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  #21  
Old 09-05-2011
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Chicago to Mackinac Race Fatalities - Unreleased Harnesses

When I created this thread, I had not yet learned of the Chicago to Mackinac race accident (July 2011) where two crew members where found still attached to the capsized boat by their "safety" harnesses.

These harnesses need to have a release that can be operated: 1) while the tether is under tension (carabiners won't release under tension), 2) by operating a single-point system with either hand, 3) a release that is always in the same location on the harness with a distinctive shape so it can be found in absolute darkness, and 4) is operable after the user is stunned and disoriented from being flipped into cold water.

I hope someone takes the initiative to develop such a product. Meanwhile, I'll continue to use my goofy looking parachute harness with its three-ring release system that allows me to separate from the boat by pulling a single handle (with either hand). I've had three "reserve rides" with that harness, and I know the release works under tension (when I had less than 10 seconds to separate from my main parachute).

That boat capsized at around midnight. It was surely as dark as a cave under that boat. Reportedly the race safety rules require: "a knife with a blade that can be opened with one hand so a harness could be cut away using a single motion." Are they completely out of their minds?! You get flipped into cold water in the dead of night by a gale force wind, drug by your tether under water at high speed and probably thrashed against various parts of the boat, and you're supposed to find a knife? Did I miss the part about needing superhuman skills to crew on that race?

In my parachute training, we practiced pulling the reserve handle, oh, maybe 50 times, before they'd let us get in the plane for our first jump (there were only "static line" jumps back then). Not because we planned on cutting away our main and using our reserve, but because we were DEAD if we needed that reserve and there was any uncertainty or hesitation. They called it "muscle memory," and the jumpmaster needed to be satisfied that we'd pull that handle instinctively. So how many sailors do you suppose would practice taking out a knife and cutting their safety harness... a sufficient number of times to make it instinctive? If they'd had some sort of sane release system, they could have practiced using it once or twice.

Last edited by patrickbryant; 09-06-2011 at 01:36 AM.
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  #22  
Old 09-06-2011
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Originally Posted by casey1999 View Post
I just bought the Horizon HX851 VHF handheld that has built in GPS with DSC. If I go overboard I can activate DSC and it will automatically send emergency signal with Long and Lad. The unit displays long and lad so you can use it as a backup to GPS- if you have some paper charts. Cost was about $250. The unit floats, has a strobe light, it glows in the dark, and is small enough to fit in a pocket. This with a small PLB in the other pocket I might be in good shape if I go over the side.
I have the same radio and I use it just as you describe when I sail single handed. Be sure to attach some kind of tether to keep it attached to your person. I don't trust the belt clip to keep it with me if I get tossed over the side. Yes, it has a little LED that flashes and a thin strip of glow-in-the-dark plastic; but if I'm in the water, I won't see that over a two inch chop. I tie a thin line to the base of the belt clip and tie a bowline at the other end that I loop my belt through. The tether needs to be long enough that the radio is usable while still attached to your belt. I also wear an ACR PLB in a fanny pack around my waist at my belt buckle. It's small and never gets in the way. I also have a strobe light on my harness. The S.F. Bay can be a very cold, dark and lonely place at night, which is when I often sail single handed. I enjoy the solitude.

Last edited by patrickbryant; 09-06-2011 at 01:16 AM.
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Old 09-06-2011
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Originally Posted by pdqaltair View Post
The comical thing, when swimmers are lifted from the water with a harness or sling, is that they always reach over their heads and grab the rope. THAT is why the harness can come off.(...)
Yep. And if an average person is sliding feet first down the deck on their stomach, guess where their hands and arms are going to be... Above their head, as they try to grasp anything available to stop the slide. And then... slip... out of the harness they go. I was taught to try to roll on my back and use my feet to stop the slide, while keeping my arms firmly down at my sides so something (like a cleat) doesn't grab a rib. But "how to slide down a wet deck at 45 degrees of heel" doesn't seem to be in the standard training curriculum.

Last edited by patrickbryant; 09-06-2011 at 01:43 AM.
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Old 09-06-2011
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Originally Posted by patrickbryant View Post
I have the same radio and I use it just as you describe when I sail single handed. Be sure to attach some kind of tether to keep it attached to your person. I don't trust the belt clip to keep it with me if I get tossed over the side. Yes, it has a little LED that flashes and a thin strip of glow-in-the-dark plastic; but if I'm in the water, I won't see that over a two inch chop. I tie a thin line to the base of the belt clip and tie a bowline at the other end that I loop my belt through. The tether needs to be long enough that the radio is usable while still attached to your belt. I also wear an ACR PLB in a fanny pack around my waist at my belt buckle. It's small and never gets in the way. I also have a strobe light on my harness. The S.F. Bay can be a very cold, dark and lonely place at night, which is when I often sail single handed. I enjoy the solitude.
Thanks for advice. I see where ACR now has the ResQLink- very small PLB. Fanny pack may work well- trying to figure out a way to carry this emergency gear. Good luck sailing and stay safe.
Aloha
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