%28mechanics%29]shock loading[/url]. The latter is the important force here and I can imagine a 220Lb deadweight going one direction and the much larger mass of the boat going in another direction and a (non-stretching) lifeline generating much more than this shock loading.
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Old 10-31-2007
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Zanshin - I agree, shock calculations are far more complex, such as those calculated for the keel and hull and shock factors used in the design of naval surface combatants. I was looking quickly and simply at the issue, which still remains...how strong is too strong, and do, or should, the regulations incorporate dynamic jacklines such as are used in shipyards, construction sites, etc.
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Old 10-31-2007
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Ryan - I see what you mean. But I'd rather have broken ribs or even compound fractures and be aboard than to be merely bruised and wet yet watch my boat sail off without me (I usually sail alone). But it does lead me to sit back and think on whether a safety (i.e. backup) system should have a weak-link or maximum load specified. And also whether it should fail at the mount point or perhaps in the safety line first.

On a related note - this type of shock loading is the reason that aircraft safety belts have a limited lifespan and new regulations stipulate that they also have a method to determine their highest g-loading. They, just like helmets, will absorb enormous amounts of energy in stretching just a little so that the ultimate load on the body & mount points is minimized. I seem to recall that my boat harness attach points have similar webbing. And I also remember that it is time for a new 5-point belt in the plane.
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Old 10-31-2007
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How much force is one likely to generate in falling off of a sailboat with a 6 foot jackline and harness? Even if one is in the water being dragged, at sailboat speeds, let's say 8-20 knots, there should not be a sudden stop as for a climber. It seems likely that the extra strength was intended as over engineering to mimimize the impact of sharp edges, salt, sun and such on performance.
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