12 LESSONS THAT
COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE
year to make sure they open and close easily. (Some lube products
work poorly underwater, so check to see what the seacock manufacturer recommends.)
5It’s more likely that a ruptured hose will be the cause of a leak. Maintain your hoses and regularly check your hose clamps for
rust. Use two marine-grade stainless-steel hose clamps at each end
of a hose, instead of one. If one corrodes, the other is a backup. A
good choice is Awab clamps, which have rounded edges, no holes,
and are fully stainless. Rescue tape can temporarily repair most
hose leaks, and can be applied while wet or while water is coming in.
6Keep owner’s manuals for all major systems aboard your boat so you can refer to them immediately when things go wrong.
Use common sense; if something feels dangerous, trust your
instincts. If you can wait to fix something until you’re safely at a
dock or hauled out, that’s often the best approach.
7Ithaka always had a GPIRB, liferaft, and ditch kit at the ready, and her crew always wears inflatable life jackets/harnesses
while on watch from dusk to dawn. Harnesses have a strobe light,
whistle, and solid light.
1When a hurricane is forming, assume it will change course several times as it approaches landfall. Do not wait; take evasive action
immediately to secure your boat, and then get yourself to safety.
2It’s critical to be able to follow the NOAA marine weather fore- casts whenever you’re aboard your boat. You can’t rely on your
smart-phone apps. Make sure you have a DSC-enabled, permanently
installed VHF on your boat, and a backup handheld waterproof VHF.
3One bilge pump is not sufficient, no matter the size of your boat. You need two electric bilge pumps (one large-bore), and
one manual bilge pump. Ithaka had all three. Plus, installing a bilge
alarm will alert you to water rising in the bilge before you can see it.
4When there’s a leak below the waterline, time is of the essence. You must be able to find it by checking the shaft and every
seacock and thru-hull fitting, in the dark, by feel (also the keel bolts,
if applicable). To ensure that you know exactly where the seacocks
and other potential breaches are, so you can find and close them if
water already has covered them, practice this to gain confidence.
You should have a soft-wood bung (plug) of the correct diameter
tied by a string to every thru-hull (you can buy them cheaply at
West Marine). If water is flowing in through a failed thru-hull fitting,
or especially through a thru-hull impeller, hammer this bung into
the hole to staunch the water. Seacocks must be lubricated every
FEBRUARY | MARCH 2012
8While it’s not mandatory, it’s an excellent idea to have radar on your boat if you operate in the dark, or areas prone to fog.
9According to both inland and international rules, boats operat- ing in close quarters, in restricted visibility, should use horn
signals. Motorboats must sound one prolonged blast every two
minutes. Sailboats must sound one prolonged blast plus two short
blasts every two minutes.
10When it’s dark, or the fog rolls in, eliminating your visibility in a busy shipping lane, you can use VHF channel 16, which
is used only for hailing, to give a safety message, called securité
(se–CURE-i-tay), to other boats within close proximity. Here’s how.
Speak clearly into the microphone: “securité, securité, securité.
This is the XX-foot (power, sailing, fishing) vessel (boat name) traveling (direction) at XXX degrees, in (zero, limited) visibility at X
knots just off (location). My position is XXXXX latitude, XXXXX
longitude. Standing by for any concerned vessels on channel 16
and 13.” Then switch to channel 13, and repeat the same message;
13 is the commercial bridge-to-bridge channel. Nearby vessels who
follow you to the new channel can answer you. Then you both
can determine your courses and headings, and discuss how you’ll
pass each other safely. You’ll need a chart of the area, and GPS, to
11When you have a mechanical problem, as soon as possible issue a securité as described above, and state your problem,
so that other boaters, and TowBoatU.S., will become aware of it,
and learn your location. If you take care of the problem yourself,
great. If the problem worsens, however, or if you lose the ability to
communicate, you’ve identified your position — a crucial first step
in case help is needed.
12When making a voyage, or taking your boat out of sight of land, give your float plan (your planned route and ETA),
to someone responsible who’ll know right away if you’re overdue.
Also, make sure your registration information for your EPIRB or
GPIRB is up to date. — B.B.