The best response to the high number of recent vessel abandonments is to first recognize that accidents CAN happen to experienced sailors and then ask, “What can I learn from this?” While this is a big issue, today I want to focus in on regular inspections and routine checks which often get neglected when everything is going along smoothly.
A friend forwarded to me a statement recently issued by the US Coast Guard. In it the USCG recommends:
Regular inspection and prompt corrective action of all steering gear components including linkages, ram assemblies, controls and cables, in addition to engine systems, should be part of getting underway and day-to-day operations.
Checklists & Inspections!
Ben and I have a few voyage checklists and logs. When it came down to listing them all, I realized we have more than just a few! But don’t get overwhelmed. It is not too many. It has become routine for us, and many of them are only used on occasion.
- Pre-departure checklist – which is about 3 pages long.
- Ship’s Log – which has from 5 to 15 categories for each hourly entry depending on the type of voyage; coastal or offshore
- Packing List
- Regular Maintenance Schedule – engine, electronics, and vessel
- Medical Log – where we log the crew’s medications and health
- Long-Term project to-do list
- Weather Forecasting Log
- Morning Muster – a daily routine which systematically reviews short and long term plans as well as fosters positive shipboard culture, teamwork, and growth among the crew.
- Safety Equipment Essentials
- Watch Standing Orders
- Float Plan & Emergency Contacts
- Anchor Watch Duties
- Engine Checklist
- Fuel Log
- Spares Inventory
- Med Kit Inventory
- Boat Check
Our version of a Boat Check is required at every watch rotation – approximately every 3 hours (or more frequently as needed). The Boat Check is a list that includes full sensory inspections of bilges, electronics, engine & machinery spaces – logging hours, noting smells and other observations. We check belt tension, log bilge depth and battery level, test lights, and look for chafe. We check the heads, propane valves and connections, update weather reports, check seacocks, the steering system and rudder connections, coil/stow/secure stray lines on deck, check hatches, etc. The in-depth list takes less than ten minutes but requires the sailor to enter every space on board, walking from stern to bow, even checking aloft – with binoculars usually. If the circumstances such as weather compromise the safety of performing the inspection, we modify as needed. We log the Boat Check in the Ship’s Log and note anything of concern with a plan for monitoring or repairs if needed. This mission critical information is then transferred verbally to the next watch.
Help us refine our list! What would you add to the “Boat Check” checklist? What other safety routines do you perform? Share your ideas in the comments below to make this post a helpful read for anyone designing their sailing routines!